Baking Sourdough bread I : It begins with a starter

Yes, I too have jumped on the sourdough bandwagon. When you”re locked down at home, you have some time on your hands in the evenings and you start watching YouTube videos on all manner of cooking skills and baking skills.

Facing my baking fears

Let me make it clear – baking scares the shite out of me. What is scary about it? I don’t know, wasting a bunch of flour, ending up covered in a sticky mess? creating an inedible rock? Yes – all of the above.

I can do a steak, even a pasta or any savoury dish you want but tell me to start baking with yeast – freak out. Yet with COVID-19 this is a year to face any number of fears so I set about learning to bake breads. Beginning with simple breads made with instant yeast, such as a Focaccia, I took simple steps to begin my journey. Then I saw that people started making their own sourdough and I thought… well lets give it a go!

Sourdough starter

Every book you read about sourdough begins with a starter… that you feed. for days and days. I bought this amazing book by Bourke Street Bakery a decade ago when it was just a little hole in the wall Sydney. I started reading the first chapter on sourdough – so excited to learn about bread and the recipe said, start then feed it for 21 frickin days!!! What the?? OK you lost me at hello.

However, after much research on YouTube I found out that:

  1. All you need is a good organic, unbleached flour (wholemeal flour, organic rye flour) and water.
  2. You need an electronic scale and a medium to large jar with a lid. Weight the jar so you know how much you add / subtract each day.
  3. Day 1- put 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of room temperature water in a jar and stir it well. I used a chopstick but you could use a spatula. Then close the jar loosely allowing give – don’t keep it tight or the gas build up could explode the jar. It likes temperature of 20-30 degrees Celsius. Keep it in a warm place – we started ours in winter so, no biggie – it just takes longer to develop.
  4. Name your starter – giving it a pet name makes you more likely to feed it daily. Best ones I heard was “Sour Doug” Ours is named “Sour Beet” – born 10 June 2020 (Although I “Dolly Parton” did make the shortlist).
  5. Each day, every 24 hours remove half of the existing starter (sourdough discard) then feed your remaining starter 50g flour / 50g room temperature water and stir it. (you don’t have to be exact exact but consistency helps). You should start to see bubbles form after each feeding as the starter eats the flour and releases carbon dioxide and slowly builds up natural wild yeast.
  6. Keep doing this every day for 7-10 days until you can see the starter predictably rising to twice its volume 4-5 hours after each feeding. The more active, the longer you keep this going, the more flavour and strength develops in the starter. Ours feels like it got stronger around day 18 (as it started in winter). Many others say 7 days. Some crazy people keep theirs going for years.
  7. You don’t need to throw away the sourdough discard – if you do not want to waste it. You can make other baked goods with your discard ( I will post something on a good sourdough cracker recipe I made).
  8. Once your starter is strong enough, keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week.

If you cannot be arsed doing a starter from scratch

  1. You can see if your local baker, any friend who is doing some, will give some / sell some to you; or
  2. Order online – a colleague got a freeze dried starter from a bakery in San Francisco that has been keeping theirs going for 100+ years!; or
  3. Just buy at your local baker and leave the hard work to them!
Sour Beet – Born 10 June 2020

Once the starter is predictably rising to double or more it’s volume 5 hours after it is fed time to begin using it to bake!

Published by AdrianEats2Much

Come share my absolute obsession with food, inspire some creative beautiful home cooking and showcase some of the world's best dishes. Follow me if you are not only a foodie but if you would like to learn how to cook great dishes at home!

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