Admittedly, I was very nervous to start My Sourdough Adventure. I watched lots of YouTube to get down some techniques and recipes until I was comfortable starting. The very first thing you will need to do is get a Sourdough Starter going. This takes about 7 days, and I have directions for that in a separate post. After you have an active starter, it's time to start baking!
Above are photos of my starter. The first picture on the left is the starter in the morning right after feeding, and the second photo is about five hours later. It has doubled in size, come alive and is ready to be added to the dough. Make sure to read your recipe before starting this so you have the timing down and know when you need to feed the starter. I feed mine mid day/late morning, so it is active in the evening. Most sourdough bread recipes have to sit overnight to rest or "proof" before baking in the morning so this is why I time mine this way. Keep in mind the temperature of your home will effect how quickly your starter becomes active. Our house, during winter is chilly, so it takes about 6-8 hours for this to happen. During spring or summer it only takes 4-6 hours.
The first loaf I made, I followed the directions perfectly, and had a couple things I needed to change. I used a beginners recipe that wasn't super involved from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple and it was super tasty! The first thing I had to change though was my baking time. My oven and altitude had a little to do with this I think, and my loaf was a little overdone. The crust was very dark and hard to slice through, and the inside turned out a little dry.
My second loaf was from the same recipe, with a shorter baking time and it came out perfect! I preheated my dutch oven to 450° with the oven so it was hot when I added the bread and took 10 minutes off the bake time. Always know, you can adjust directions slightly to work for you. This is a great recipe for beginners and worked well to help build my confidence in bread making.
The third and forth times I made sourdough I used a different recipe. This one was from Basics with Babish. His video with Joshua Weissman was very informative and turned out great. There were more air bubbles in this one, the inside was perfectly chewy and the crust was crispy, but pliable and easy to slice through. This recipe makes two loaves, so this is where I messed up 🙂 I used the one bread Banneton I have, then I lined a regular bowl with a tea towel, which is usually a great idea, but I forgot to flour it!!
Don't ever forget to flour your Banneton or tea towel! The dough stuck to the towel and I had to peel it away, which caused the top to be really bumpy. After this happened I was so frazzled I forgot to score the top of the loaf... OY!! Anyway, all of this resulted in a loaf I have lovingly named "Big Ugly" that still tasted great, but always remember to flour whatever you are resting your bread in.
After you've done your initial mix and fold of the dough and you are ready to let the bread rest, make sure you pay attention to the temperature in which you are resting the dough. If you leave them out on the counter, they will proof much faster than leaving them in the fridge, so think about this during your planning process.
The other night we stayed up late and I didn't get the bread ready to proof until about midnight so I left it covered on the counter then woke up early to bake. It was proofed perfectly! My first loaf however, was ready to proof pretty early in the evening, so I let it chill in the fridge until morning. This just slows down the fermentation process, so the bread doesn't over proof. Having the dough in the fridge was perfect for that bake, and gave me more time to sleep.
To check your dough the next morning, gently poke it with your finger. If the dough bounces back slightly, but still leaves a little indentation, it is ready. If the dough goes right back to normal, it's under proofed, or if the dent stays in the dough, it is over proofed. Just remember, you can change things up every time to make the dough work around your schedule.
While reading Sourdough bread recipes, a lot of them mention "stretching and folding" the dough. I was a little confused about this until I watched some videos, so I wanted to show you all some pictures of us doing this step. My favorite recipe calls for 5 rounds of stretching and pulling the dough with 20 minutes of resting in between. This means, you uncover the dough, grab one side of the dough and pull up as far as you can without ripping it, then lay it over the top so it rest on the opposite side of the dough. Then continue all the way around. This gets the gluten's going, and the dough will be a little easier to stretch each time you do this. Below you will find pictures of this process, since it's hard to explain!
One of our favorite things to come out of the sourdough starter so far is English Muffins! They came out perfect and there is nothing I needed to adjust to get the recipe to work. They were fluffy and flavorful, toasted up nicely and the recipe made a ton of muffins so we had them for days. My new favorite way to eat them is toasted with peanut butter and bacon. That's it!
Okay, the last thing I would like to discuss is what to do with your sourdough starter discard. I was having a hard time throwing away the discard each time I fed the starter so I looked up a few things. The first thing I tried, was pouring it into a pan with hot oil to make a little pancake. I put green onion and everything seasoning on it, then ate it along side a fried egg. This idea came from a video I watched on YouTube by Mike Greenfield and was so tasty! Highly recommended if you are having guilt about throwing away discard. Start by getting the pan hot, with your favorite oil, then pour in the starter discard, sprinkle with whatever you want on top and cook for about 4 minutes per side.
Another thing I have tried, is making crackers. I am going to keep trying this until I get it right, but I think I spread the dough too thin, because they were SUPER burnt. Once I master this, I will add some pictures, but I'm not there quite yet. If you have a very active starter, you can spread the discard out on parchment and let it air dry, then break it up to store. This can be re hydrated whenever you need it, but it takes a few days to get it to where you need to bake, so plan for this. This is not something I have tried yet, but looks very simple.
Thank you for joining me on My Sourdough Adventure. I hope you all find some of these tips helpful and feel a little more comfortable embarking on your own sourdough quest. I did not add any recipes to this post, because I discussed so many different recipes, but added links to those recipes I used. Below you will find helpful tools I have for my little bread babies. Thanks for baking and learning with me. Party on fellow foodies and keep up the good work!