Monday, December 14, 2009

sourdough breads n such

A couple years back I decided I was done paying for crappy bread from the supermarket and done paying the ever rising prices. This meant I needed to start baking our own breads. I chose to go with the sour dough bread starters for a couple reasons. The first of which is not ever needing yeast. I like the thought of always having the base mix to anything on hand in a pinch and I like that the starter can also be froze for later use if needed, and it doesnt have to be refrigerated if used often enough. I also like that i can use the starter mix for more than simply bread, ( pancakes , rolls , bagels, crackers, pretzels etc).

Now I must say it took me a few months to get the basics of the dough down. The first few attempts were awful. Just remember if it's a flop and you wind up with a frisbee, hockey puck or a nice door stop they can be ground up and used as bread crumbs so it isnt a complete waste and it doesnt make the failures seem anywhere near as bad either.

To make the basic starter

Blend a cup of warm water and a cup of flour(not self rising), and pour it into a jar.

* Every 24 Hours, Feed the Starter. You should keep the starter in a warm place; 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect. This allows the yeast already present in the flour (and in the air) to grow rapidly. Temperatures hotter than 100 degrees or so will kill it. .

The way you feed the starter is to throw away half of it and then add a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water. (Don't actually throw the starter away, save it and make pancakes with the throw away starter.) Do this every 24 hours. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughout, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here's the gist: When your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. People who didn't believe the Earth was round did this for millenia.

* Refrigerate the Starter. Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid. If you're using a mayo or pickle jar, punch a hole in the lit with a nail, that kind of thing. Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. Realistically, you can get away with lessevery 3-4 weeks; it's important to remember that your starter is a colony of life-forms that are almost impossible to kill (except with extreme heat). Even starving them is difficult.

Care and Feeding: Hooch

Aside from weekly feeding, the only other thing you need to worry about is hooch. Hooch is a layer of watery liquid (often dark) that contains alchohol. It smells a bit like beer, because it is a bit like beer - but don't drink it! Hooch builds up in your starter, especially in the fridge. Just pour it off or stir it back in. It doesn't hurt anything. If your starter is looking dry, stir it back in. If your starter is plenty wet, pour it off. Just remember that hooch is nothing to worry about

Sourdough Baking Step One: Proofing the Sponge

Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.

* Take your starter out of the fridge. Pour it into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!

* Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours. This is called "proofing," another word for fermenting. Sourdough bakers have their own language; use it to impress your friends

* Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready. The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get.

The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.

Sourdough Baking Step Two: The Actual basic Recipe

* 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
* 3 Cups of unbleached flour
* 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine
* 4 teaspoons of sugar
* 2 teaspoons of salt

First, let's talk about leftover sponge. You should have some. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time: Put it into the jar, and give it a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water. Keep it in the fridge as above; you'll have starter again next time.

Now, for the recipe: To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil (the oil is optional - you can use softened butter instead, or no oil at all). Mix well, then knead in the flour a half-cup at a time. Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. You can do this with an electric mixer, a bread machine on "dough cycle," or a food processor. You can also do it with a big bowl and your bare hands.

Keep in mind that flour amounts are approximate; flour varies in absorbency, and your sponge can vary in wetness. Use your judgement; treat it like ordinary white or french bread dough.

Let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel (if you're using a bread machine's dough cycle, let it rise in the machine). Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread; my starter takes about an hour or so, but some starters take much longer. Let the dough double in bulk, just like yeast-bread dough. When a finger poked into the top of the dough creates a pit that doesn't "heal" (spring back), you've got a risen dough.

Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet (lightly greased or sprinkled with cornmeal). Slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.

Place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 350 Fahrenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing.

For those that learn better visually there is Follow the sour dough , a series of videos on you tube

Here is the link to the site that has a printable booklet on sd... I have made all the recipes in it and I come up with my own recipes using the basic mixes as my starters for whatever it is i am making. I have never been unhappy with a recipe from here.

Here are a couple recipes of sour dough pancakes I have used before . I could give you the one I follow normally but i dont measure anything so it would be very difficult. Just play with the basic recipes and you will come up with one you like.


  1. Way cool Dilli. one question tho, can the starter in the first step be made in a covered container or does it have to breathe...

  2. it really has to be able to breath .I use panty hose over tops of containers n seems to work pretty well

  3. I woulda never thought of that, thanks dilli