With the emergence of a pandemic from COVID-19, many people were left to figure out what to do with themselves while they lived out their days in isolation. Outside of working from home and teaching our kids with my husband, I decided to use any spare time I had learning how to make sourdough. With the non-existence of yeast in the stores, and sometimes limited availability of bread products, this venture seemed like a useful one to attempt.
Sourdough is made without the use of yeast – as you first need to create a sourdough starter – the ‘yeast’ of your bread. You begin my mixing flour and water together in a tall glass vessel of some sort (I use a large A&W mug), I started with a 2:1 ratio of flour to water – say 1/2 cup of flour to 1/4 cup of water (call this DAY 1). Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula – I read somewhere not to use metal, so I never have. 😉 Now, loosely cover it with a cloth and elastic – your starter needs to breathe and release gases – all part of the fermentation process.
On DAY 2, you are going to need to begin the feeding process. You don’t necessarily want to double your starter at this time, so you can either discard half or divide it in half into two containers, feeding both – discarding half in the beginning is the logical choice, unless you plan on growing more starter for friends. 🙂
How much do you feed it? My personal rule-of-thumb is this: estimate the volume of starter you currently have, and base your flour measurement off of that amount. So, if you have 1/4 cup of starter, you’re going to feed it 1/4 cup of flour and 1/8 cup of water. Stir it up good and recover it.
Keep feeding your starter daily, until all of a sudden your starter produces more bubbles and starts to grow. When it gets to the point where it is doubling is size after a feeding, it’s ready to use! Look at those bubbles!
Important side note: you only want to use your growing starter when it is still increasing in size. If your starter has maxed out and is beginning to deflate, you’ve missed the time to bake a loaf. Re-feed it (discarding some if necessary) and wait again until it has doubled. I tend to feed my starter in the morning, and my lunch it is ready to make dough.
Here is the sourdough bread recipe I use:
- 800g All-purpose flour
- 560g water (70% hydration)
- 240g sourdough starter (30%)
- 10g salt
- Measure out all ingredients (a scale is the best way to ensure proper amounts of moisture levels).
- Add all ingredients together in a bowl*tip* spray your measuring cup or bowl with cooking spray before weighing your starter, and it will be much easier to get it out. It’s very sticky stuff!
- Stir together with a spatula – mixture will be dry at first. Once loosely combined, mix together with your hands until it’s a rough and sticky dough. Cover with saran wrap and let it rest for 1 hour.
- After an hour of resting you are going to ‘stretch-and-fold’ your dough about twice around until the ball is smooth – if you wet one hand with water, this will be easier. Scoop your wet hand under the dough, stretch it up and over the ball, and fold it over. Repeat this all the way around the bowl 2-3 times. Cover again with saran wrap and let it rise over-night.
- In the morning, your dough should have doubled or tripled in size.
- Preheat your oven at 475F with your dutch oven or roasting pan already inside. Pour out your dough onto a flour-covered surface, and fold in the four sides. Flip the dough over so the seams are face down, and continue to tuck the edges under the ball until your dough is smooth and round.
- Place your dough on a piece of parchment paper (it doesn’t have to be a big piece, just large enough to use the corners to lift your dough into the dutch oven or roasting pan. Just before the dough is placed in the oven, be sure to score it – I just use a sharp knife. Scoring your bread gives it more freedom to rise in the oven, and tells it where to expand, without splitting at the seams you created.
- Pop it in the oven and bake it covered for 20 minutes.
- Uncover the loaf and lower the temperature to 425F, and continue to bake for another 40 minutes (at least). I tend to add more time if the loaf isn’t to my desired darkness.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
- As tempting as a warm loaf of bread can be, let it cool completely before cutting into it! Enjoy!