I'd wake up Saturday morning and my dad and I would sit around the TV watching our local PBS affiliate; piping hot chai tea with honey in our hands, and a loaf of homemade sourdough baking in the oven, just waiting to be eaten with some homemade jalapeno jelly.
It became our habit, and it's one that I cherish still to this day.
Just like I still watch PBS Saturdays, and eagerly await that day's episodes of Cook's Country, Simply Ming, and (most importantly) This Old House.
The best part of that whole day was the freshly made sourdough. If you've never had it fresh out of the oven, then you are seriously missing out!! It's AMAZING!! And super easy.
The first thing you need is a good Sourdough Starter, which doesn't happen overnight.
Okay, it literally can START overnight, but if you want it GOOD then you'll have to tweak it a bit. I had mine ready and rearing to go, but when I'd cook with it the bread tasted just like...bread. It didn't have the slightest bit of bite to it, which is the whole reason why I wanted the sourdough in the first place dang it!!
So I scoured that site I linked to above, and I found my solution:
Feed the starter with two parts flour for every one part water.
I did that for about two weeks, being sure to feed it about every other day. The next time I made bread it had a delicious sourdough flavor, and I was THRILLED!
For the most part.
It kind of sat like a brick. A very thick, starchy brick.
Where was that amazing sourdough texture and size I got from the ones I bought at the store?? Not in my kitchen, apparently.
So...more research. I asked the Facebook masses (including my chef brother and original sourdough king father), and eventually went to the inter-webs to do my dirty work and find out why I was such an epic failure with breads.
Then I was rescued by a King.
Okay, so it was really just King Arthur's Flour that helped me see the light, but I like to imagine it was Benedict Cumberbatch on a powerful white steed.
Mmmm....where was I?
Oh yes! Sourdough...and why mine turned into a brick, rather than a loaf.
The answer? Too much flour!!
Seriously, I was adding between 4 and 5 cups! No wonder it wasn't rising!
So I made another batch, this time reducing the flour content to a measly 3 cups, and you know what I got?
THIS GOLDEN MASTERPIECE!!!
And the taste...ohmygeerrrrrd!!!
It's still a bit dense, but I don't care. It's delicious, and half the loaf is already gone in less than 24 hours.
My husband and I may have a slight problem.
So here's the point where I give the recipe, which was unbelievably easy, but required a lot of time (24 hours, to be exact). But I promise you...it's totally worth it.
Easy-Peasy Sourdough Starter
1 packet yeast
1 c. flour
1 c. water
Mix everything together in a glass or ceramic container (NOT metal or plastic). When it's all incorporated, let it sit at least overnight. Ideally you'll let it sit for about a week, feeding it a little bit (like 1/4 cup each) of flour/water, or if you want it to have more of a sour taste, then you'll do the 2/1 ratio I mentioned above. Just be sure to check it every few days, and feed it just as often. It'll smell very pungent (like beer), and it may even have a thin greyish liquid on top. That's okay!! Poor the liquid off (some people like to mix it in, but that just weirds me out) and feed it a little more. Test it by making a loaf of bread every so often until you get the flavor you want, then go back to the 1/1 ratio.
Here's what my starter looks like right before I make my loaf of bread:
From the outside
On the inside...nice and bubbly
After each loaf of bread you should replenish what you took out. So if you're doing a 1/1 ratio and you took out a cup of starter, then you should add a cup of water and a cup of flour in return. 2/1 and you should make it 1/2 a cup of water and a cup of flour.
Check it the next day and it'll look like this:
And another day later, like this:
It'll stink like crazy, but it makes for some REALLY good bread.
Karen's Simple Sourdough Bread
1 c. starter
1 c. water
3 c. flour (bread flour is ideal, but I didn't have any and it still worked out fine)
2 tsp. salt
I used my Kitchenaid that I splurged on last tax refund for the mixing, but you can just as easily do it by hand.
Put the starter in the bottom of the bowl, and add the water and salt, stirring until well mixed. Add the flour and do the same, kneading in the last little bit of flour.
It will still be sticky! DON'T KNEAD TOO MUCH!
It should looks something like this:
If you over knead, it's not going to rise as well. If you want to check whether or not you're done and ready to let it rise, then do the window-pane test: Grab a chunk of dough and roll it into a ball between your hands. Flatten it out slightly, then lightly pull on the edges to stretch it out. If it breaks easily, then you need to do more kneading. If it looks like this:
Then you're good to go! The key is that, when stretched, you can get some light to shine through without the dough tearing. I probably got a good 3-4 inches on mine.
Some people like to do a double rise with their breads. For yeast breads I'm all for that, but not for sourdough. to me it's not really all that necessary (at least, I haven't noticed a big difference).
So what I do at this point is form it into my desired ending shape. You could use a bread pan, form a baguette, or do as I did, and make a bowl:
I put mine into a greased bowl at first because my kitchen is small and I was already making another loaf of regular wheat bread for the rest of the family (the kids aren't too keen on sour bread).
When it had risen to about double the size, I transferred it to a pizza pan dusted with corn meal (only because I didn't have a pizza stone, which would have been ideal). Make sure you're careful not to squish or otherwise flatten any part of it that has already risen.
While you're bread is rising, you want to make sure it stays covered. I don't have a picture of it, but what I did was grab an old (clean) dish-towel and soak moisten it. The moisture is to ensure the top of the bread doesn't dry out while it's rising. This thing sits a long time; it'll break open if left out to dry while it rises. I also kept a spray bottle filled with water nearby, and every so often I would come by and just spritz it a little to keep it moist (worked like a charm).
This is also a good place to feed your starter, if you haven't done it already. Remember to put back what you've taken out (see above).
After about 24 hours of not so patient waiting, I found this:
Ready to bake!
Turn your oven to 350, and cook until golden-brown. I was distracted by my tiny human progeny while this was baking, so I don't remember exactly how long it took to bake, but I'm guessing about 45 minutes to an hour. Just check on it after about half an hour, and keep it in until you've reached the desired level of goldness.
So there you have it! Beautiful, delicious homemade sourdough! It takes a lot of waiting, but the actual mixing is super fast and easy (it took me about 15 minutes).
If you have questions, leave me a comment and I'll respond as best as I can.
Ooh! And I'd LOVE to see pictures of your sourdoughs! If you've found a tip that works for you, share it so I can try it too!
Until next time...