A few months ago a friend handed me a jar full of sourdough bread starter and several page document (worn and stained) instructing me on how to make homemade sourdough bread. I’ve always wanted to make homemade bread but this was like a few giant steps forward. I had actually recently switched my family over to sourdough bread instead of yeasted breads so I was definitely interested but also intimidated by the fermentation process and just the whole idea of a starter that needed to be fed on a regular basis (don’t I already have enough living things to feed in my life?!!).
I took the giant step and started making my own sourdough. Months later now, I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot had had no big failures yet making this bread. I make a loaf once a week and the smell alone is so intoxicating that the whole family awaits its arrival from the oven. Some days I start the process in the morning and it’s finished right before bed, giving us the perfect warm treat of buttered bread before bed. Other days I let the starter ferment overnight then bake it off early evening or place it in the fridge after it’s final rising so that I can bake it in the morning. Bread straight from the oven at breakfast time with a little peanut butter or jam is as close as we get to manna from heaven.
The first few times I made the bread I had to reread the directions several times. I finally wrote them in my own words so they made better sense to me. Here are my notes on making sourdough bread –
Feeding your starter
To increase your starter measure out how much starter that you have. If you have 1 cup then add in 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, if you have 1/2 cup starter then add in 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. You should never have more starter than the amount your feeding it or the starter will just eat up all of the flour and become less strong. Before baking bread you remove 1/2 cup of the starter and feed the 1/2 cup that you removed AND the starter still in the original jar. This should be done once a week. Feed the same amount of water and flour to the amount of starter that you have.
At least once a week you should feed and bake off a portion of your starter.
Here are the steps:
Start by removing the starter from the fridge.
Measure out 1/2 cup starter and pour this into a separate jar.
Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to the 1/2 cup starter
Let ferment for 8-12 hours at room temperature (out on the counter) with the lid on. It will be bubbly when it is ready.
Now you’re ready to make bread.
**Make sure to also feed the rest of the starter that is in the original jar. You will also feed it equal parts water and flour (1/2 c of each or more if you have more than a 1/2 cup of starter), let ferment for 8 hours then place back in the fridge.
Our next travels:
There’s just one little problem with sourdough starters… they need babysitting if you ever go out of town. Yes, that’s right, my sourdough needs a sitter. In just a few days we’ll be taking off for another adventure… Italy! We’re celebrating our 10 year anniversary and hiding out at the home of a friend as well as some airbnbs for a while. But don’t worry our little escape will be shared a bit later! We’ll tie up loose ends here this week, including getting help with my starter, then hop on a plane for more adventure. If you are a little wanderlust like myself, I’ll be posting photos intermittedly on instagram I’m sure.
This recipe was a special gift to me that just keeps on giving to my family every week. I hope it is the same for you and please feel free to ask me all of the questions as they arrive through your adventures in baking too. I know I sure had plenty of questions of my own!
- 1 cup of bubbly starter pour leftover starter back into starter container
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup oil, grapeseed, avocado, almond, or canola all have worked well for me
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 cups bread flour*
- 2 teaspoons salt
Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer. Pour the 1 cup starter into the mixing bowl. Add in the water, oil, honey and flour and mix just until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix for 2-3 minutes.
Remove mixing bowl from the stand mixer and set in a warm place, covered with plastic wrap (to keep the moisture inside the bowl), for 3-5 hours or until doubled.
Spray a extra long loaf pan (16x4x4) or two standard loaf pans with cooking spray and dust with cornmeal or flour, set aside. Punch the dough down with a wooden spoon or your hand then scrape out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead for just a few minutes forming the dough into a ball. Use your hands to form the ball into a slightly rectangular shape, tucking the edges under. Transfer this oblong shaped dough to the loaf pan and dust the top with more flour or cornmeal.
Cover the bread with a slightly damp towel (so the risen dough won't stick to the towel) or plastic wrap and let rise for another 2.5 hours or until doubled. You can either refrigerate this risen dough and bake in the morning or bake right away, I've done both.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Once dough has finished it's last rise, slash the top of the dough using a sharp knife. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 425 for 17 minutes (15-16 minutes if you're using two loaf pans).
Remove the dough from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
My favorite flour mixture so far is 3 cups of artisan bread flour and 1 cup of sprouted whole wheat flour.