I have been wanting to make sourdough bread for a couple years, but I knew it was going to take some patience and dedication to get it right! Back in February I decided I would create my sourdough starter and begin the process! Six months later, and my sourdough making is going strong! My family loves when it’s ‘bread day’ – I make it about once a week.
If you don’t know the benefits of sourdough, it’s pretty cool to learn about. Sourdough gets it’s rise from the fermentation of the dough instead of a packet of yeast. The fermentation process unlocks nutrients, neutralizes phytic acid found in grains, and pre-digests some of the gluten… some people who are sensitive to gluten can even enjoy sourdough bread! Do a little research, it’s so interesting! Preparing bread using fermentation is the traditional way to make bread, and the health benefits are much greater than just a regular ol’ loaf of bread.
How Do You Make It?
I get a lot of questions on how to make your own, so I thought I would share my process! You can scroll to the bottom for a video where I show what I do weekly.
Keep in mind I am still a beginner and am probably doing some things wrong, ha! I am all about low maintenance and making the most of my time, so this is the process I have used that works for us.
Step 1: Create Your Starter
This is the most labor-intensive part. Basically you are babysitting a jar of dough for about a week to 10 days, ha! But the process is quite simple.
- You mix flour and water, cover it, and let it sit on your counter for a day.
- Then you discard some of it, add more flour and water, and let it sit another day.
- Then you discard some of it, add more flour and water, and let it sit a half day. You are now at twice a day feedings!
- Then you discard some of it, add more flour and water, and let it sit a half day.
- Are you sensing the pattern here?! You basically do this for 7-10 days!
You are waiting for natural bacteria and yeast to grow, which gives sourdough its unique aroma, flavor, and benefits. This is the sourdough starter recipe I followed to create my starter, and it worked perfectly. I did start out with whole wheat flour like the recipe suggests, and then I fed it with organic white flour.
The most annoying part of creating your starter (other than babysitting it) is ALL THE DISCARD you create! It feels like such a waste! Luckily there are TONS of recipes for using discarded starter, so I would just store the discard in my fridge and bake something yummy like waffles or English muffins when I had enough to use! Look for recipes, and you will find plenty.
You can store your starter in the fridge once it’s ready and feed it once a week, OR use that thing to bake your bread!
Step 2: Making Bread
Now that my starter is established, I pull it out of the fridge once a week to bake bread. This is the sourdough bread recipe I use every week, a friend shared it with me and it is amazing!
On Bread Day, I take my starter out of the fridge a couple hours before I plan on using it so it warms up. Then I measure out the amount starter I need into my mixing bowl (250 grams for the recipe), re-feed the starter in my jar (see next step), let the jar sit out a few hours to get a head start on fermentation, and put it back in the fridge til next week.
I use this inexpensive digital kitchen scale to measure out all my bread ingredients, and I put them straight into my mixing bowl. I use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer with the dough hook to do all my mixing, although you could certainly do this by hand. The mixing process takes a little bit of time, so I will let the mixer run for 15 min or so while I clean the kitchen, feed the starter, etc. I’m all about maximizing my time!
I just follow all the instructions on the recipe! One change to note is that I use about half the water the recipe calls for because my dough is always too wet from this much water. So I start with half of what’s suggested, and then add water by the tablespoon to get the consistency right. The dough basically gets ‘kneaded’ with my dough hook for about 15 min, then it gets covered and proofs for 6-8 hours. You can do this on the counter, or my oven has a ‘Proof’ setting that is perfect. Make sure to use either plastic wrap or a damp towel so the dough doesn’t dry out.
Once it’s ready, I finish following the instructions (flatten, fold, put in the pan, and bake), and voila! BREAD!
Note: I do the 5 minutes of resting when it’s in the ‘disc’ shape, but I don’t do the extra ‘nice long second ferment’ in step 8… I don’t have that kind of time, ha! But I’m sure I would get a better rise if I did.
Step 3: Maintaining the Starter
I touched on this above, but I wanted to share the recipe I use to maintain the starter. Basically you have removed starter to make your bread, so you just need to re-feed your jar of starter. I make sure that between my leftover starter plus my additional flour + water, I have at least 363 grams total… 250 grams for next time I make bread, plus 113 grams I will need to restart the starter. Sound confusing?! HA!!! It took me a while to figure this out.
I weigh the amount of starter left in the jar (I use mason jars, so I tare out an empty jar on the scale, and then weigh the one with starter), and if it is short of 113 grams (the amount required to re-start the starter), I will fudge it a bit and increase the flour and water the recipe calls for. The recipe calls for adding 113 grams of flour and 113 grams of water (plus your 113 grams of starter)… but if I have less than 113 grams of starter, I will add a little more so the total adds up to over 363 grams. Most times I end up adding about 130 grams of water and 130 grams of flour.
Should I have left that whole part above out?! I’m leaving it because that was the trickiest part for me to wrap my brain around, ha! I either had too much starter and had to throw too much away, or I didn’t have enough for my bread recipe AND to restart the starter. So I’m leaving it in case it helps someone else!
If you are more of a visual person, below is a video explaining my process on Bread Day!
My process isn’t perfect and neither is my bread, but this works for us to have delicious bread once a week. If you wanted to make it more frequently, you could leave your starter out on the counter – you would discard/feed it more and that would allow you to bake more!
If you wanted a loaf that rises more, you could feed your starter a few times after removing it from the fridge, making sure it was good and bubbly before using! And you could do the second ferment on bread day.
But this is what works for us, and I hope it encourages you to give it a try!