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Kickin' hippies' a**es and raisin' h*ll!
5,369 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I've always been into bread baking but have recently gotten into sour dough. There's just something about a loaf where the added ingredients are flour, salt, and water. Plus you get an excellent crust and complex flavor. An added benefit is that the bread seems to not go stale as fast; it will last several days just sitting on the counter!

The Starter:

We mixed up our first starter about a month ago. It's pretty simple, but you have to have some patience. The starter goes like this:

1/4c bread flour
1/4c whole wheat flour
1/2c water

The whole wheat flour is important at the start as it contains the most wild yeast as well as some nutrients that will help the good yeast and bacteria grow.

In a 1 or 2 qt tupperware, mix the above ingredients with a whisk until smooth. It should look like a very thick pancake batter. Cover with a towel (not the tupperware lid) and place in a cabinet far away from where you normally are in the house. It's going to have some righteous smells at first, so keep that in mind when you select its location!

Every day or two, throw away about 75% of the mixture and add another 1/2c flour and 1/2c of water. Do that for a week or so.

Eventually, the smell will go from ripe, gnarly cheese to a sweeter, almost fruity smell. In otherwords, it will eventually start to smell "good" the day after its been fed. That's when you're done.

From that point on, you just use it or toss 75% every two or so days to keep it going. If you miss a day, it's not a big deal. I've gone as long as 4 days with no real ill effect.

The first photo is of my starter. I started making this bread in the morning, and the starter had been fed the morning before.

The Bread:

The bread itself is pretty simple too. Before you go mixing in the bread, you need to "grow" your starter into a leaven. There aren't enough yeast available to go straight into bread dough, so we've got to get them to multiply first.

To do this, simply take your starter and pour it into a bowl. Don't scrape the tupperware, just let what will naturally pour out do so. This way you retain enough yeast in the tupperware to continue your starter. I like to use a glass bowl so that I can see what is going on, and because saran wrap sticks to it best.

In the tupperware, add 1/2c of water and stir it up to dissolve what remains of your starter. Add 1c of water into the bowl and mix the same. (Pic #2)

Then add 1/2c of flour and 1 tbsp of whole wheat flour to the tupperware. Add 1c of bread flour to the bowl. Mix each with a whisk and return the starter to its home. (Pic #3) It's now ready for tomorrow.

From here, you have two options with the leaven. If you're making the leaven the night before you plan to bake, simply cover tightly with saran wrap and sit on the counter. If you're looking to bake bread the same day, the leaven needs to be kept warm. In the summer, just set it outside out of direct sunlight for about 4 hours. If your oven has a "Proof" setting, that's about 100F and will do as well. The higher temperature speeds things along and gives you a better balance of sour notes (in my opinion). You can also move the leaven to the refrigerator for a day or two, but your bread will taste a little more sour.

Once the leaven is nice and bubbly (picture #4), it's time to make the bread. Simply scrape the leaven out of its bowl into the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add 1/2c of water, 1/2 tbsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt), and about 2 1/2c of flour (pic #5). Make sure to sprinkle the salt around; don't just dump it all in one place.

Turn the stand mixer on with a dough hook and run until everything has just come together. Add more flour if needed, but you shouldn't need more than about 3c in total. The dough will look a little too "loose" or slack, but that's OK. See picture #6 for an idea of what it should look like.

Once everything has come together, turn the stand mixer off, cover the bowl with a towel, and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. This is giving the flour time to absorb the water.

After this "autolyse" rest, turn the stand mixer back on and knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes. The dough should look about like it does in picture #7 . Add more flour, a table spoon at a time, if the dough is sticking to the bowl too much.

Remove from the bowl and form into a tight ball (pic #8). As with the leaven, you now have two choices. If you're going to bake today, place in a lightly oiled bowl covered tightly with saran wrap and put it back outside for another 3-4 hours. Alternatively, you can put it in the fridge and bake it tomorrow.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out of the bowl and reform it into another tight ball, trying not to work out too much of the gas. Place this ball on some parchment paper that's about 2' in length and invert and cover with the bowl.

Place a large dutch oven in your oven and start preheating to 500F. Just as it reaches temperature, use a razor blade to slash a square in the top of the loaf (sorry, no pics). When the oven is ready, carefully remove the dutch oven and take off the lid. Using the parchment paper, pick the dough up and place it in the center of the dutch oven. Return the lid and place the pot back into the oven.

Bake like this, covered, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid, reduce the temperature to 450F, and bake another 20-30 minutes until the loaf is nice and brown.

Remove from the pot to a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes or so before slicing.

It takes a lot of words to describe the process, but it's actually quite simple! And the results are delicious.

ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: Anything and everything that the starter or leaven touches should be cleaned immediately. This stuff is the original library paste and sets up like cement! It's better to blast it all off of your bowls and utensils immediately!

Got better things to do than play games
17,002 Posts
I've had 2 different cultures (rye & wheat) that are about 4 yrs old now. Sourdough rye is fantastic!!!

If you want to try it, I'll be happy to send you the recipe.

Kickin' hippies' a**es and raisin' h*ll!
5,369 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Ranch, I don't see the pic, but send it on. We really only have one rye recipe we use (Russian bread). The others we've tried always seem too grainy/mealy. Sour dough might just remedy that!
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