September 3, 2016
Over the past few months, I’ve been teaching myself how to make sourdough bread. With a lot of different input from a lot of different people, I’ve figured out my preferred recipe. I’ll keep this post updated as I tweak my methods.
The first thing you need is your own starter to pull from. You can keep starter in your fridge for months at a time, and it should be stored in a container that allows some air to escape. Once you have this starter, you’ll just take out spoonfulls at a time.
Making it is simple. Let’s assume you want to have about 500g of Refrigerator Starter on hand.
- Take a spoonful of a friend or bakery’s active starter. My spoonfuls usually end up being about 20g – 30g. Plop it into a mixing bowl.
- Next pour in 250g (half of our target amount) of lukewarm water and mix the starter in with the water until it’s relatively dissolved.
- Now dump in 250g of flour. Mix it until there are few clumps and it’s a consistency close to pancake batter.
- Pour it into whatever jar you want to store it in, and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour or two. Again, the container needs to allow air to escape.
- After an hour or so, stick in the refrigerator.
Boom! You now have your starter, and it will last you a while. You’ll only be taking a spoonful out of this jar at a time.
Okay, so you’ve had your Refrigerator Starter in the fridge for a day or so and you decide that you want some fresh bread. I usually bake on a day when I don’t have anything going in the evening and can be around to knead the dough occasionally.
Here are the ingredients to the recipe I use (thanks J-Mo). It makes 2 loaves:
- 380g starter
- 540g water
- 900g flour (600g bread flour, 300g all-purpose)
- 22g salt
That means in order to make my bread, I need to have at least 380g of active starter. I usually round that up to 450g just to have some wiggle room. Our first step is to mix our starter and let it get active.
Day 1 – 8:00am: Prepping the Starter
I decide that tonight I don’t have much going on so I’ll make some bread. The first thing I need to do when I wake up is start the process of making my 450g of starter, which is what my recipe calls for. So that means making more starter using my Refrigerated Starter:
- Take a spoonful of Refrigerator Starter (20g – 30g)
- Mix it in some lukewarm water (225g)
- Mix in some flour (225g)
- Stir until there aren’t any clumps and has pancake batter consistency
It’ll take roughly 10-12 hours at room temperature for this new mixture to become active. I cover the mixing bowl (but still allowing air to escape), leave it out on the counter, and go about my day.
Day 1 – 6:00pm: Making the Dough
I check on the starter and see that it’s now very active. It has expanded by quite a bit and there are a lot of air bubbles in it. We’re now ready for the next step.
- Pour 380g of the starter into a large mixing bowl.
- Dump in 540g of lukewarm water and mix them for a bit until the starter’s dissolved.
- In goes the 900g of flour. I use my hands to mix in the flour to the water until it’s a gross globby mess. The flour WILL stick to your hands, but I sometimes wet my hands before this step and it prevents some of that.
- Let the muddy mess sit for about 20 minutes to allow the flour and water to really soak into each other.
- After 20 mins, I add 22g of salt and use my hands to mix it all together really well in the bowl.
- Knead for a minute or two and it should stay together well enough that I can take it out of the bowl and knead it on the counter for anout 5 minutes or so.
Okay, tonight’s first step is done. I put the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover it. Let it sit at room temperature for 45 mins.
After the 45 mins I scoop the dough back onto the counter and knead it again for a few minutes. Then I put it back into the bowl to rest another 45 mins.
Repeat this process 3-4 times, each time handling the dough a bit more delicately during the kneading process. By the 4th or 5th time the dough should feel very different than when you started. It should be much more puffy and airy.
Day 1 – 9:00pm: Refrigerating the Dough
Right after my last 45 minute cycle, I put the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover it, and put it in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will expand A LOT so make sure the mixing bowl is big enough to handle twice the capacity of the current dough’s size.
Day 2 – 8:00am: Setting out the Dough
Take the dough out of the fridge (it should have expanded by quite a bit) and plop it onto the counter. I lightly punch at the dough and knock all of the air bubbles that formed in it overnight. You should hear some very satisfying pops as you flatten the bread out on the counter.
Once I’m convinced the larger air bubbles are out of the dough, I split the dough in half and form 2 similar sized loaves. I put each one into their own Banneton, cover them lightly with a towel, then leave them to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.
Day 2 – 10:00am: Baking!
Knowing when the dough has risen enough will be a lot of trial and error. I still haven’t perfected it, but the dough should be obviously more airy and puffy than it was when you started the rising process. If you don’t let it sit long enough it will be dense, but too long and it could have some large holes in the crumb.
Preheat the oven (with my dutch oven inside) to 450. Once the oven’s ready, I put one of the loaves in the Dutch Oven and bake it for about 20-30 minutes. I take the lid off of the Dutch Oven and bake it more until it’s golden brown to my liking. Once the first loaf is done I repeat this step for the second loaf.
Day 2 – 12:00pm: EATING!
Cooled bread is waaayyyy easier to slice, so I usually let them cool for a few hours (after cutting off a test slice obviously). I wrap up the second loaf and stick it in the freezer, then slice up the other to use throughout the week.