Sourdough and More Sourdough

Sourdough Bread

My brother in-law, Dave, is responsible for the fact that my ENTIRE kitchen is bathed in a fine layer of flour and has the unmistakable odor of something fermenting. You see, Dave has gotten into making sourdough bread recently, which just happened to coincide with plans that I had been making to get back into sourdough starters and bread making. Dave’s enthusiasm and success gave me the extra push I needed to plunge myself wholeheartedly back into an old favorite hobby.

Sourdough Bread
Oh my gosh! I love this bread recipe.

Two and a half decades ago I was a sourdough fiend and read everything I could find on sourdough starters and breads. It amounted to a flyer from the county extension service and three paragraphs in a small bread book that I had on hand. I had a recipe for Sourdough French Bread, one for Sourdough Pancakes and one for Sourdough Rye bread. Remember, the internet mostly did not exist at that time.

My first sourdough starter was made using all-purpose white flour and tap water. It took a leap of faith to believe that the flour and water slurry sitting in a quart jar on my countertop would actually become active with wild yeast spores and turn into a viable sourdough starter. After nearly a week of dutiful coddling for an exhaustingly exhilarating 6 minutes a day, the slurry did indeed become bubbly and active with whatever native yeasts were in its microclimate.

Sourdough Starter
One of my new sourdough starters — all bubbly and excited to be alive with a purpose.

But, let’s move forward. As I have searched the interwebs for new information about sourdough starters and breads, I have been very surprised at the phenomenal amount of information available. Not only is there a lot of information, there are also new methods, new sourdough-related gadgets and lots of wonderful recipes (yay!), there are also a large amount of various sourdough starters available for purchase.

I ordered some of those starters and while I waited for them to arrive in the mail, I started my own starter from scratch. Again I returned to flour and water, but with some distinct changes. I used unbleached, unbromated bread flour (Montana Wheat brand), freshly ground rye flour and non-chlorinated water. (I know for a fact that the rye flour was fresh because I was the one who ground it.) The rest of the ingredients were already in the flour and hanging out in the air in my house. Cool. I’m not going into details about how to achieve a viable sourdough starter here. That’s for another post, if anyone is interested.

Sourdough Starter
This is my rye sourdough starter. It grew out from the yeasts naturally present in the flours and surrounding air in my home. It’s a very happy little sourdough starter.

The artisan bread revolution has definitely impacted sourdough breads and how they are made. Home bakers can turn out exceptional breads and rolls with a bit of practice and earnest commitment. You don’t need a brick oven or a steam oven; just a standard kitchen oven and something as simple as a squirt bottle will do the trick.

I don’t have any fancy equipment, just a simple scale which measures in both ounces/pounds and grams; some favorite bowls; measuring cups; one newly purchased banneton; and glass jars. Oh, and I do own a baking stone, but even that one is not completely necessary for success.

Rye Sourdough Bread
This is the first loaf of Rye Sourdough Bread that I made with my new rye starter.

The thing about sourdough is the time commitment – not that it takes a lot of hands-on time, but that it takes lots of waiting time. As a matter of fact, though, you get to sleep through much of the time that the sourdough is doing its sourdough thing. Hands-on time is actually very minimal. Feed your starter before you go to bed and, ta-daaah, when you wake up, you’ll see that your starter will have shamelessly partied all night long. There is also nothing quite as lovely as shaping loaves of bread before bedtime, putting them in the fridge to rise while you sleep and then baking them the next morning. Freshly baked bread mid-morning – you decadent over-achiever, you.

Sourdough Bread
I love those ring imprints from the banneton (ratan proofing basket).

Of all of the new things that I have learned about making sourdough bread so far, I think that the most fascinating is not kneading the dough. I have been making bread for a very long time and the idea of NOT kneading it is astounding to me. The science behind a great crumb on yeast breads is all about kneading the dough to work up the gluten. With a sourdough, however, the sourdough starter does all of the work with its yeasty beasties and lactobacilli. It acts on the proteins in the flour and forms beautiful, stretchy, resilient gluten strands. What a marvel!

