I remember my first sourdough starter experience. I actually received some from an acquaintance. However, after about a month I threw the starter away because I thought it was bad (there was a thin layer of brownish liquid on top). Little did I know that this was okay and that I just needed to add a tad more flour to the mixture or feed my starter in more regular intervals. Regardless, I decided to start over and make it myself and I haven't looked back.
With sourdough, all you need is flour and water and the wild yeasts in the air around you to create a bubbly mixture capable of producing a bread that is full of flavor and texture. While taste is certainly enough reason to create a sourdough starter, it is not the only one. The process of souring the dough means that it is actually healthier for us. In essence, the acids created in the fermentation of the starter make flour more readily available for digestion. What is more, the fermentation process also produces good bacteria for the digestive system and makes gluten more easily digestible.
- filtered water
- large jar to house your sourdough starter
- cloth for covering the sourdough starter
Starting the sourdough: Vigorously stir ¼ cup of flour and 3 tablespoons filtered water in a small bowl. Pour this into a jar and cover with a cloth but don’t seal it, and let it rest somewhere warm (70 degrees fahrenheit is optimal) and let it sit for twelve hours.
Twelve hours later, stir in ½ cup flour with ¼ cup filtered water and scrape the sides of the jar. Continue adding ½ cup flour and ¼ cup water and scrape the sides of the jar every twelve hours for five days until your starter is bubbling.
By now, you are hoping for bubbles and the start of a smell, something musty and soured. If this isn’t the case don't fret, just keep feeding and looking for the signs. Temperature, climate and other variations can make it take a little longer.
Maintaining the sourdough:
After a week, your sourdough should be sturdy enough to bake with or consider storage. If you bake infrequently (you bake less than once a week) you can store your sourdough in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature and feed it well for two, twelve hour cycles before you plan to bake.
Storing a sourdough starter in the fridge slows down the process such that they can be fed once a week, and in this case, it might be worth doubling the amount flour and water for feeding. If you bake more frequently (every day or a few times a week) you can store your sourdough at room temperature on your counter and feed it with ½ cup flour and ¼ cup filtered water (or ¼ cup flour and 2 tablespoons filtered water) once a day.
What to do with all of your starter:
If you've made too much sourdough starter for the capacity of your jar, take some out and use it to make sourdough flatbread, biscuits, pancakes or crackers to name a few.
Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Sourdough bread has a mildly sour taste and better inherent keeping qualities than other bread due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli. This bread recipe has become a staple in our household. With a thick crackly crust and a soft and tangy interior it won't last long!
No-Knead Sourdough Bread
- 3 ½ to 4 cups (600 grams) flour
- 1/4 cup (100 grams) sourdough starter (I feed my starter the night before or early in the morning)
- 2 cups (350 grams) water
- 1 teaspoon (10 grams) fine grained sea salt plus 1/4 cup water (25 grams)
- Rice flour for dusting and prepping loaf.
1. In a large bowl combine starter and water. Add flour and mix together until mixture comes together. Dough should not be too wet or too dry.
2. Cover with a cloth and leave overnight for at least 8 hours.
3. Mix sea salt and 25 grams of water in small bowl. Add water/salt mixture to dough and squish to combine. Let rise for 4 more hours.
4. Form your loaf. Place a generous amount of rice flour on your kitchen counter. Scoop dough out onto the flour then sprinkle generously with more flour. Gently create a rectangle. Fold in thirds and then in thirds again to create a ball.
5. Place more rice flour on a clean tea towel. Invert the loaf with the seam side up and place back in bowl. Cover and let sit for 3 to 4 hours.
6. Place a large oven-proof dish with a lid in the oven (I use a dutch oven). Preheat oven to 500°F and the oven proof pan for at least 1/2 hour.
7. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Remove lid. Gently place the loaf in the pan inverted so that the rougher surface is now on the bottom. Don’t worry about smoothing it out or having it centered – it will work itself out in the oven. Score the loaf if you wish. Turn the head down to 450°F.
8. Pop the lid back on and bake for 20 minutes.
9. Remove the lid and and bake for a further 20 to 30 minutes until the loaf is deep brown.
10. Cool on a wire rack uncovered for at least 30 minutes if you can wait that long.