Sourdough bread starts with sourdough starter.
Combine the following in a 1 quart wide mouth mason jar:
- 1/2 cup your choice of flour (I tend to swap back and forth between whole wheat + all purpose)
- 1/3 cup water
Stir vigorously and cover with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and place in the warmest spot in your kitchen.
Each day, around the same time, discard a little less than half of the starter and feed it with another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water, stirring vigorously to bring in the wild yeast and bacteria from the air. This is essentially condensing the yeast. Do this everyday until your starter is ripe. You should see bubbles and it should smell a bit tangy by the third day. Every starter will be ready at a different time depending on the atmosphere of your home. It could take up to two weeks of feeding before it is ready to bake with. You’ll know it’s ready when it is airy and very active, doubling in size throughout the day.
Once your starter is ready, you have to think about the timing of your bread making. It takes a full 24 hours from feeding your starter in the morning to baking your bread the next day.
It’s best to start your dough when the starter is most active, about 4-5 hours after feeding. I feed my starter around 8am.
At 12pm, in a large bowl, combine:
- 1/4 cup starter
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
Stir until starter has dissolved in water, then add:
- 3 1/2-4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Add flour a little at a time until the dough resembles a ball. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let sit in a warm place for one hour.
At 1pm, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
Cover with a towel and let sit in a warm place until doubled, about 8 hours.
At 9pm, the dough should have grown to twice its size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to remove large air bubbles. Fold the top of the dough down to meet the center, the right side of the dough over to meet the center, the left side of the dough over to meet the center, and finally, the bottom of the dough up to meet the top. Flip the ball of dough over and spin and cup the dough, creating a tighter ball.
Place the ball of dough, seam side up, in a bowl lined with a flour lined towel. Make sure there’s enough flour on the towel so the dough won’t stick. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough before covering loosely with the ends of the towel.
Place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator overnight.
At 9am, preheat your oven, with a dutch oven inside, to 500*F.
Once the oven has come up to temperature, take the bowl out of the refrigerator. Open the towel, place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and place a plate over top. Flip over, take off the bowl and carefully remove the towel. Using a sharp blade, slash or score the dough to help the steam escape in a controlled way.
Carefully lower the loaf by lifting the parchment paper into the dutch oven and place the cover on top.
Lower the temperature to 450*F and bake for 20 minutes.
Uncover and lower the temperature to 400*F. Bake for another 20 minutes.
Let cool for at least an hour before slicing with a serrated knife.
The end result is a springy and crusty loaf of slightly tangy deliciousness. I like it best as toast or for grilled cheese sandwiches.
If you plan to make bread on a regular basis, continue to feed your starter as before. If you don’t foresee baking bread more than once a week, feed it, cover it tightly and place in the refrigerator. A couple days before you want to bake, take it out, feed it and leave in a warm place.
Questions? Shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.