sourdough baguette and sourdough starter

Have you ever wanted to make a fresh loaf of sourdough bread or sourdough bread bowls?  Maybe you shied away because you were intimidated by ‘starter’ listed in the ingredients.  Before I even bothered to research what this said ‘starter’ was, I just wrote it off as too difficult to try, assuming it was far beyond my skill level.  Buying loaf after loaf of sourdough at the store just seemed far less complicated.  So that’s what I’ve been doing, for years.  Listen, it’s really easy to just toss a loaf of bread into my cart and move on with my day.  I won’t deny that fact.  But now I can also tell you it’s just as easy to make your own loaf, I promise!

sourdough baguette 2

Sourdough is the only bread my family will eat.  For better or worse.  Even my kids, it’s all they like.  I blame it on child #2.  See, while I was pregnant with her I seriously loooooathed all bread, except toasted sourdough with raspberry jam.  I ate it 16 times a day.  During that time my husband and daughter got used to it, because they had no choice.  I do the shopping and it’s all I’d buy.  And now, they can’t go back.  I generally buy 2 loaves at a time from Costco and we go through that in a couple weeks.  It’s not terribly expensive and it is very convenient, but, I know who to bake bread.  I can do this!  So why don’t I?!?!  I finally had a little pep talk with myself and got the motivation to dive into the world of sourdough making.

It seems you start with the starter (duh).  After a little research it seemed like there are 2 methods for making starter: 1. just mixing water and flour. 2. adding yeast to your water and flour to get the mixture to bubble a little quicker.  In the end, I decided just the flour and water method would be my method to try.  It takes a few weeks to get the starter really going, but after that this stuff will continue to grow and grow for YEARS!  So here I am, a few weeks after I started my starter and I’m totally obsessed.  I can say, with confidence, sourdough is not difficult.  YES, it takes time because you have to ‘feed’ your starter daily, but that takes just seconds to do.  After feeding your starter few a few weeks, you’ll have a beautifully fragrant starter that will make a lovely sourdough loaf.  So here’s a simple step-by-step of how to make your sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter 1

Day 1: mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water in a bowl.  It’s dry and sticky, that’s who it should be. Set the bowl aside until the next day.

Day 2: Scoop half of the mixture (about 1/2 cup) out of the bowl and throw it in the trash.  Add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to the remaining mixture.  Stir.  Set aside.

* I know you all have your chins dropped to the floor thinking about how wasteful throwing away that small amount of flour/water is.  And ya, it is a little wasteful.  But, if you kept every amount of ‘discarded’ flour/water you’ll be going through, you will have starter coming out of your ears.  Literally.  If you know anyone who wants starter, start sharing the ‘discarded’ amounts with your friends and give them the instructions on how to keep it going.

Day 3,4, and 5: You will start to feed your starter 2 times per day on day 3-5.  So, in the morning scoop 1/2 cup of starter into a bowl and add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to it.  Stir.  Set aside.  Trash that leftover starter (refer to the note above).  In the evening do the same.  Scoop out 1/2 cup starter, mix in 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir, set aside.  Trash the rest.

*You may start to see a little bit of bubbly action forming on top of your starter on day 3-5.  Maybe.  Now, I didn’t see any real bubbling action until around day 7.  So, if you don’t see bubbles yet, don’t lose hope, just keep ‘feeding’ your starter and you WILL eventually see those bubbles.

Day 6 (and everyday after that): You will go back to feeding your starter 1 time per day.  Here’s the basic formula for keeping your starter going: 1/2 cup starter + 1 cup flour + 1/2 cup water.

* That equation is very loose.  Somedays I feel like I may start to drown in all the starter on my counter, so I just add a few tablespoons of flour and a little water.  Other day I am running low on starter so I add larger amounts of flour/water.  From day 6/7 and on you start to get the hang on the starter and how it reacts and what it needs.  Sorta like a person, you start to learn it’s ‘feeding’ habits within it’s habitat (AKA your kitchen).  All kitchens are at different temperatures, and starter grows at different rates in different temperatures (the warmer it is, the faster it grows).

I know, it’s all sorta confusing. But, I hope the breakdown of what to do on each day helps simplify it a little bit.  It really isn’t scary.  And it really isn’t wasteful if you plan on actually using your starter.  There are tons of recipes on the internet about how to use the discarded starter.  I will be posting some of those recipes too, because I’ve been making TONS of things using the starter.  But today, I’m giving you the starter recipe and a basic sourdough bread recipe.  The bread recipe can be used for loafs of bread, baguettes, bread bowls, etc…  It’s super versatile and totally delicious!  Now, go on into to your kitchen and get your starter going.  It takes just seconds and the results are worth the effort of ‘babysitting’ the starter.

Sourdough Basics (Starter + Bread)

Sourdough Basics (Starter + Bread)

Ingredients

    Starter:
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (+ more each day)
  • 1/2 cup water (+ more each day)
  • Sourdough Bread:
  • 1 cup “fed” sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm tap water
  • 2 tsp active yeast (instant will work too)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups All-Purpose Flour

Instructions

Sourdough Starter:

Refer to the instructions and notes within the blog post.

Sourdough Bread:

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Add in the rest of the ingredients. Using a dough hook, knead the dough for about 7 minutes.

Remove the bowl (keeping the dough inside) and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise, until it’s doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

*Most recipe swill tell you to take your dough out of the bowl after you’ve kneaded it and shape it into a ball, then to put it back into another bowl to allow it to rise. I’m too lazy to wash yet another dish, so I just keep my haphazardly shaped dough in the same bowl I kneaded it in. I’ve done it like this many MANY times and it works every time. Just a little time saving tip for you.

For loaves: divide the dough in half and shape it into an oval.

For baguettes: divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape them into long skinny ovals (like a thick rope)

For bread bowls: divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls.

Place the shaped dough onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (or use a silpat mat). Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush the loaves (baguettes or rolls) with lukewarm water and make diagonal slashes in each (or a cross on the top of the bread bowls) using a serrated bread knife.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes (I bake it the same amount of time no matter how I formed my bread), until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Slice the loaves with a sharp serrated bread knife.

Baked and cooled bread can be wrapped up and stored in the freezer for months at a time. I like to slice my bread before I freeze it so I can just pull a few slices out at a time to eat. Just thaw your bread at room temperature.

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Starter and Sourdough recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour