Let’s Make Sourdough!

Ciao a tutti! Let’s make some sourdough…

Sourdough breadNow that we are sheltering in place, I thought it would be a perfect time to learn the art of sourdough bread. It can be done at home with just three simple ingredients: flour, water and salt. I will take you step-by-step, day-by-day through the whole process from making your own starter to the finished product: the beautiful loaf.

I’m using Tartine Bread as a guide. Chad Robertson gives us this go-to resource for artisan breads.

Please enjoy, and please send comments or suggestions. Please use the comment box below to send any feedback. I would love to make this is group learning experience, so we can share this together around the world. I will also post these videos on Instagram for your viewing pleasure and as another place to add a comment.

Special Equipment:
Kitchen scale
Kitchen thermometer
Dutch oven with lid or Combo Caste Iron Set
2 bannetons or two bowls covered with cotton kitchen towel

Day 1: Let the Games Begin
Day 2: Feed your Starter
Day 3: Hungry and Thriving
Day 4: Feeding Twice Today
Day 5: Feeding Again
Day 6: It’s Leaven Day!
Day 7: It’s Bread Baking Day!
Up-level your Loaf: Adding grains, nuts and seeds.
More thoughts about the Basic Loaf

Day 1: Let the Games Begin

Today we’ll make a brand new sourdough starter. It will take about 5 -6 days for our starter to get well established and then we’ll be ready to make a loaf. So hang in there and be patient. It will be fun to watch the starter grow and see mother nature at work!

Sourdough Starter- Day 1

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup 50%-50% flour blend
  • ½ cup water (if your kitchen is cold, heat water to 80 degrees F)

Instructions
 

  • In a large jar, make a flour blend of 50% whole wheat flour and 50% all purpose or white bread flour. Make about 2½ cups of flour blend, as you will be using this blend to feed your starter over the next 5 -6 days.
  • In a clear glass bowl or large jar, mix ½ cup of flour blend and slowly mix in the water until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. Don't worry if you don't use all of the water, just make sure the consistency is like thick pancake batter. Mix well, making sure you have no lumps. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen, i.e. in top of the fridge or near the stove.
    Wait 24 hours. The wild yeasts in the environment will begin to populate and feed from the natural sugars in the flour.

Video

Day 2: Feed your Starter

Our new sourdough starter has had 24 hours to rest. You might not see much wild yeast activity yet, but by Day 3, we should begin to see some bubbles and an increase in volume. Keep the faith, my friends!

Sourdough Starter Day 2

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup 50%- 50% flour blend
  • ½ cup water (If your kitchen is cold, heat water to 80 degrees F)

Instructions
 

  • First, discard 80% of the starter from yesterday, leaving 1 heaping tablespoon of starter in the jar or bowl. Next, add the flour and begin to drizzle in the water. Keep adding the water and stirring until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Cover the starter with a kitchen towel or lid set on top (don't screw on the lid) and let it rest in a warm spot for 24 hours.

Video

Day 3: Hungry and Thriving


Today, once again, we will feed our hungry starter. We want to keep it happy and thriving, busily collecting wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria; these are the healthy agents in sourdough bread that add nutrition, lower the glycemic index, eat up some gluten, enhance flavor and prolong shelf life.

Sourdough Starter Day 3

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup 50% – 50% flour blend
  • ½ cup water (If your kitchen is cold, heat water to 80 degrees F)

Instructions
 

  • First, discard 80% of the starter from yesterday, leaving 1 heaping tablespoon of starter in the jar or bowl. Next, add the flour and begin to drizzle in the water. Keep adding the water and stirring until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Cover the starter with a kitchen towel or lid set on top (don't screw on the lid) and let it rest in a warm spot for 24 hours.

Video

Day 4: Feeding Twice Today


On our fourth day of feeding and developing our starter, we now move to 2 feedings per day; one in the morning and one in the evening. We are ramping up the fermentation process. Coming up – Day 5 Feed the starter – Day 6 Make the Leaven – Day 7 Make the bread!! Finally! Yippeeee. Soon your kitchen will smell of freshly baked bread. That’s amore.

Sourdough Starter Day 4

Prep Time 10 mins

Equipment

  • kitchen scale
  • kitchen thermometer

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup 50% – 50% flour blend
  • ½ cup water (if your kitchen is cold, heat water to 80 degrees F)

Instructions
 

  • First thing in the morning, discard 80% of the starter from yesterday, leaving 1 heaping tablespoon of starter in the jar or bowl. Next, add the flour and begin to drizzle in the water. Keep adding the water and stirring until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Cover the starter with a kitchen towel or lid set on top (don't screw on the lid) and let it rest in a warm spot for 12 hours.
  • Before going to bed, feed the starter again. This way, you will have two feedings today.

