I’ve been doing quite a bit lately in regards to sourdough. Every weekend i’ll spend a few hours mixing, folding, shaping, etc. a few loaves to stock up on (and storing/freezing) for whenever we need a loaf of bread for sandwiches, stews, toast for breakfast and whatnot. I’m not much for baking, but for some reason I love to create delicious, tasty, and “healthy” bread from scratch. My wife even mentioned to me this morning how happy I seem to get when its time to start making bread, dough, etc. I suppose its my break from the rest of the work week, and my time to do something I like and enjoy, which is cooking.
Now, its not your standard process of tossing together flour, a packet of dry yeast, and water together and boom!… bread in 30 mins. No… this is a much more time consuming process… but to me, at least, totally worth it.
It begins with the “starter”, which is basically wild yeast. It’s a fairly simple thing to make, but definitely needs the right conditions to grow. The short version of how to make it, is mixing together equal parts flour to water in a container, covering (but allowing it to “breathe”), leaving it to ferment for around 6-12 hours, and feeding again for a few days in a row. After a few days you’ll notice the mixture to be bubbly and “yeasty” smelling (but not rotten smelling). I’ve found that the temperature that it grows best in my house is around 70°F or so. I found a warm cupboard in the kitchen that seems to be great for it. If its too cold it takes FOREVER. I use this for everything I bake now that requires yeast, and its so much better. Also, since I only use it once a week for baking, I typically keep it in the fridge (once you get it to the yeasty point), which slows down fermentation, and you don’t have to feed it all the time. I’ll just pull it out a day or two ahead, and start the feedings to get it active and ready to use.
I watched a LOT of videos on YouTube to see how professional bakers created their starter, and also how they mixed, folded, shaped and created those beautifully perfect loaves… and I gotta say, it definitely took a few times to get it down. The first couple times my mixture was too wet, then too dry… then too sticky. I spent hours frustrated. However, each time even when I was messing it all up, once they finished cooking, the loaves were still great. I recommend for anyone wanting to do this themselves at home, to do the same, the research and learning process will make it much easier. The consistency below, seems to be pretty good, and once it rises after all the folding’s, the structure will be good enough to shape the loaves without too much problem.
Now, the reason I mentioned that its “healthy” is because everyone has their version of health, and what they consider to be good for them. I try not to load up on the carbs myself, but i’m guilty of being bread-obsessed, meaning, its glorious and I want to eat it constantly… however, I refrain as much as I can during the week, and indulge a little, usually on the weekend.
Also, because its a naturally fermented food, which I believe (and is considered) to be a good thing for the body’s digestive process, with all the natural bacteria that’s good for the gut, or at least, makes it something that can be easier to digest (for those people who have wheat/gluten issues, etc.) and also doesn’t have a bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce like a lot of the store breads typically have. Also, the in the process of sourdough, once its mixed, folded, shaped, and into a container or bowl (that gives it the shape you want) , you do a “long ferment”, which basically means you let it rise (typically in fridge) for around 16-24 hours, which is what is helping to make the wheat more digestible and broken down so its not causing havoc on the digestive system, and also helping give it that “sour” flavor.
Here’s what I use:
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour (can also use bread flour)
- 1 cup Rye or Wheat Flour
- 1-1/2 cups luke warm water (approx. depending on how wet/dry you want it)
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 Tbsp or so of Sea Salt
that’s literally all you need to make an amazing tasting loaf of bread (usually this makes 2 loaves worth). Oh, I should also mention, I use unbleached flours… Its best to use real flour that’s not all crazy refined and whatnot. If you’re gonna take the time to make bread like this, at least use really good ingredients to do so. There are also a ton of different flour varieties out there that professionals use, and you can probably find in the grocery store or on Amazon, however that just what I had to use, and seems to be just fine.
For the actual baking process, I use my Dutch oven, which when you put the loaf in, helps create steam for the loaf to rise, then take the lid of, and cook it longer which helps it get the color you’re looking for on the crust. (can find baking directions on the online videos depending on how you choose to bake the bread).
Something you can also get to make your loaves look professional, are these Bannetons, which give the bread those classic rings you’ll see on the bakery loaves
I ordered mine on Amazon.com for pretty cheap, and they’re great.
And what is better than having homemade sandwiches from the bread you made yourself! It’s seriously so good, I rarely will buy it from the store anymore, I always make sure I’m stocked up and ready.
I highly recommend trying this at home, and if not sourdough, making bread by hand in general, is so rewarding!