Sourdough 101


Fluffy, mild, tender sourdough? I must be dreaming!

In all honesty, sourdough can seem like a tricky process. There is always lots of helpful advice out there discussing the science behind it, it's history, what the various stages look like and how to modify recipes. It's all fine and good and gets the bread hobbyists all worked up but it can be overwhelming for the novice baker who just wants a decent loaf of bread! So here is a fabulous sourdough recipe that comes with no lesson, no science, no history, no options, no variations--just a promise from me to you that this is the best AND easiest loaf of sourdough you have ever baked. Pinkie swear! All you have to do is gather your ingredients and follow the schedule that fits your day, whatever day you want to bake.

But first, three little hints that I promise are not overwhelming...

1. When you pull the sourdough out of the fridge there will be a clear layer of watery hooch. It's fine, just a sign that the starter is dormant. Pour it off if you like mild tasting bread. Just know that some hardcore bakers don't, fine. I pour it off, too.

2. When feeding the starter to put back in the fridge or the feeding as the first step of this recipe, keep the mixture to a pancake batter consistency. Freshly ground flour is lighter and fluffier and it will take a little more of that to get it the same consistency. Also, it is helpful to spoon flour into your cup and not to dip into your flour container. Dipping often leaves big pockets of air meaning you get less flour and might need to dip in more times.

3.Remember it takes 15 hours or so, start to finish, so keep that in mind. 

Idiot Proof Sourdough Recipe

Ingredients:

1C starter
3C WARM water
2C COLD water
1TB salt
9C white wheat flour divided, approx (it is best to let freshly milled flour cool so it is no longer warm)

Yields two 9x5 or 8x4 loaves. (Even the pan size isn't critical!)

Overnight, Bake in the Morning Schedule:

 
Keep about one cup of starter in a jar in the fridge. Remove it around dinner time, place it in a large bowl and feed starter with three cups flour and three cups WARM water and wait 90 minutes to two hours until bubbly, it does not need to be perfect and foamy. This should happen before you go to bed. Remove three cups of starter to another bowl. You should have some remaining and you can put it back in the fridge with a loose lid. In the evening when you bake you can tighten the lid. Try to bake with it again within a week. Otherwise, remove from fridge, dump half in the compost and feed with one half cup flour and one half cup cold water and pop it back in.



Give the dough the cold shoulder!

To the starter in the bowl add COLD water, salt and five cups more flour. Knead in bowl for five minutes, add more flour (1/4C at a time) until dough is smooth. Knead five minutes either in a mixer or on a oiled counter top. Divide into two, roll into loaves, dump in well oiled pans, slash tops, oil tops, cover with plastic and place immediately in fridge. Leave in fridge twelve hours, but this time is flexible and hour plus or minus won't ruin it. Place loaves, uncovered, in cold oven, and set oven to 375. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and oil tops with coconut oil or butter to preserve the tender crust and improve the sheen and color.

The soft dough should hold a hand print, like so.
All-Day, Bake in the Evening Schedule:

Try to keep about one cup of starter in a jar in the fridge. Remove it early in the morning, remove to a large bowl and feed starter with three cups flour and three cups WARM water and wait 90 minutes to two hours until bubbly, it does not need to be perfect and foamy. Remove three cups of starter to another bowl. You should have one cup remaining and you can put it back in the fridge with a loose lid; in the evening when you bake you can tighten the lid. Try to bake with it again within a week. Otherwise, remove from fridge, dump half in the compost and feed with one half cup flour and one half cup cold water and pop it back in.
How tall is your sourdough?

To the starter in the bowl add COLD water, salt and five cups more flour. Knead in bowl for five minutes, add more flour (1/4C at a time) until dough is smooth. Knead ten minutes either in a mixer or on a oiled counter top. Divide into two, roll into loaves, dump in well oiled pans, slash tops, oil tops, cover with plastic and place immediately in fridge. Leave in fridge twelve hours, but this time is flexible and hour plus or minus won't ruin it. Place loaves, uncovered, in cold oven, and set oven to 375. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and oil tops with coconut oil or butter to preserve the tender crust.

