Last time I talked to you about Sourdough I was having trouble with my starter. I found a lot of conflicting information online, and I was getting confused. I bought Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson to learn more about sourdough baking (I have learned so much from books. It’s my favourite way to learn new things!).
Chad runs a bakery in California, and he is a master at sourdough bread and variations thereon. He focuses on expending minimal effort to create the best bread possible. He does this by working with the nature of the dough, and by not skipping steps. The book has quite a few variations on several basic bread recipes, and also has recipes for what to do with your bread once it’s baked. Spoiler alert: it’s more than just sandwiches! Once I started following a single method my starter began behaving well – rising very high on a predictable schedule.
Just after mixing the jar was only 1/3 full.
I had a small misstep where I tried to bake a loaf the day before my starter really started to rise. The loaf looked nice, but hardly rose at all and was very dense. This was a good learning opportunity for me, since now I understand better how my starter looks when it is and is not ready. I always use the float test now.
Once my starter was behaving I had to bake some bread! I used the basic sourdough recipe from Tartine Bread. I followed the recipe and the suggested timings as closely as possible, and was rewarded with 2 absolutely beautiful loaves!
I also teamed up with my husband to make a pizza with a sourdough crust. Delicious, but next time I’d like to make the crust thinner, or perhaps bake it before I add the toppings.
I never knew how rewarding it would be to bake bread. There is nothing like enjoying the delicious bread you made yourself, or sharing it with friends. In that way, it’s kind of like knitting.
I grew up in a bread family. My mom made a lot of bread, and we all gobbled it up pretty much immediately. I live far away from my mom now, so if I want homemade bread I have to make it myself. Over the last few years I’ve made a few loaves with limited success, but it is frustrating to put in a bunch of time and effort only to end up with mediocre loaves that I’m not excited to eat. Recently I decided to try making bread again. Only this time I would be making sourdough bread.
To make sourdough bread you begin with a starter. A starter is a mixture of water and flour that ferments – this is where the wild yeast grows, and also where beneficial bacteria grow that give the bread it’s sour flavor. Starters should be easy. I had trouble with mine. I was trying to be too technical, and my starter didn’t like it. After a frustrating first week, I realized I needed to simplify. After all, people have used sourdough starter as a leavening agent for centuries, and they don’t have all the fancy gadgets (or the scientific knowledge as to why and how sourdough works) that we have today. So I stopped worrying so much about temperatures and perfect ratios, and lo and behold my starter started doing what it was supposed to do!
At this point I had been feeding my starter for 2 weeks and I had no bread to show for it. I had read that you can add sourdough starter to any bread recipe – you just substitute the starter for an equal amount of flour and liquid. So I tried it. I made a normal white bread loaf with some starter added in, and it turned out delicious! I made several lovely sandwiches with this bread, as you can see above.
Finally after 3 weeks my starter was rising more or less predictably. The time had come to make true sourdough bread. I mixed my starter with an appropriate amount of flour, water, and salt, folded the dough a few times, waited a lot, and came out with an incredible loaf of bread!
I had read that the first loaf from a starter may not rise much. This bread certainly isn’t tall, but look at the crumb and the lovely open structure of the bread! It tastes just as good as it looks, too! I still have a lot to learn about Sourdough, but I am so pleased that I finally made this happen! And truthfully, it wasn’t hard to do. The biggest challenge was being patient. If you’ve ever thought about trying your hand at sourdough, I would encourage you to jump right in! The water’s warm and the bread is delicious!
P.S. This week I celebrated my 8th blogiversary. Thanks for joining me for the ride!