baking

Making Your Own Sourdough

I am in no ways an expert at sourdough! But I have been practicing for about a year now and trying to get better at it and if it’s something you are interested in, you may be interested in this post.

I’ve shared my successes and failures on this blog many times. There have been times when the bread didn’t rise. When it was a weird shape. When it taste great but didn’t look great. When it looked great but didn’t have the right flavor. It was all practice practice practice.

I really like this book and highly recommend it:

How To Make Sourdough: 45 recipes for great-tasting sourdough breads that are good for you, too. by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

Why I like this book is because it gives step by step instructions WITH PHOTOS. I am a visual person and it helps a lot to see the photos for each step of making the bread–even each step of kneading the bread and rising, etc. Once I started using the sourdough recipe in this book, I got much closer to the right sourdough loaf I was looking for!

The book has a ton of other recipes in there, too. I have tried one of the other recipes in there (the rosemary raisin sourdough) but unfortunately my bread didn’t rise so it didn’t bake properly. It ended up in the trash. Bummer! More practice on that one.

One of the biggest things that helped with making sourdough was weighing the ingredients with a food scale instead of measuring out the ingredients in cup measurements. Weighing the dry ingredients in grams was a game changer.

Also, I suggest using bread flour instead of regular flour. I definitely recommend Bob’s Red Mill! It’s local for us and we have access to their store, which is nice, but you can get it online if you don’t live local. I love their products!

Other than that, the only other thing you need is the proofing basket:

Banneton Proofing Basket – Round

Banneton Proofing Basket – Oval 

A few days before I’m going to make the sourdough, I take some starter out of the fridge and put it on on the counter and “feed” it every day (just a little bit because you don’t need a lot of starter for the recipe).

Then the night before, I make the dough and knead it, then let it rise over night. The next morning, it should double in size. The day I’m going to bake the bread, I knead the loaf again, shape it a bit, and then put it in the floured banneton. This particular time it was slightly deformed on the bottom but no big deal because that will be the bottom of the bread and it will flatten out.

I turn the oven on to 200 degrees then TURN THE OVEN OFF. I cover the banneton/loaf and put it in the oven for 2-6 hours, checking it frequently to see how it’s rising.

Then it’s time to bake! I use a Dutch Oven to bake it. First I put some cornmeal on the bottom of my Dutch Oven. Then I turn the banneton upside down and dump the dough into it. Then I make the slashes on top with a razor blade. I put the the lid on the Dutch Oven and bake it at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes and then check it.

I usually end up baking the bread for a little over 60 minutes.

This particular loaf of sourdough gave me some grief. It didn’t rise as much as it usually does overnight. Not sure why–maybe the dough was too wet? Who even knows. It’s always a mystery as to why sometimes it’s perfect and round and amazing and sometimes it’s a little flatter.

But the bread cooked well and it tasted okay. So that’s always a success.

Dinner was tomato bisque with the sourdough and salad. It was delicious!

QUESTION: Are you a bread baker? Any tips? Favorite bread recipes? Share!

Sourdough

Who knew sourdough bread was so hard??? I’ve tried it about half a dozen times or more since the first time I tried it. The first time I tried it, it was flat. The second time the dough didn’t rise for some reason. One time it didn’t look very good but it had the right sour flavor. Then another time it looked great and had the right flavor but it was a little underdone. I’ve baked it in my dutch oven and on our baking stone, with varied results.

I keep trying and reading and trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Recently I did another loaf and tried a different baking method. This is the method I used this time:

The result was pretty good. The rise was nice, there was a great color, the crust was crunchy, it was baked well (maybe slightly overdone) but not sour. UGH! So frustrating. But it did LOOK pretty:

I talked to a friend who does sourdough on the regular and she said that she puts the starter on her counter the day before and feeds it twice, once the morning before she makes it, then again that night. She said that will make it more sour. So next time, I’m going to try doing it that way and see what happens.

This week I tried again and did a few things differently. First, I weighed the flour when I made the dough and used grams instead of measuring cups. Second, I took my friend’s advice and took the starter out the day before, fed it twice and then made the dough the next morning. Third, I followed the new baking instructions.

The result was great! The bread was a little on the light side color-wise but the inside was fantastic! It was the best loaf I’ve made so far. It didn’t have a super strong sour flavor but the bread was light and airy and fluffy instead of being dense. I was really, really happy with the results.

For dinner, I made tomato bisque and we had the freshly baked bread with it. Fantastic!

On a similar note, I’ve been obsessed with the Great British Baking Show on Netflix. It never appealed to me but for some reason I saw a random episode of the new season and I decided to start at the beginning. I loved it! That first season was great and had some really good bakers.

I also love that you learn a lot from the show. They make stuff I’ve never heard of before and it’s interesting to see the methods. I also like that they do a bread episode each season! Listening to the judges critique the breads has been helpful for me recognizing some of the mistakes I’ve been making (not letting it proof long enough, not kneading it enough, etc). Also, it’s nice to watch the show while I wait for Top Chef to come back!

QUESTION: Are you a sourdough baker? Any tips or favorite recipes?