Sourdough Bread and starter

  • 225g starter (anywhere between 100g and 300g)
  • 250ml warm water (up to 3dl)
  • 500g flour (e.g 250g spelt +250g hard white, or whatever)
  • 12.5g salt (2.5 tsp)

The recipe is very flexible and fool proof. In the morning, feed the starter (from the fridge), use 75g starter, 75g water, 75g flour, and leave out on the counter. This should allow it to be ready by ~7pm, so that the dough can be made and rest overnight.

When the starter is ready, mix starter with water (250ml), it will look like milk. Mix flour and salt. Combine the starter and flour in a stand mixer and knead for 2-4 min. Let the dough rest for 20min covered, do a “stretch a fold” (fold 4-5 times), rest 20min more minutes covered, then rest and fold again.

Leave the dough covered with a damp towel to proof overnight at room temperature, or in the fridge after a few hours at room temperature. It will about double in size.

In the morning, shape the loaf (ball or loaf, e.g. by folding to make a nice tight ball). Proof for 2 hours (until a figure pushed into the dough leaves a mark). Make deep (2-3cm) slashes on top of the loaf to allow it to expand properly.

Heat oven to 425F. If using dutch oven (to make a ball shape), then heat the dutch oven. Otherwise, heat a cast iron skillet (or some other vessel with good heat capacity) for ~45min in the oven.

With dutch oven, place loaf in dutch oven, cook in oven for 30min with lid on, then 30min with lid off.

Without dutch oven, add ~1 cup of boiling water into the skillet just after putting loaf in the oven to make steam. After 10min, remove the skillet with the water, and let steam escape. Cook another 25min for a total of 35min. You can eat it now, it should have a thin crunchy crust. For a thicker crust, lower temp to 275F convection, and cook another 45min, opening oven periodically to let steam escape (the first time also to help in decreasing temperature in oven).

Let it cool down before slicing, ideally more than an hour!

To make baguettes instead, after overnight proofing, make 2 baguettes (make a normal loaf, with a seam on the bottom, and keep making the loaf longer, about 40cm). Proof for about 2 hours. Heat oven to 450F with pan for water. Brush with water, make 2-5 diagonal cuts on top, and place in oven with 1 cup of boiling water into the pan. After 10min of steam, lower to 425F, remove steam pan, cook another 15min (total of 25min), then lower to 275F convection for 20 min. Cool before eating. Best baguette ever.

Making a simple starter

Use a large mason jar, something that has a wide opening but that is easy to cover. The first few days you make the culture bigger by adding flour and water, then you do the regular “feedings”.

Day 1: In the morning, mix 100g flour + 100g water with a fork until well blended. Use warm water. Leave the jar loosely covered at room temperature, ideally somewhere warm. In the evening, give it a good stir with the fork.

Day 2: You might already see some bubbles. In the morning, add 50g flour + 50g water, blend well with a fork. In the evening, give it a good stir with the fork.

Day 3: You probably see lots of bubbles and it smells sour. Add 50g flour + 50g water. Blend well.

Day 4: Either it’s really bubbly and smells sour or it’s not, either way, it’s getting a bit big to just keep adding. So now, you switch to “regular feedings”, with a ratio of 1:1:1 by weight of starter, flour, water.

Pour out all of the starter, and poor back into the jar 100g of the starter. Add 100g flour and 100g of water, and blend well with a fork. Leave loosely covered somewhere warm.

Repeat this every day until the yeast comes alive (discard all but 100g of starter, and then add 100g flour and 100g water).

Obviously, if you weigh the empty jar, you don’t always need to pour out all the starter to weigh it again. However, there is a significant amount of evaporation, so you do need to weigh the contents once in a while.

Since you do this every day, it’s a lot of wasted flour from all the starter that you have to discard. Instead of discarding it, you can fry the starter in a hot greasy non-stick frying pan, with some salt, and toppings (green onions, cheese, etc), and make a flat bread!

Most of the sour smell and bubbles, I think, are from bacteria. Eventually, the yeast starts growing too. At some point (depending on your local conditions, but it will happen!), once you do the feeding, the starter will more than double in volume within 4-12 hour of the feed, and then slowly come back down. It’s unmistakable, and be ready for it to spill out of the jar (that’s why you don’t seal the lid, or it would break the jar). This means the yeast it’s doing it’s thing! It took 2 and half weeks for me, and it can take up to a month.

Eventually, you will know how long it takes for your starter to peak after a feed. This will allow you to time the feeding so that the starter is ready at whatever time you need it to make dough. The starter is ready to be used in dough if it floats (take a sample and put in water).

Now that you’ve blown through a substantial amount of flour to get this thing started, you can feed it less often if you keep it in the fridge. In the fridge, only feed it once a week. Feed it, and after 2-3 hours place it in the fridge (this gives it enough time to invigorate).

If you need to use it, you should let it warm up the night before you feed it. It all depends on how active it is. As long as it floats, it should work in dough.

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