Video

Day 5: Feeding Again


Moving on… Today is just like yesterday, more or less. We’ll continue to focus on building that fabulous starter. As they say…patience is a virtue! Tomorrow, Day 6, we’ll make the leaven and then on Day 7, we make our bread!

Let’s Make Sourdough Day 5

Prep Time 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup 50% – 50% flour blend
  • ½ cup water – (if your kitchen is cold, heat water to 80 degrees F)

Instructions
 

  • First thing in the morning, discard 80% of the starter from yesterday, leaving 1 heaping tablespoon of starter in the jar or bowl. Next, add the flour and begin to drizzle in the water. Keep adding the water and stirring until it has the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Cover the starter with a kitchen towel or lid set on top (don't screw on the lid) and let it rest in a warm spot for 12 hours.
  • Feed your starter twice today.

Video

Day 6: It’s Leaven Day!

Day 6: It’s leaven day! We’ll prepare a leaven to supercharge our starter.

Let’s Make Sourdough Day 6 – making a leaven

Prep Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 200 grams flour 50% whole wheat + 50% all-purpose or bread flour
  • 200 grams water – 80 degrees F
  • 1 tbsp sourdough starter – (a heaping tbsp)

Instructions
 

  • Make the leaven in the evening, the day before you plan to make your bread.
    In a large mixing bowl, add the heated water and spoon in the starter. Stir gently to disperse the starter in the water.
  • Pour in the flour blend and mix well. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place. Let rest overnight.
    (The leaven we don't use tomorrow, will now be your starter.)

Video

Day 7: It’s Bread Baking Day!


Finally! It seems that every loaf I make turns out a bit different each time. There are many variables: ambient temperature, type of flour, moisture or heat in the air, strength of your starter, the type of flour, the list goes on, but the fun lies in the challenge and surprise each time you cut into a loaf fresh out of the oven.
Let’s do this!

sourdough bread loaf

Let’s Make Sourdough Day 7 – Bread making day

Ingredients
  

  • 1000 grams flour – 900 grams all purpose or bread flour + 100 grams whole wheat – (6 ½ cups) You can use 100% all purpose flour
  • 750 grams water – 80 degrees F. (3 cups)
  • 200 grams leaven – (⅔ cup) (the leftover leaven will now be your starter)
  • 20 grams salt (1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.)

