I’ve crossed over to the dark side.
I started making my own bread.
I’m still new to the process, but I’m absolutely obsessed with sourdough and decided to give sourdough a try.
One of my long term goals has been to get our family away from storebought bread. Sure, it’s more convenient, and once you factor in the time involved in making your own bread, probably more cost-effective, too.
However, I can’t get over the fact that storebought bread always tastes a little like plastic, and that it doesn’t seem to go bad even when I let it sit in the cupboard for weeks – sometimes months – on end.
That’s a lot of preservatives, folks.
Enter the bread baking adventure.
I’ll be honest, sourdough bread a lot more finicky than other types of bread. But the extra effort is absolutely worth it. Here’s everything you need to know to make your own sourdough at home.
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Why Sourdough Bread is Good For You
Did you know that sourdough is one of the oldest forms of grain fermentation? It’s believed to have originated thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt and was the customary form of bread leavening until baker’s yeast replaced it.
While most leavened breads use commercial baker’s yeast, sourdough relies on wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which is naturally found in flour.
This lactic acid bacteria is found in other fermented products, like pickles, yogurt, and kimchi. Although the nutritional profile of sourdough looks much like that of other breads (around 162 calories and 32 grams of carbohydrates per slice), it has unique properties that make it one of the healthiest breads you can eat.
The lactic acid bacteria in sourdough bread lower the bread’s pH, allowing it to retain higher levels of nutrients like zinc, phosphate, potassium, and magnesium. This pH also makes it possible for the bread to enhance mineral absorption. The bacteria even help release antioxidants during the fermentation process.
Sourdough bread is easier for many people to digest than other types of bread. This is probably because it has high levels of prebiotics and probiotics. It degrades gluten to some extent, making it a better choice for people who might be sensitive.
Oh – and it tastes fantastic.
Why is Sourdough Bread…Sour?
Sourdough bread is unique in that it is made using wild yeast. A strong culture of wild yeast means you won’t need to apply any commercial yeast at all. You will, however, need to give your yeast a bit more coaxing and work it more slowly than you would with commercial yeast.
It can take a long time to make sourdough bread, as you need to work it carefully. Most people take a few days to make a loaf, which not only gives the wild yeast time to work, but also helps coax out flavors in the bread.
The sour flavor comes from bacteria found in the yeast – such as lactobacillus. These grow with the wild yeast and help ferment sugars in the bread.
Sourdough bread isn’t always sour – the sour flavor will depend on how well you develop your starter and make your bread.
How to Make Sourdough Starter
A sourdough starter is a culture of water and flour that are used to develop wild yeast. You will want to have a ripe, fully developed starter in order to ensure a good, healthy rise and flavor development.
Making your own sourdough starter is easy and takes about five days. You mix together flour and water and let them sit at room temperature. Wild yeast are found everywhere and will thrive in your homemade culture. Every day, you’ll continue to feed the yeast by-product off some of the culture and adding fresh flour and water. It will be ready for baking when it becomes bubbly and smells sour but fresh at the same time.
Your other choice is to purchase a sourdough starter, like this one. That’s the option I chose to save a bit of time and effort on my part.
No matter which option you choose, once you have a sourdough starter, you’ll never have to make one again. If you keep it in the refrigerator, you will need to feed it only once a week.
How to Store and FeedYour Sourdough Starter
Once you’ve purchased or created your starter, you will need to feed it regularly. If you find that you bake sourdough bread a lot, you might want to keep it on your counter at room temperature. You’ll have to feed it twice a day. However, it will be ready to bake when you are, meaning less work when you go to bake.
If you store the starter at room temperature, make sure you start by stirring it well. Discard everything except 4 ounces, or half a cup of starter. Add water and flour. Mix until it’s smooth and cover it. You will repeat this every twelve hours and then remove a cup of starter to bake with once it has expanded and become bubbly.
If you’re like me and prefer to just make big batches of sourdough bread all at once, you can store your starter in their refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake with it, you will need to skim the amber liquid off the top. This is a byproduct of the fermenting yeast and it won’t hurt you if you just stir it in, but most people get rid of it.
Remove everything but half a cup of starter. Add the flour and lukewarm water, and mix until it’s smooth. Cover it and allow it to rest at room temperature for two hours. This will help the yeast start feeding. After two hours, refrigerate it.
When you’re ready to bake with it, take out of the refrigerator and discard all but half a cup again. Feed it as usual and let it rest at room temperature for twelve hours. Again, it should be bubbly. Do this every twelve hours as necessary until you notice that the starter has tripled in volume. After this point, it will be strong enough to work with.
You will need to feed it just once more before you bake. Add the flour and water you will need for your recipe and leave a small amount left over to feed – this will also help maintain your starter for next time.
A good ratio is:
- If the recipe calls for 1 cup starter= add 4 oz each of water and flour
- If the recipe calls for 2 cups starter=add 8 oz each of water and flour
Once your starter has started to bubble vigorously, you can take out what you need for the recipe and set it aside. Continue feeding your remaining starter, and let it work at room temperature for two hours before you put it back into the refrigerator.
Tips for Making Your Own Sourdough
- Making sourdough takes a LOT of practice. There are multiple methods for baking and maintaining sourdough starter, so find the one that works best for you. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t turn out perfectly the first time!
- You will want a very active yeast and bacteria, which you’ll find in an active, fresh sourdough starter. Plan your time accordingly so that you can remove the starter 1 to 2 days in advance and feed it there times before baking.
- Kneading can be tough. If you’re kneading by hand, you will need to do this for at least twenty minutes, but you can break up the kneading sessions to take some of the stress off your hands.
- You can also use a mixer to knead, but you need to make sure the dough does not overheat. This can damage the yeast and does not allow for proper gluten development. You should knead the last five minutes by hand.
- You can use your discarded starter to make a variety of treats. You can also give some to a friend who is looking to start his or her own sourdough starter! Here are some recipes:
You can also compost the extra sourdough discard, too.
The Best Sourdough Recipe
- 2 ⅓ cups sourdough starter
- 3 ⅓ cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon salt
1. Prepare your leaven. The leaven is made with a tablespoon of active starter along with flour and water. You should do this the night before you plan to mix your dough. Leave it out on the counter. The next morning, it should be bubbly and smell sour. Make enough for 2 ⅓ cups of starter.
2. The next day, mix your leaven with the flour and water. Let it sit for thirty minutes. The flour will absorb the water and the enzymes will start to break down the starches. This will become food for the yeast and make your bread taste better. After resting, add your salt and extra water if the dough is not moist.
3. Knead the dough. It should be stretchy but not easy to break. Split it in half, and shape each half into al oaf.
4. Place the dough in a loaf pan or board and cover it with a towel. Some people also use proofing baskets like these, but my favorite technique is just to use a colander. You will need to proof it for anywhere between 4 and 24 hours. Usually, this will be all it takes, but if it’s not proofing well, you can reshape the dough after 4-12 hours and proof it again.
5. Slice an x in the top of the loaf before baking. This will prevent unwanted splitting.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 60 minutes. The internal temperature should read 200 degrees.
And that’s about all you need to know. Like I said, I am by no means a baker or a sourdough expert – so be sure to leave your tips and comments in the section below!
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