Making Sourdough Starter and Bread

For quite some time, I have been wanting to try my hand at making sourdough bread. Similar to my experience with wanting to make yogurt, I was intimidated by the complicated recipes and conflicting information that I read. Since I did not know of anyone who had a starter, I would need to make my own. I also wanted to use whole wheat flour, while many recipes use white or rye flour. One day, I came across a very simple recipe and thought I would give it a try. After I began the recipe, I realized, in its simplicity, it was not precise enough for me as a beginner; so I gathered tips from various sources until I arrived at my method. So here it is:

Sourdough Starter

Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup filtered water in a glass jar or bowl. Cover with a towel and keep at room temperature. Each day for two weeks, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. The consistency of the mixture will be like a soupy batter.

This was a learning experience for me. By day four, I have to admit, I considered throwing it out. The best way I can describe the odor was kind of like spoiled skunk! After doing some internet searching, I was encouraged to keep going. After a day or two, the starter began to smell pleasant again.

At the end of two weeks, I had 6 cups of starter. I put 2 cups into a glass jar, covered loosely with a lid, and stored in the refrigerator for later use. I will need to feed it once a week. I plan to add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. With the remaining 4 cups, I baked two recipes of bread using this recipe:

Sourdough Bread

Combine 2 cups starter, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3-4 cups flour. The dough should be moist. Knead for 15 minutes. (I used the dough hook on my Kitchen-aid mixer.) Cover and let rise for 2 hours. Punch down and form into a ball. Place in greased pan. Cover and let rise 8-14 hours. Bake at 350 degrees F until brown and crusty, approximately 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes or so before removing from pan. This makes a large round loaf.

The bread has a wonderful sour taste that awakens your taste buds. The texture is a bit crumbly but slices well. I love it plain or with peanut butter or toasted with cheese. The rest of my family is a little more reluctant with giving their approval; but after having it twice, I think they are becoming adjusted to it.

Here is what I would do differently next time: I placed the dough in a bowl to rise, not thinking about the fact that I would need to bake it in that bowl. Next time, I plan to divide the dough between two loaf pans and see how that works. The center was not quite done with the large round loaves. If I had realized that, I would have baked them a little longer.

I love the fact that with the sourdough starter, there is no yeast or sweetener involved. There are only three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. I am so pleased to have acquired the ancient and time-honored skill of baking sourdough bread.


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