Sourdough Recipe

Growing up in a family of bread bakers who specialize in sourdough I can tell you two things. I recognize the look, taste and smell of a perfectly made loaf, AND I have been completely intimidated by that living yeast to tackle this style of bread baking, until now. You know, I’m not getting any younger. I’ve decided on many fronts that I’d rather continue to try new things and fail instead of living in a little bubble spinning in the same circles. Sourdough is a good challenge–and I’ve made several batches now of really delicious bread!

Sourdough is made with the simplest of ingredients. Flour, water, salt and that wonderful mixture of sour sponge. (Sourdough starter–or sponge– is flour and water and many little living yeasties that are kept alive by consistent feeding. It’s like having a little puppy in the house–a puppy who lives in the cupboard. Here’s a recipe for making starter from scratch that explains the process well.) Because making a starter takes quite a bit of time, ask around to see if there’s someone you know who might be willing to share theirs. I’ve given away many small batches of starter already this year to neighbors and friends…

Note: I don’t give any firm times in this recipe for when to mold the dough and when to bake. This is not a loaf of bread for beginners because you’ll need to be familiar with the way dough looks when it’s ready at each stage. Much will depend on the temperature and moisture in your kitchen, and the liveliness of the sponge. That said, go ahead and give it a whirl–there’s nothing like learning by doing–and you can always make croutons if it doesn’t come out quite right!

Time Commitment: Between 20 and 24 hours, depending on the conditions in your kitchen. You’ll need to activate your starter before you begin, so think about that as you’re planning…

Tools you need:
  • Cookie sheets or bread peel
  • Large mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Other tools I use, but that aren’t imperative: spray bottle, parchment paper, dough scrapers, baking stone,

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter
  • 10-12 ounces of cool or lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • rice flour or corn meal for dusting
What to do:

Step One: Activate the starter. If your starter hasn’t been used in a few days, then it could do with a bit of refreshing before you begin. Add a little flour and water into your starter several hours before you want to mix your dough.

Step Two: Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the starter, mix some more, then add the water. (I keep my starter fairly liquid, so I have to adjust my water accordingly.)  Stir, then get your hands into the dough and mix.

Turn it out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. Knead for about 8-10 minutes. Pray while you knead… Sing some Sourdough Slim ballads such as You Are My Sunshine while you knead, maybe even do a little yodeling :).

Step Three: In a large, clean mixing bowl, either dust the bottom of your bowl with flour, or oil it. Place your dough in the bowl and cover it with a moist, clean cloth. Allow to rise until double in bulk. I typically mix my sourdough in the early evening or late afternoon. The first rise will take around 12-15 hours. Sleeping during this rise makes the most sense!

Step Four: Time to prepare my pans for baking. First, I take out a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. I sprinkle the paper with rice flour (you can also use corn meal) in order to easily remove the bread when it’s baked. Another method I use is to dust rice flour on my husband’s favorite wooden pizza peel and allow the bread to rise there…

Mold your dough. I like to shape my sourdough into round boules. Once your loaves are molded, cover them again with a damp cloth.

Step Five: Allow the dough to again double in size. This rise takes less time than the first, usually about 5-8 hours. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Step Six: Your loaves are ready to bake and the oven is HOT. Score the loaves with a sharp knife or razor blade. I use a small, serrated pairing knife. Place your cookie sheet onto the baking stone in the center of the oven, or peel off your bread directly onto the stone. Take a spray bottle and spray in your oven, (I like to spray below the bread, but be careful of the heating elements…) to create steam. I typically do this twice during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 425 degrees. Sometimes I will remove the cookie sheet at this point and allow the bread to bake directly on the baking stone for the rest of the time. Bake another 20-24 minutes, depending on the shape of your loaves (rolls require a shorter bake) and the true heat of your oven.

Remove the bread, and cool on a rack, unbothered, for at least 30 minutes. Then, the best part.

Give one loaf to a neighbor and eat the other:)

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15 thoughts on “Sourdough Recipe

  1. I love the videos Jane! You make it look like so much fun and so easy! You have been an inspiration for me baking bread. I have not tried sourdough yet but that just might be the next step!

  2. Gooday Jane,

    I am from Australia and this bread is fantastic!

    I am wondering about the starter, how long does it last and were do you store it?

    Many Thanks
    Angela

    • Angela: a sourdough starter can last indefinitely as long as you continue to feed it (flour and water). If I’m using my starter often, maybe every few days, then I keep it out on the counter, but if I’m using it once every week or two, then I keep it in the fridge.
      One of these days I’ll get around to posting specifically about starter. Maybe sooner than later! Like anything else, there is an awful lot of info about sourdough mothers or starters or levain out on the web–most of it helpful.

      Best wishes…

    • Angela–I initially used the recipe found on this link:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=1
      And then my brother bought me the book (titled My Bread by Jim Lahey) that has a slightly altered recipe. And from there I’ve fiddled with my own recipe. I haven’t yet posted it. BUT, this method is fairly fool proof–whether you adapt the original recipe or not, it always comes out delicious and beautiful. I hope you give it a try and let me know how it comes out! I have several non-baker friends who make this bread all the time now…

  3. Sorry, just a quick question.

    I am confused with the starter. When it is time to use it after its been in the refrigerator, and I have been feeding it for a week, say I need to make bread, do I need to take all of it out, feed it and leave it on the bench for a few hours?

    Or do I take a cup, proof it , but the rest in the jar in refrigerator?

    I read the link, but it dosnt say how much to take out proof.

    Thanks Jane

    Regards Angela

    • This is my method.
      Let’s say my starter’s been in the fridge for a week, and I want to bake that afternoon. I take the starter out in the morning, feed the whole batch a small amount of flour and water to activate it. Let it sit on the counter.
      In the afternoon I scoop out a 1/2 cup, or whatever amount it is that I need (a 1/2 cup is plenty to make a batch of bread that uses around 4-6 cups of flour). I don’t throw any of the starter away. I simply add more flour to it when I’m done–maybe a 1/4 cup, mix it around, then put it back into the fridge…

  4. I am confused about the discarding of the starter. This seems so very wasteful to me. I used to make sourdough years ago and do not remember needing to discard starter. Is there anything that the otherwise discarded starter can be used for? Perhaps some other type of bread or baked goody? Thank you for your posts and this lovely blog! God bless.

    • Hi, Mairzie… I do not discard any of my starter. There are many methods for storing and using a starter–it really is a very flexible thing… See how I use my starter in the comment above 🙂 Let me know how your bread turns out!

    • The thickness only depends on the proportion of flour to water. My brothers, who are bakers, keep their starter in dough form, but I like to keep mine more fluid, so I don’t have to knead it when I feed it; I prefer to not have to get my hands all goopy yet another time so I add flour and then enough water so I can stir the mix with a wooden spoon. If you’re concerned with yours not being thick enough, then just add some more flour and see if you like it better. 🙂

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