Sourdough Bread

Once you start making and enjoying sourdough, it’s hard to go back!  I’ve had lots of requests for my technique and recipe, so here it is!

Care for your starter

I began my starter March 2018, so as of this writing, it’s over 5 years old (yup, just a young’un, still, pretty old for food)! This is how I take care of it.

  1. Feed it daily.  I like to give it a 3:2 ratio of flour to water – typically 1/2c of good whole wheat flour and 1/3c of warm water (warm only really matters if you’re going to bake that day).  If you find it gets a bit too liquidy or too thick you can adjust the water, it’s not precise.
  2. Leave at room temperature covered.  If you notice it getting too vinegary and acidic and you want more yeasty flavor, you can cover it with a cloth.  If you want it more sour, you can close it airtight. Both will work!
  3. If you don’t have time to bake, feed it and put it (sealed) in the fridge. It will keep for a long time – a month or more, easily!  You will notice a layer of alcohol (aka “hooch”) on the top – and it might turn grey/black.  This is no big deal, it’s still OK. You can pour it off or if you let it warm up it may even be absorbed back into the starter.

The recipe

I love this recipe, it’s easy to memorize, and very good.  I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale. Don’t rely on volume measurements, especially for flour.  Get used to using weight and your recipes will be way more consistent.

  • 460g white all-purpose bread flour (since I use whole wheat starter, this gives a fantastic blend)
  • 230g ripe starter (mine takes about 5h after feeding, it will be fluffy and you will have noticed it grow. The ideal time to use it is just before it starts to collapse, even a bit after is fine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water (40C-45C is fine)

Mix dry ingredients first, then add the starter and 1 cup of water.  Slowly add a bit more water – maybe a teaspoon at a time – as you mix it up until it gets nice and soft and just starts to feel stretchy.  I like to mix with my hands to really feel what the dough is like.  You don’t need to use all the water, but it should be very soft and only a little sticky.  If you use a mixer, stop it often and feel the dough.  Even mixing by hand only takes 10 minutes or so.

Let it sit for 30-40 minutes.  This is called “autolyse” and the water really starts to infuse into the flour.  Some like to wait until this is done before they add the salt.  It possibly makes a better starting boule of dough but I usually add the salt earlier so I don’t forget it!

Now, you can either knead (shorter prep time) or fold (lots less work but more time).

Knead: At least 15 minutes of kneading, stretch it out as you go, work it until it really starts to hold together as you stretch it out.  It will do what they call “windowpaning” (Google it) when it’s ready.  This develops the gluten, which holds the loaf together and gives it its structure.  15 minutes is a long time, you will be tired!

Or fold: Stretch the dough and fold it over itself in quarters a few times, rotating 90 degrees as you go. Let it sit in a warm place for about 20 minutes and repeat about 3-4 times.  Each time you do this you’ll notice how much more stretchy the dough gets!

A warm place ?

You probably want something a bit warmer than your typical room temperature.  25C is probably fine, maybe a bit more.  If you have a sunny room of some sort, this is perfect!  But who has that?  I like to use an electric heating pad (the kind you’d use for a sore back or shoulder or whatever).  Set it to medium or low and put the bowl on top of it.

After either of the above methods are done, create tension on the dough by shaping it on the counter. Very hard to explain… more later.  Once you get it in shape, put it in something that will hold that round shape, like either a tea-towel lined bowl or a banneton if you have it… if you have some rice flour, dust your bowl with that first, it is AMAZING in preventing it from sticking.  (Seriously amazing. More regular flour won’t help much but rice flour will not bond to the dough and it will just flip out of the banneton so amazingly easy) Cover and let it proof for 40-60 minutes until it’s grown noticeably.  Some say double but I don’t think I ever saw it grow that much with my starter.

At this point I like to cover it lightly with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.  After 8-12h it’s ready to bake.  If you want to bake it right away instead, let it sit a little longer, it may grow a bit more.  You want to make sure it still has some structure and won’t collapse, but this takes some experience to really know what that means and how it feels.  The pros poke the dough gently and see how it bounces back.  Try it!

When you’re ready to bake, put a baking pan underneath the rack you’re using (it prevents scorching the bottom) and preheat the oven to 450F.  Flip the dough ball on to parchment paper and slice the top with a razor about 1/4″ deep (this allows steam to escape).  Bake covered for 25 minutes, then remove the lid (this is where you’ll see if it rose nicely) – bake for another 16-20 minutes until it’s quite dark brown.  The flavor is so much more intense if you let it brown!

Now comes the hardest part.  Take it out and put it on a rack, and don’t touch it for 45 minutes at least!  Let it cool or it will be mushy and “pilly” when you cut into it.

If it didn’t rise so great, don’t worry, it’s probably still quite tasty.  And everyone needs croutons!

Now that you’ve read all of the above… watch the video that got me going!  (This will also help you understand how to do the shaping)







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