• Making Sourdough (From Scratch!)

    Hello my friends, I hope your Thanksgivings were full of pie and that the work week hasn’t gotten you down too much already. I am here today about a very special topic already revealed in the title of this post: SOURDOUGH! Remember when I said I was making my starter from scratch? Well, this weekend at my parents house, with a dutch oven at my disposal, I finally used it to make bread. AND IT WORKED! And now, I will pass everything I have learned on to you, in case you too are crazy enough to make your own bread. Please keep in mind before we begin, it takes a few weeks and some determination, plus many a cell phone alarm reminding you to feed your starter!! But with that being said, let’s get to work!

    First thing’s first, I’m going to share with you the resources that I used along the way. I will type up the steps that I took as well, but in case you want the unabbreviated version, I will include it here.

    Step One: Making Your Starter

    To make sourdough starter from scratch, you’re essentially growing your own yeast in a container. So cool, right? This way, no dried yeast is necessary, and the process of mixing the flour and water over a period of days produces lactobacilli (friendly bacteria!) and wild yeast which give the sourdough its classic tangy flavor.

    To adequately give the yeast and bacteria time to grow, you will need at least 5 days of routine feeding. After those initial 5 days, you can put unused starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, but once you intend to use it, it will need to be fed daily again for at least 3 days.

    For creating my sourdough starter, I used this step by step guide from King Arthur Flour. For extra info on sourdough, you ca also read this beginners guide here! I found this to be the simplest but also most extensive set of instructions, which basically guarantees results.

    INGREDIENTS TO START:

    1 cup whole wheat flour (it must be whole wheat!)
    1/2 cup cool water

    INGREDIENTS TO FEED:

    Scant 1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup cool water (adjust temperature based on the temp of your kitchen)

    STEPS:

    1. In a 1-quart non-reactive container (glass, food-safe plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel), mix together the initial amount of flour and water. There should be no dry flour left and the mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter, I found that I needed to add a tiny bit more water initially to hydrate all the flour. Cover the container loosely and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

    2. After the first 24 hours, regardless of whether or not you see any activity, discard all but 4 ounces (a 1/2 cup) of the starter. (Here’s a hint, make this cake with it!) Feed the remaining starter with a scant 1 cup of all purpose flour and the half cup of water. Stir so that there is no dry flour left. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.

    3. By day 3, you should be seeing some bubbling and it should have a fresh, fruity smell. Once this happens, it’s time to begin a twice daily feeding schedule, spacing the feedings as far apart as you can. For example, I would feed my starter at 6:30am before I left for work, then again at 6:30pm when I came home. Continue feeding as usual, discarding all but 4 ounces and replacing it with the scant 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, twice a day.

    4. Repeat step 3 for days 4 and 5. By the end of day 5, the starter should be doubled in volume, with many bubbles and a tangy, slightly acidic smell. If your starter doesn’t look like this, continue a twice a day feeding scheduling for another day or two until you get there. At this point, give it once final routine feeding, and let it sit for 6-8 hours. You have grown mature starter, congratulations!! From here, you have 2 choices: you can take the starter you need for a loaf of bread immediately, (skip down to the bread making section for this), or you could transfer it to its permanent home if you’re not quite ready.

    5. To transfer it to its permanent home, transfer 4 ounces and feed as normal, leaving out overnight to rest before covering it. This starter can now be kept in the fridge, but will need to be fed as usual once a week.

    Required Viewing!

    Right here we’re taking a quick break to watch an important video about making sourdough. From the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, Brad Leone and Claire Saffitz show us how to make fancy loaves of sourdough bread, and how much work goes into it. We won’t be making a loaf with a process this extensive, but the technique and science behind it is certainly worth knowing! Plus it’s hilarious and exactly what you deserve right now.

    Making the Sourdough!

    To prepare our sourdough loaf, I followed Cooks Illustrated’s “Almost No-Knead Sourdough”. While still a two day process, it cuts out some of the longer steps and yet still produces a perfectly tangy, crisp loaf of bread.

    To start, you will need the following:

    INGREDIENTS:

    3 ⅔ cups All-Purpose Flour
    1 ½ cups plus 4 teaspoons room temperature water
    1 ¾ teaspoons salt
    ⅓ cup mature sourdough starter

    TOOLS:

    A large Dutch Oven
    Parchment Paper
    A sharp pairing knife or bread lame

    STEPS:

    1. To begin, make sure you are using mature sourdough starter. If your five days of feeding have just finished, you are set to go. If your starter has been in the fridge, you must feed it once a day for at least 3 days before it’s ready to use.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until combined. In a larger bowl (this will be the bowl that holds the rising dough), whisk together the starter and the water until the starter is dissolved. Add the flour mixture to this mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until there is no dry flour left and a ball of dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.


    3. After the initial rise, spray a large piece of parchment paper with vegetable oil and set on the counter. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead 10 to 15 times until smooth. Pinch the edges into one middle seam at the bottom so that the top is smooth and rounded. Place this dough seam side down onto the greased sheet of parchment paper, then lift the paper carefully and transfer into the dutch oven.

    4. Wrap the top of the dutch oven in plastic wrap and place on the middle rack of your OFF oven. Place a cake pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water. Close the oven door and let the dough rise here for another 2 to 3 hours, until it has doubled in size. To test that it’s ready, the dough should not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.

    5. Once the rising is complete, take the pot and pan of water out of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a sharp knife or lame, make one long cut down the center of the loaf, as smoothly as possible.Place the top on the pot and return to the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the pot inside and start a timer for 30 minutes immediately. Do not wait for the oven to reach 425 before you start the timer, as the bread will burn.

    6. After the first 30 minutes, remove the top of the dutch oven and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden and crisp, and the internal temperature is 210 degrees. Remove the bread from the pot and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

    YOU MADE BREAD! I’m so proud of you!!