Tuesday, September 05, 2006


To make sourdough bread, you need two things: a healthy and active starter, and some patience.

Wild yeast takes longer to get its job done than commercial yeast. I can turn out a loaf of country white bread in about 6 hours, and that includes making a sponge and letting the dough rise twice. A bare-bones bread recipe with no sponge and only one rise takes me 3-4 hours. Sourdough? Anywhere from 30-48 hours. Starting on a loaf of sourdough means knowing that you'll be getting the end result some time the next day.

The first phase involves expanding your starter. This wakes up your yeast and multiplies it to quantities that will be able to leaven a loaf of bread. Start with two tablespoons of stiff starter, and feed it with about 1/3 cup of bread flour and 2 tablespoons of water. Let it double, then toss half of it, and feed the rest with 2/3 cup of bread flour and 3 1/2 tablespoons of water. Let it double again.

Sourdough starter

This is my starter expanding. The bubbles all around the sides are a good sign. This stage can take up to 16 hours, unless you have whatever weirdo mutant strain of yeast that I have in my apartment, which gets the job done in less than 4 hours.

So, now there's an expanded starter, and now you can actually start making your dough. Take 2/3 cup of the expanded starter, add 1 1/4 cups of bread flour, 2/3 cup of warm water, and a teaspoon of salt. Knead for 5 minutes, let rest for 20 minutes, then knead again for 5-10 minutes.

Let the dough rise for an hour, and punch it down. Repeat. Then let the dough rise until doubled.

Rising sourdough

Ok, now the dough is risen. However, it's very moist and very soft, and if you threw it in the oven right now, you'd end up with a big flat pancake...

Drying out the skin

...so the next step involves putting the dough into a towel-lined colander and letting it rise until it's doubled. This pulls moisture out of the dough, creating a skin that will hold the dough together when you bake it. (It also makes a spiffy design on the crust.)

After 25 minutes of baking...

Sourdough loaf

Finished sourdough

Crusty outside, chewy inside, with a nice tangy flavor. Not bad for a day and a half, especially considering that you don't have to do anything with the dough for most of that time. I should definitely do this more often than once every 5 months.

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1 comment:

Jolene said...

What a nice food blog!!! I was going to invite you all over for my birthday but now I am scared to cook for you. YOu are awesome.
One question: What type of yeast is used for the sourdough? Is it something I can get at Giant?