This bread is awesome! It is only mildly sour and is light and fluffy and the crust is soft and like conventional, commercial yeast bread. Try it and you will love it. And don't forget to stop by and let me know what you think; I LOVE hearing from you! If you need any more tips or have advice for other bakers, just comment so everyone can learn from your experience.

Want to try the more traditional method of sourdough preparation? Check out the following videos provided by Cultures for Health. Julie will show you how to feed your sourdough starter as well as go through the whole process, beginning to end, baking a loaf of white sourdough bread.

Julie shows you how to feed your starter.

Julie bakes a loaf and gives you the recipe.


"Catch your own" sourdough articles abound on the Internet but if you are looking for a good source to buy a sourdough starter, I wholeheartedly recommend Cultures for Health, whose flash ad is at the top of the page. I am a strong believer in their product line and am a customer myself. Please note that I am an affiliate and do receive compensation if you order and I thank you for ordering through my site.






Hungry for more? Check out my new eBooklet which will help you catch, maintain, bake with and troubleshoot your sourdough starter. See the "My Books" tab or click HERE to find out where to sample or buy.

39 comments:

  1. I can't wait to try this!! I have been trying to find a recipe for a mild tasting loaf of bread that is easy to make! You have made my day! Thank you! Will be getting my starter out of the fridge!

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  2. Let me know how it goes!

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  3. Hi Melissa, thanks for introducing yourself at Beyond The Peel. I'm glad to have found your site. We have a baker who makes amazing sourdough from their own starter just a block away from us, so we tend to grab it from there. However, we've yet to make homemade sourdough, but I think it might be on the list! Thanks so much!

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  4. First time here at your site via Jen. I will surely try this sourdough recipe and pass the news along! :)

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  5. *Waving hello!* Have entered giveaway on Real Food Freaks, thanks!

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  6. Hi again! Ms. Real Food Freak sent me!

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  7. Real Food Freaksmsent me :)

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  8. Here from Real Food Freaks. I can't wait to try this Sourdough!

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  9. Left here to go to Real Food Freaks and now I'm back again. Love baking sourdough bread, but still looking for the perfect recipe.

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  10. Thanks for the detailed post on sourdough. This morning my dd told my mom when we were visiting (in a very dramatic, happy voice), "We're going to start making sourdough again!" It's been about 9 months - just long enough for me to forget everything :) so these tutorials are appreciated!

    I came from Real Food Freaks' giveaway.

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  11. I need to try this. I gave up processed food for Lent, so I need to make things on my own. I have kind of drifted back to some convenience foods since having the baby, so I needed to refocus.

    I can't believe you gave up bread for Lent. That must be difficult.

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    1. I adore bread! So there will be bread every Sunday, you better believe it! Those first few months after a baby are hard but there are some things you can do. Do you have a sling? One of the things I do is make 18# of meatballs to bake and freeze. I can sit and hold the baby in a sling while I watch a movie or listen to a book or listen to the kids read and just scoop tons of meatballs.

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  12. Jen sent me over, though I already follow your blog. I just began my starter again this morning before reading this! Must be a good sign. Life became too hectic this fall and I let my starter die. Now to begin again.

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  13. Shinies2/27/2012

    Real Food Freaks Sent me over!

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  14. I was sent here by Real Food Freaks...Your book looks awesome!

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  15. I already follow your blog, but I'm coming over from the giveaway at Real Food Freaks. I can't wait to try my own sourdough starter. I just need to get up and do it!

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  16. I was sent by Jen from Real Food Freak

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  17. Here from Real Food Freaks. This looks great.

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  18. real food freaks sent me over! This looks delicious!

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  19. I have purchased your book but have a quick question. When adding the flour and water in the first few days of the starter do you mix it each time with a fork? What consistency should it be? Thanks.

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    1. Holly, it is a good idea to mix the starter with a fork because it incorporates more wild yeasts from the air. Try to get a consistency like pancake batter but if it is a little stiff or a little thin, it won't hurt things a bit. As long you give it regular attention, sourdough starter is not nearly as complicated as it seems. Does this help?

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    2. It does help. Thank you!

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    3. Holly, please send me some photos! I love to see them and with your permission I will put them up here and on my blog's FB!