Instructions
 

  • Now that the leaven is done, let's do the float test. Fill a small bowl with water and drop a teaspoon of leaven in the water. If it floats, then the leaven is ready and there is enough fermentation to produce a good loaf. If the spoonful of leaven does not float, put the leaven in a warm spot for another 30 minutes or so and then try the float test again. Turn the oven on low for a minute or two, turn it off, open the door and set the leaven inside for a few minutes. That might speed up the process. Make sure the inside of the oven is not above 80 -85 degrees F.
  • Once the leaven has passed the float test, it's time to make the dough. Using your kitchen scale, add 700 grams of 80 degree water to a large mixing bowl. Spoon in the 200 grams of leaven and push it around with a spoon to incorporate. (The unused leaven is now your starter.)
    Add the flour and stir to completely incorporate the flour. Use a large spoon or your hands to mix. Cover with a kitchen towel and rest for 30 minutes. This is the autolyse stage, where the flour, yeast and water become fully hydrated.
  • After 30 minutes, dissolve the salt in the remaining 50 grams of water and add to the dough. Use your hands and smoosh and squeeze the dough to work in the water and salt. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Now we begin the turning and stretching phase: The video provides an excellent demonstration of this technique (at 5:59). Holding the bowl steady with one hand, use the other hand to scoop under one edge of the dough, grab a hold and pull it out to the side and fold it back on top. Rotate the bowl a bit and do the same technique. Keep rotating the bowl and stretching and folding into the center until you have gone all the way around the bowl. We do this instead of kneading the dough.
  • We will be turning and stretching every half hour for 2 ½ hours; a total of 5 times.
  • After the stretching and folding stage, rest for 30 minutes.
    Flour a large board. Turn the dough out onto the board and cut in half with a bench cutter. (Remember, this recipe makes two loaves of bread.)
    We want to create some surface tension on the top surface of each loaf. Use your two hands to curl the edges of the dough underneath. (Again, the video gives a good visual of this process. at 7:15)
    Once the two loaves have been shaped and surface tension accomplished, cover with a kitchen towel and rest for about 30 minutes.
  • For the next step, you will need either two bannetons or two medium bowls covered with a cotton towel. Make sure to coat the bannetons or towels with a layer of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the fabric.
    Sprinkle some flour on top of each loaf. Flip the loaf over on the board, flour side down, and grab the right end of dough and fold over to the center. Grab the left end of dough and pull and fold it over to the center. Grab the edge closest to you and stretch and pull it up to the center. Finally, grab the top of the dough and pull it down and under the front of the dough. What we are doing here is shaping the loaves and creating more surface tension. Again, please watch the video at 8:36).
    Repeat for the other loaf and then place each loaf in the banneton or cloth-lined bowl, smooth, floured side down. Note: (I have had the dough stick to the cloth before, but do not fret! Just pinch the dough off the cloth and carry on.)
  • At this point, you have two choices. 1) Let loaves rest in the bannetons for 4 hours in a 75-80 degree room. Or 2) place them in the refrigerator and let them rest overnight and bake them the next morning. This slow refrigeration- fermentation gives more depth of flavor to the dough and gives you a bit more freedom in your schedule.
    If you choose to bake them the same day, if your room is cooler than 75 or 80 degrees, (65 – 70 degrees). let the loaves rest for an additional 5-7 more hours before baking. After some time, you will develop an instinct as you watch how your dough behaves.
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
    To prepare the dutch oven: tear off a piece of parchment paper large enough to fill the dutch oven. With your hands, spread a thin coat of olive oil over the parchment paper, and place the parchment paper, oiled side up, into the dutch oven. I use the coating of olive oil because I have had the loaf stick to the parchment paper during cooking and that is just no fun.
    Next, turn each loaf into a dutch oven. (the dough will be touching the oiled side of the parchment paper). If you only have one dutch oven, you can cook one loaf at a time. There is much debate over which is the best vessel for baking the loaves. Many folks love the Cast Iron Combo Cooker. I like to use the CorningWare dutch oven with the glass lid. (see notes below).
    You don't have to preheat the dutch oven.
    Scoring the loaves: Once your loaves are in the dutch oven, use a razor blade to score the top of the loaves. You can make an X shape or cut a square shape on top of the dough, about ½ deep. This allows steam to exit the loaves so they won't split open during baking. (video at 10:00).
    Place the loaves in the oven, turn down the heat to 450 degrees F. and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and cook for 30 more minutes.
    Remove the loaves- As soon as they are done baking, take the loaf out of the dutch oven and cool for at least 1 hour before eating.
    If you just can't wait, and cut it open while it is still piping hot, the inner part of the bread will be nice and creamy. Go ahead and enjoy it!
    Once the loaves have cooled completely, put them in a paper bag and then in a plastic bag. This way they the loaves will last for up to a week.
    Enjoy making bread! You now have a living sourdough starter. Keep it in the refrigerator and feed it about once per week. When you are ready to make bread, take it out of the fridge, feed it a few hours before you want to make your leaven. This way your starter will last a lifetime and you can pass it down to the next generation.

Video

Notes

A note on flour: For this recipe, I used a combination of 900 grams all-purpose white flour and 100 grams whole wheat flour; however, there’s plenty of wiggle room when it comes to flours. Many times I’ll use a high quality bread flour or make a mostly whole wheat loaf, so feel free to experiment. Just be sure to use 1000 grams of flour to keep the baker’s ratios. There are many recipes in books and the Internet for making sourdough with different flour blends.
 In addition, one of my favorite flour suppliers is Central Milling. They source the very best organic artisan flours that are grown and milled in the U.S. – they will ship. 
Some special items… if you so desire…
Banneton – shaping baskets
CorningWare 2.5 quart square baking dish
Cast Iron Combo Cooker