Sourdough Bread
You can taste this bread just by looking at it!
Sourdough Rye Bread
This is the Sourdough Rye Bread sliced. This bread was made from a loose, moist dough and was SO EASY to make.

My very most favorite thing about making sourdough bread is the crust when the loaf is fresh out of the oven. It is brown and crispy and crackles as the bread cools. I love to eat the crunchy crust like a snack cracker or chip. It’s the best tasting “chip” ever!

Sourdough Bread
Look at those blisters in the crust!
Sourdough Bread 0030 wm
See the cracks that have formed? The formation of those cracks is what makes such a nice crackling sound as the bread cools.

I have plans for more posts on sourdough starters and sourdough breads. I hope that you will like them. Sourdough is definitely one of those things that cannot be addressed in a single post. We’ll start out talking about sourdough starters, of course. 🙂

I’ve added a few of my favorite associated resources for sourdough. I am learning from them by leaps and bounds and am loving the whole process. You Tube has been a great resource for me as I have studied about sourdough over the past month. I am a visual learner and luckily I stumbled across some very helpful video tutorials which motivated me to get up and bake!

  • Breadtopia — what is it about sourdough that makes people so nice? Sour bread, nice people. Go figure. You will enjoy this well organized sourdough blog by Eric and Denyce Rusch. There are great posts, videos and even a store.
  • Northwest Sourdough — very informative blog and many good video tutorials. Teresa Greenway, the blogger, has easy, gentle, can-do video inspiration. Beautiful hands, too. Again — sour bread, nice person!
  • Sourdoughs International — very good blog by Ed Wood and a GREAT place to purchase an exciting variety of sourdough starters and learn about sourdough starters from all over the world. Especially good information for the science behind sourdough.
  • My Sourdough Starters — fun, friendly, informative blog by Bill Karoly with sourdough starters for purchase. The selection of starters is fun and very wallet friendly. Remember wallets? People used to put money in them. Remember money? You must be OLD.

Sourdough Bread

I’m pretty sure you will LOVE these recipes:

How to Make Whole Wheat Bread
How to Make Whole Wheat Bread
Paradise Dinner Rolls {King's Hawaiian Dinner Rolls++!}
Paradise Dinner Rolls {King’s Hawaiian Dinner Rolls++!}
Easy Garlic Bread Sticks
Easy Garlic Bread Sticks

 

Comments

  1. says

    Oh Terri – this post is beyond amazing. Your loaves look like those found in the best bakeries. I’d never thought of baking bread in my EH pie pan – looks so good! I love how you described your entire kitchen being coated in a dusting of flour. Been there!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Patricia! As for using the EH pie pan for the bread, desperation is the mother of insanity invention inspiration. No, wait; that’s not right. Necessity is the mother of invention. Boring. Time to change the phrase.

      Anyway, I was working with a very slack dough and I was ill-prepared to bake it. It was my first adventure into that type of dough and I didn’t realize that I needed a baking vessel to make the dough hold its shape. I don’t own a cloche or a romatopf baker, so my EH pie dish came to the rescue. It worked beautifully. I baked another loaf in the same dish a few days later and it rose enough to take the shape of the frilled edge. The bread ended up looking like a flower–really pretty. 🙂

  2. Rie says

    Yeah!!!! Continue the series Terri. I ordered a started from King Arthur Flour….I killed it, don’t ask……..please……….Love home made bread and sourdough, if I could master, would be great…..PLEASE continue….xoooxxoox PS…I’ve been there with the kitchen covered with flour…mixed feelings about it…..teehee

    • says

      Killed something, did you? Well, I guess it’s better to kill a sourdough culture than a patient. As for continuing the sourdough series, I’d be happy to do that. I have been practicing and experimenting — and have been having a terrific time in the kitchen.

  3. says

    Making bread is an incredibly nuturing and soulful experience. Your sourdough bread looks fabulous. Thanks for sharing your expereince.

    Velva

    • says

      Thanks, Velva. I especially like making bread when the house is quiet and I have time to think about what I am doing, not that there is really that much to do. I get a lot of thinking done, though, and when the bread is done baking, I am ready for some noise and excitement with sharing some good eating.

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