I had an article on using sourdough cast-off appear in the September/October issue of Hobby Farm Home Magazine. Since then I’ve had a lot of questions about my Sourdough bread recipe. I originally ran this recipe back in January of 2009 (that original article has a bunch of information on making your starter), but thought I’d re-run it for those of you who are interested.
Baking Sourdough Bread
I remove the starter from the refrigerator when I get up in the morning (between 4:30 and 5:30 usually), pour the entire quart jar of starter into a ceramic bowl and add 2 Cups of water and 2 Cups of whole wheat flour. Mix well, cover with a tea towel and leave it sit somewhere free from drafts in the kitchen until about 7pm that night. At 7pm, I stir the entire mixture well, pour 1 cup of that mixture back into my clean jar, add 1 Cup of flour and 3/4 C of water. Cover my jar with the cheesecloth and rubber band and let it sit on the counter for about an hour, until its bubbly, and put it back in the fridge.
I measure out 2 cups of the starter mixture (any extra can be used to make more bread, pancakes, pizza crust, etc.) from my ceramic bowl and combine it in my mixer bowl with 1 Tablespoon Salt, 2 Cups of warm water, and a mixture of flours (whole wheat, rye, unbleached flour, etc.) totaling about 6 cups (very approximate there). I use my KitchenAid mixer to combine everything into a dough, adding a little flour at a time until it all comes together. I then dump it out onto a floured board and knead until it feels like a smooth, elastic dough. I put this dough into a large oiled plastic bowl (plastic because its my largest non-metal container) cover it with a tea towel, and let sit overnight. It will rise in this time. In the morning, I punch the dough down, divide into two halves, which I place into towel lined baskets to rise again. I like round loaves but you could certainly form the dough into any desired shape. I cover the dough with the towel, completely, and let rise about 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. I use a bread stone to bake my bread on, so I put that in the oven while its preheating. When the oven is preheated, I spray the oven with some water. I keep a spray bottle of just water for bread baking and worm bin purposes. The steam helps create a crunchy crust, with a chewy interior. This is a personal preference, you can skip the water/steam if you so desire. I slash the tops of the loaves with a razor (a sharp knife will do) and slide the loaves onto the stone. I then spray the oven with water again, close the door quickly and let it cook for 40 to 50 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle.
I remove the bread from the oven and allow it too cool on wire racks. That’s my most basic process. Sometimes I add things like garlic or black olives to the dough, or dried fruits and nuts with a little sugar. I’m starting to feel more daring, the more I work with it, but for the longest time, I followed the procedure above to the letter, until I comfortable.
Some things I’ve learned:
- A long rise is necessary for sourdough, otherwise its very brick like in my experience.
- Hooch, a blackish liquid, will sometimes form on top of your starter even in the refrigerator. Just pour and/or scrape that off into your compost heap and use the rest.
- The starter/culture doesn’t need much from me, beyond food, water, & air. If I give it food (flour), water (water), and air (cheesecloth not lid on jar), it grows just fine.
- Packaged starter didn’t work for me. But plain flour and water did – trust your local bacteria to get the party started. You don’t need to buy San Francisco starter, your local stuff knows what its doing.
- The more I worked with sourdough (any bread actually) the better it got. Bread takes a certain “feel” and the only way to get that “feel” is to keep practising.