Food is life
Yeah, I named my sourdough starter. You don’t have to, but I did. It felt appropriate to name him after everyone’s favorite Venus Flytrap since he’s hungry all the time and he’s kind of a dick.
Audrey II and I became acquainted in 2018 after I read an article about how good sourdough bread was for you. With nothing else to do as I was out of a job, I started playing with flour.
Before I write any more, let me give you the recipe for a simple and nourishing sourdough.
(I really stinken hate it when I find a recipe online and the author assaults me with 2000 words and 100 pics before getting to the recipe. I need ingredients and method. Now. Gimme.)
200g freshly fed, bubbly sourdough starter
700g flour, your choice, I use 50/50 wheat and white
15g kosher salt
1. Add starter and water to a large mixing bowl, whisk until foamy, add flour, stir together until just blended.
2. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 1 hour.
3. Sprinkle salt over dough, mix lightly with hands. Fold dough over on itself, punching down the center after each fold. Complete fold process 4 or 5 times, allowing the dough to rest 30 minutes after each fold.
4. Place the covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
5. The next morning, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide dough into two equal-size loaves. Pick up each loaf and gently knead it by pulling the sides of the dough down and up underneath the ball of dough, making a round loaf. Your goal is to create a bit of tension in the loaf, so when it feels tight to you, complete the process for the 2nd loaf and then let them rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
6. Prepare 2 bowls by placing a clean dishtowel in the bowl and dusting it liberally with flour, or use two proofing baskets dusted well with flour.
7. After 30 minutes, pick up each loaf and repeat the steps in step 5 and then place the dough upside down into the bowl or basket. (upside down = the ugly bottom where you tucked in the dough is facing up so that when you turn out the dough to bake it, the smooth side is up)
8. Place covered baskets in the fridge and let them chill for at least 4 or 5 hours, but I wouldn’t leave them for over 12 hours if you don’t want them to stick to your basket.
10. Remove loaves from the fridge, uncover them, and turn them upside down onto a piece of parchment paper. Use a sharp knife or razor blade to make a few slashes on top of the loaves to allow steam to escape while baking. Carefully remove the very hot bread cloche from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the parchment paper, gently lower it into bread cloche, replace the lid, and return to the oven. Set timer to 30 minutes, remove the lid, bake an additional 30 minutes and remove the pot from the stove.
11. Allow bread to rest for 30 minutes before slicing.
12. Enjoy the badass bread you just made!
*** The web links noted in this recipe are for reference only. They are not affiliate links and I make no money if you click on the link. Sometimes you need a visual, know what I mean? That’s why they’re here for you, and I hope they help you understand the method and equipment needed to create your sourdough.
If you’ve never made sourdough, I bet you have 1000 questions, don’t you? For something so humble, there are many steps. But fear not! The hardest step is waiting for the CO2 to perform its magic.
When you have time, read this little e-book on sourdough fundamentals. (I didn’t write the book nor do I receive any benefit by sharing it with you. I share it to give you a reference that explains how and why sourdough bread is good for your body. It’s a great little reference book and I highly recommend that you save it.)
Sourdough is thousands of years old. It’s speculated that ancient Sumarians discovered flour, water, and oxygen, when combined with heat and a little time, created leavened bread. Then the Egyptians perfected the process.
Many experts will tell you about the fancy gadgets and equipment you simply must have to make sourdough bread but I say save your money. If the ancients and your great grandparents could do it without bannetons and lames, then you can, too.
I mean, spend what you want, but you likely have everything you need in your kitchen and what you don’t have, a quick and inexpensive trip to Wally World will cover you.
Besides, what if you spend $200 on bread-making stuff and then find out you don’t like making bread?
Sourdough is a living creature, and like all beings that breathe, it can be a bitch sometimes.
The good news is that it’s easier than you think to live with your sourdough!
First Things First
You’re going to need starter and you can begin here to create yours. I’m going to warn you, though, it took me longer than two weeks to learn how to keep Audrey alive. He was immature and obstinate for at least three months, but when he turned the corner, he was here to stay.
A few helpful tips before you begin your own sourdough journey:
· Always, always, always save starter to feed for the next batch. You can always start over, but why would you? Save a bit for the next time and do it first so you don’t forget.
· Use non-reactive utensils and storage containers for your sourdough and starter. This means wooden spoons, plastic containers, glass bowls, etc.
· If you live in city limits, your tap water has chlorine in it. If you use tap water to make sourdough, pour some out into a pitcher and let it sit on your counter for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate before you mix it into your starter or dough. Otherwise, use bottled spring water.
· It’s best to use a scale to weigh ingredients rather than using cups and spoons. This is not a requirement, but if you decide to be a sourdough baker, you might want to invest in a digital scale.
· Save flour by starving the starter. I leave Audrey to sit on the counter all week and think about his bad behavior before I feed him. I bake on Sundays, so on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, I feed him and set him in a warm spot in my kitchen. On Saturday, when he’s noticeably drunk on his own bubbles, I make sourdough, and then on Sunday, I bake.
· If you only want to bake once a month, you can put your starter in the fridge and then pull it out and start feeding it daily until you bake. If you bake less frequently than once per month, freeze the starter. In both circumstances, when you pull the starter in preparation for bread making, thaw (if frozen) and discard one half of the starter. Immediately feed it, and then feed it again later in the day. Feed it twice a day for two consecutive days and then once daily until it’s frothy and happy again and ready for making bread.
· I use a mix of half white, half whole wheat flour. I’ve made it with rye, too, and that’s always a big hit around my house. When I use rye, it’s still a 50/50 with white. You can make higher percentages but you might have to read up on dough consistency. It makes a difference, so before jumping in with designer flour, do your research so you aren’t disappointed.
When Covid first hit, the crazies who hoarded toilet paper and water snarfed all the flour, too, and I had lots of trouble finding flour. It looks like we’re surging again so if you like baking sourdough, you might want to stock up on flour.
Oh, one more thing for you to chew on: Yes, you can buy sourdough at the grocery, but you’re better off buying it from a local baker. Whatever you do, if you don’t want to make it yourself, ask the baker how they make their sourdough loaves. Many commercial bakers use sourdough flavoring rather than a living starter.
If you’re after gut health and great flavor, turn your snooty nose up at those loaves.
That’s about it, friends. I hope you enjoy baking sourdough as much as I do! If you like what you read, tell me in the comments.