Up-Level your loaf: Adding Grains, Nuts and Seeds

Sourdough

Polenta Pumpkin Seed Bread

Cook Time 1 d
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

  • 1000 grams flour
  • 720 grams water – 80 degrees F
  • 200 grams leaven
  • 20 grams salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Boil 2 cups of water and pour over the polenta. Stir and set aside to cool completely.
    In a 400 degree oven, toast the pumpkin seeds until they are a bit brown and crackling, about 10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
    Once the polenta is cool, add the pumpkin seeds, rosemary and olive oil. This will be our addition to the bread and will be added 30 minutes after the first stretch and fold.
  • Now that the leaven is done (see Day 7), let's do the float test. Fill a small bowl with water and drop a teaspoon of leaven in the water. If it floats, then the leaven is ready and there is enough fermentation to produce a good loaf. If the spoonful of leaven does not float, put the leaven in a warm spot for another 30 minutes or so, and then try the float test again. Turn the oven on low for a minute or two, turn it off, open the door and set the leaven inside for a few minutes. That might speed up the process. Make sure the inside of the oven is not above 80 -85 degrees F.
  • Once the leaven has passed the float test, it's time to make the dough. Using your kitchen scale, add 700 grams of 80 degree water to a large mixing bowl. Spoon in the 200 grams of leaven and push it around with a spoon to incorporate. (The unused leaven is now your starter.)
    Add the flour and stir to completely incorporate the flour. Use a large spoon or your hands to mix. Cover with a kitchen towel and rest for 30 minutes. This is the autolyse stage, where the flour, yeast and water become fully hydrated.
  • After 30 minutes, dissolve the salt in the remaining 20 grams of water and add to the dough. Use your hands and smoosh and squeeze the dough to work in the water and salt. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Now we begin the turning and stretching phase: The video from Day 7 provides an excellent demonstration of this technique (at 5:59). Holding the bowl steady with one hand, use the other hand to scoop under one edge of the dough, grab a hold and pull it out to the side and fold it back on top. Rotate the bowl a bit and do the same technique. Keep rotating the bowl and stretching and folding into the center until you have gone all the way around the bowl. We do this instead of kneading the dough.
  • Do the first turn and stretch. Wait 30 minutes and then add the polenta mixture. Smoosh and really work into the dough. Set aside for 30 minutes and proceed with turn and turn 3 more times at 30 minute intervals.
  • After the stretching and folding stage, rest for 30 minutes.
    Flour a large board. Turn the dough out onto the board and cut in half with a bench cutter. (Remember, this recipe makes two loaves of bread.)
    We want to create some surface tension on the top surface of each loaf. Use your two hands to curl the edges of the dough underneath. (Again, the video from Day 7 gives a good visual of this process. at 7:15).
    Once the two loaves have been shaped and surface tension accomplished, cover with a kitchen towel and rest for about 30 minutes.
  • For the next step, you will need either two bannetons or two medium bowls covered with a cotton towel. Make sure to coat the bannetons or towels with a layer of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the fabric.
    Sprinkle some flour on top of each loaf. Flip the loaf over on the board, flour side down, and grab the right end of dough and fold over to the center. Grab the left end of dough and pull and fold it over to the center. Grab the edge closest to you and stretch and pull it up to the center. Finally, grab the top of the dough and pull it down and under the front of the dough. What we are doing here is shaping the loaves and creating more surface tension. Again, please watch the video from Day 7 at 8:36).
    Repeat for the other loaf and then place each loaf in the banneton or cloth-lined bowl, smooth, floured side down. Note: (I have had the dough stick to the cloth before, but do not fret! Just pinch the dough off the cloth and carry on.)
  • At this point, you have two choices. 1) Let loaves rest in the bannetons for 4 hours in a 75-80 degree room. Or 2) place them in the refrigerator and let them rest overnight and bake them the next morning. This slow refrigeration- fermentation gives more depth of flavor to the dough and gives you a bit more freedom in your schedule.
    If you choose to bake them the same day, if your room is cooler than 75 or 80 degrees, (65 – 70 degrees). let the loaves rest for an additional 5-7 more hours before baking. After some time, you will develop an instinct as you watch how your dough behaves.
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.To prepare the dutch oven: tear off a piece of parchment paper large enough to fill the dutch oven. With your hands, spread a thin coat of olive oil over the parchment paper, and place the parchment paper, oiled side up, into the dutch oven. I use the coating of olive oil because I have had the loaf stick to the parchment paper during cooking and that is just no fun.
    Next, turn each loaf into a dutch oven. (the dough will be touching the oiled side of the parchment paper). If you only have one dutch oven, you can cook one loaf at a time. There is much debate over which is the best vessel for baking the loaves. Many folks love the Cast Iron Combo Cooker. I like to use the CorningWare dutch oven with the glass lid. (see notes below).You don't have to preheat the dutch oven.
    Scoring the loaves: Once your loaves are in the dutch oven, use a razor blade to score the top of the loaves. You can make an X shape or cut a square shape on top of the dough, about ½ deep. This allows steam to exit the loaves so they won't split open during baking. (video at 10:00).
    Place the loaves in the oven, turn down the heat to 450 degrees F. and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and cook for 30 more minutes.
    Remove the loaves- As soon as they are done baking, take the loaf out of the dutch oven and cool for at least 1 hour before eating.
    If you just can't wait, and cut it open while it is still piping hot, the inner part of the bread will be nice and creamy. Go ahead and enjoy it!
    Once the loaves have cooled completely, put them in a paper bag and then in a plastic bag. This way they the loaves will last for up to a week.

Video

Notes

For the Walnut Oatmeal loaves:

Make a basic bread recipe using:
1000 grams flour
720 grams water 80 degrees
200 grams leaven
25 grams salt
Add this filling after the first stretch and turn:
Pour 2 cups boiling water over 1 cup oatmeal and set aside to cool. In a 400 degree oven, toast 1 cup of walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add walnuts to oatmeal and mix. 
Add the walnut, oatmeal mixture to the dough after the first turn and stretch. Continue with the rest of the instructions as will the basic loaf. This will make two loaves.

More Thoughts about the Basic Loaf