Stephanie Lynn Warga
Active Time
45 MIN
Total Time
18 HR 45 MIN
Yield
Serves : Makes 5 small loaves

I find nothing more satisfying than recreating the unique breads of Latin America in my own kitchen. I especially love when the bread is meant to be stuffed with savory fillings and drowned in spicy salsa—in Mexico, the torta ahogada is just that. Birote (pronounced bee-row-teh) is a crunchy, darkly baked sourdough bread said to have a flavor unique to the environment of Guadalajara, but if you grab your favorite beer and some limes, you’ll come pretty close!

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the levain

Stir together bread flour, 7 tablespoons warm water, and sourdough starter in a tall jar or medium bowl until incorporated. Cover with a lid or clean kitchen towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, 3 to 4 hours. (You can use your levain immediately, or refrigerate it up to 12 hours to use at a later time or the next day.)

Step 2    Make the dough

Stir together all-purpose flour, bread flour, and 1 1/2 cups water in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Step 3    

Add 1/2 cup levain, beer, and lime juice. Using your fingers, squeeze together mixture to incorporate the ingredients until the dough is smooth and no excess liquid remains. Cover dough with a cloth, let rest at room temperature 30 minutes.

Step 4    

Add salt and a splash of water and squeeze together until incorporated and smooth. Let rest for another 30 minutes.

Step
Step 5    

Stretch dough into itself a few times and flip it over in the bowl. Let rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat stretching and flipping (in total, you should have had three 30 minute rest periods and two stretch and folds). Let dough ferment at room temperature 3 1/2 hours.

Step 6    

Cover dough and refrigerate overnight, 8 to 12 hours.

Step 7    Shape and proof the dough

Place dough on a floured work surface, and divide it into 5 pieces (roughly 200 g each). Shape each piece with a tension roll: Pat down dough into a narrow square or rectangle. Use the sides of your pinky fingers to pull the top side of the dough under and then push the bottom side outward with your thumbs to create tension. Repeat this process until the dough is shaped into a tight cylinder.

Step 8    

Transfer dough cylinders to a cutting board, couche, or clean kitchen towel. Let proof 1 to 2 hours. When the dough is proofed, you will notice the loaves may be bubbly and will have a spring to them when touched with your finger. They will also have a nice wiggle when moved and a noticeable increase in size.

Step 9    Bake the bread

Place a baking sheet in the oven, and preheat oven to 500°F (250°C). Remove hot baking sheet from oven and dust with semolina flour. Place dough cylinders on baking sheet3 inches apart, and bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 475°F (240°C), and bake bread 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to top oven rack, and bake until dark brown, 5 to 10 minutes. (Keep a close eye on it. Remember, you want a dark bread with a thick crust so you can create a delicious soaked sandwich. Don’t be afraid to bake it longer than you are used to.) Remove bread from oven, and let cool Enjoy bread as a soaked sandwich, like the torta ahogada, or with oil, vinegar, butter, or jam.

Notes

Reprinted with permission from New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford, © 2020 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Text © 2020 Bryan Ford. Photography: Stephanie Lynn Warga

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