I don’t know too many people who aren’t lovers of sourdough bread – everyone pretty much loves to love it and it’s amazing when you smear it with butter fresh from the oven.
Sourdough is one of the easiest breads to make – you simply make your sourdough starter from scratch, wait a few days, and then take a few more simple steps, wait for the rise, and then bake. It might sound somewhat complicated but it really isn’t at all.
If you are on a gluten-free restriction, you’ll be happy to know that you can make your own gluten-free sourdough bread, too!
Unlike traditional bread, that can be made with just a few hours notice, sourdough requires a few days of advance planning – and I say days because you need a really good, active starter, and that in itself takes 3-4 days to prepare. Once you have that active starter, then you need time to mix the dough, shape the dough, let it rise, and then allow it to bake.
One other thing: traditional bread is somewhat foolproof — provided you have fresh yeast that isn’t expired, it will almost always turn out amazing. Sourdough, on the other hand, may not always go too well on your first try… or, sometimes even your second. I blew through what seemed like dozens and dozens of bags of flour making sourdough bread, in every attempt to make it right. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I actually succeeded.
Please, stick with it, no matter how discouraged you get. It does get easier. I promise!
Thinking back to my first loaf of sourdough, it was dense, hard and very dry. I tried making that same recipe over, and over and over again – over time, it improved, but nowhere near what I can do today. We tried to use the dense loaves, even though they were very very hard but I wanted nothing more than to be successful at this bread making thing.. so I continued to work at it.
Now that I have made every attempt to perfect my sourdough, I’m sharing some things that you might want to keep in mind through the process:
Making the Starter
When you bake sourdough, you need to use a starter that is at its peak — if you don’t currently have a starter at home, you can make your own starter, and feed it once or twice a day. I usually feed mine twice each day (morning, and night). Cover in between feedings with a napkin, handkerchief or cheesecloth to avoid debris from getting inside.
- All you need is three ingredients to make a sourdough starter: flour, yeast and water.
- Only use glass or ceramic bowls along with wooden spoons when making sourdough. Avoid using metal or stainless steel – sourdough is made “sour” by acids, and acids will react to metals. I love using a tall glass jar that allows room for the starter to grow and expand.
- Use warm water, avoid hot water. Aim for a water temp of 90-100 degrees.
- Once your starter is mixed, loosely cover & allow to sit on your counter top; The sourdough will start to bubble and over the next 24-48 hours, it will expand. After 48 hours, feed that starter 1 C. flour, 2/3 C. water and 1 tsp of sugar. Mix well, and re-cover. You should see the starter expand over the next few hours, then go back down and get bubbly again on the top.
- After 48-72 hours, the starter is ready to use. I find that the starter is “best” used about 4 hours after a recent feeding.
- If you don’t plan on using the starter at that time, place in the refrigerator and feed once per week (1 C. flour, 2/3 C. water and 1 tsp sugar). Once you plan on using it, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temp. Feed that starter (above ratio), then allow to sit for 4-5 hours before using.
Helpful tools for making sourdough:
- Sourdough Jar
- Sourdough Spoon
- Cheesecloth or Frugal Cheesecloth Alternatives
- Sourdough Starter Recipe (see below)
Once you have your sourdough starter going, it’s time to make sourdough – stay tuned! We’ll have our favorite simple sourdough recipe up next!