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  20. They finally cracked! I'd tried this recipe several times and it kept being just me and my 2yr old eating the bread. Yesterday I reread the part abt brushing w oil b4 chilling and aftr baking. That plus tossing in some garlic and seasonings has earned me TWO thumbs up from the husband and a request for a forth slice from the 11yr old. If at first you don't succeed. . . I think its the seasonings "covering " the sourdough flavor (though it is mild-it is still unfamiliar) . And the brushing w oil REALLY keeps it soft. Thanks 4 ur help, dyno-mom!

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  21. After talking with my husband, I'd like to try making a sweet sourdough - is there such a thing? Could I put in some old banana or some honey instead of salt? Does that work with sourdough? We're still transitioning from store bought so he says the density he can get used to but he's always liked honeywheat from the store not 'savory ' breads. Any suggestions?

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  22. Commercial Fitness equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and custom strength equipment. You can find our nearest provider for Fitness equipment orlando.

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  23. OK, so I must be an idiot..I did the overnight, bake in the morning recipe to the T, but found my bread didn't rise much at all after moving it from fridge to the non-preheated oven and cooked for 55 minutes. I also found the crust, even after coconut oiling it, tough and chewy...I looked at the trouble shooting section in the ebook to read I should have let it proof longer?? Was it supposed to be proofing in the fridge? Cuz I thought that happens on the counter or a warm oven. I followed the recipe using bread flour. HELP!

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    1. No, I am sure you are not an idiot! There are a couple of things that can be happening. I will email you this to make sure that you get it. First, make sure the dough is wet enough to hold a hand print when you are making your loaf. The higher the concentration of water (vs. starter) the softer your loaf. You can also wrap up the loaves while the cool to encourage a softer crust. Put them in a bread box or wrap it well in a towel or even put them in the microwave (this is what I do) because the steam rising from the bread will keep the crust soft.

      Next for the rise, if your fridge and house in general are very cold, leaving the loaves out on the counter for 30-45 minutes before refrigerating can give them a head start. If your oven heats up very quickly, it can be heating too fast to give the loaves a chance to start to wake up. A sit on the counter for 45 minutes before popping them in the oven as it warms. This should give it the head start that your particular oven needs to give the dough.

      Try these and get back to me. Let me know how each one is working, okay?

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    2. Lovely Mrs. KellyKat, your blogger profile does not have a blog or email so I cannot contact you directly, so I hope you see this!

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  24. Hello,

    this looks great but I'm wondering why you choose white flour over whole wheat? thank you!

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    1. It is not actually white flour but is white wheat, a whole wheat flour ground from a grain such as Prairie Gold. It has a milder flavor and is less acidic tasting. It is often called white wheat just because it tastes more like white flour from polished grains.

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  25. I just put my loaves into the fridge to ferment for the day. ... But I used whole wheat flour instead of white. I just now realized your recipe says white wheat, not whole wheat. :(

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    1. You did it exactly right! No worries! While you can use white flour, I use whole grain flour. It is a version of wheat known as white wheat or Prairie Gold. It is milder tasting. You can also find it pre-ground in the Bob's Red Mill brand. You will have to let me know how it turns out.

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  26. What a mess....as I expected, it's a brick! Def not the light and fluffy bread described above. Next time I'd cut back and use some white and some wheat. I also think I needed more moisture in the dough.

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    1. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!!!

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    2. Ah, I just saw this!! So sorry! Can you email me and I can help you? It is dynomomblog AT gmail DOT com I would love to help you bake some awesome bread.

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  27. I love this recipe! I have your ebook and started with your waffle/pancake recipe. Then took the plunge to make the bread. I had never made bread before, and my first attempt resulted in lovely loaves! I am hooked. I do have a question about putting them in a cold oven. How would I modify the time/temp for baking bread if the oven is already hot?

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    1. Betsy, your oven will heat at different times but usually it is about 15 minutes less time. Try it and let me know!

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  28. I just wanted to let you know that after several attempts at various sourdough recipes and trying all kinds of hints to make the bread less sour to please my hubby, I found your recipe. I made a loaf and my hubby didn't even realize that it was sourdough bread He calls it the non-sour sourdough and was impressed that I actually found a way to make sourdough not sour. Success! Thank you and I really enjoy reading all your helpful posts.

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