Loaves + Crackers/ Vegan

BASIC SOURDOUGH MADE EASY

sourdough 101 101 SOURDOUGH STARTER POST FEED

All of us have that one food we’re snobby… wait, connoisseurs… about.  From coffee to wine, or from to tacos or pastry. For me it’s bread. I’ve worked most of all my adult life in and around organic, wood fire, stone milled, artisanal (and so on) bakeries.  So, having good bread literally at my fingertips for so long became second nature. It wasn’t until we moved away to Vancouver that I began to really see that I had taken it for granted. Landing in Vancouver I was 1) shocked to see that good bread really didn’t exist in the same way I was used to, and 2) if it did, it cost an arm and a leg. So two years ago out of  desperation, I began making my own bread at home and haven’t looked back since.

Today, most store bought breads get a bad wrap, and with good reason. They are often filled with sugars (like corn syrup), colours, potassium bromate (which is banned nearly everywhere but the west), and l’cysteine which is made from either chicken feathers or human hair!! Beyond these, they often contain a trove of ingredients you’d never want in your kitchen let alone your body. Homemade bread (specially sourdough) on the other hand is a different story, and for me it’s a love affair.

In an age where gluten and bread are often seen as evils, sourdough is like the shining star that can prevail. Unlike yeasted breads which are rushed for proofing and often loaded with a mile long list of ingredients, homemade sourdough is a slow process that involves fermentation and basically just three ingredients- flour, water, and salt. The lengthy preparation means that the protein gluten is broken down by amino acids making it more digestible and suitable for those with gluten sensitivity (but still not suitable for celiacs – I will share a g/f sourdough soon). Plus it contains Lactobacillus which means the phytates found in flour are neutralized, allowing more minerals and vitamins to become available to you – happy tummy indeed! This lactic acid slows down the rate in which glucose is released into the blood meaning it even has a lower glycaemic index compared to yeasted bread.

While just starting out, getting into bread making can indeed seem like such a daunting endeavour (especially when there is SUCH good bread around).  I’ve decided to break down my “choose your own adventure” method just to show you how easy making nutritious bread can be.

101 SOURDOUGH ESSENTIALS

i) BASIC EQUIPMENT

  • SCALE– All bakers will agree that to bake you need a scale, and this is never more true that when it comes to bread making. I have an inexpensive digital scale (from here) that I don’t love all that much, but places like Amazon sell loads of inexpensive varieties you can choose from. When looking for a scale try to find ones with proper buttons, as the buttonless (touch screen type) ones often have issues working and zeroing (a frustration I deal with regularly).
  • FLOUR– Using the best flour you can get your hands on is key. It’s like that old saying about the quality of your work being as good as your worst ingredient. Look for brands that don’t use additives (many of which are banned in most parts of the world outside of North America). Keep it simple with just one ingredient, the grain. Of course, if you can get local, strong bread flour, that is an added plus. I love to use locally ground flour that is stoned milled such as  GRAIN. They are my favourite local brand and they’re offing readers 15% off with the code WHOLEHEARTED15.
  • FILTERED WATER – Anytime you ferment something in a city or urban environment, from pickle making to yogurt making, you’ll have to use filtered water. Water additives like chlorine inhibit  fermentation, so bottled or filtered is best. That being said, I’ve used city water and I still ended up with a tasty loaf of bread.
  • DUTCH OVEN– Since we’re not all rocking the wood fire oven in the back yard ;), a dutch oven is the next best vestal to bake in. I often use a Staub pot, but any heavy pot will work, just make sure it doesn’t have a plastic handle like some le Creuset.
  • BLADE – To score your bread, you’ll need a lame, or a razor blade (I stole some from Adam’s shaving kit), but a good sharp knife (that is not serrated) will also do.

101 SOURDOUGH STARTER

ii) STARTER CARE

  • CREATING A STARTER -You can make your own starter (The Kitchn has a great tutorial), or if you’re like me and put off by all this work, you can simply get some from an established batch. Many of the bakeries I’ve worked at will sell a coffee cups’ worth of starter for a couple of dollars – since they often compost so much of it daily – so don’t be afraid to ask your local bakery. Another option is asking around in your friends groups or online. Most people won’t mind sharing a Tbsp. or enough to get you started. Finally, if you find a group of avid bakers in your city, they will be thrilled to share, so check online for Facebook groups and express your interest.
  • FEEDING A STARTER – The idea of feeding a starter is daunting! And my forgetfulness/laziness about remembering to feed things dissuaded me from making one for years. Truth be told, starters are resilient. Sometimes I feed mine weekly and sometimes a month or more will go by and I’ll forget to feel it, but it always works out in the end. This is not ideal care, but it’s good to know if you forget about it for a while, it can be revived.

To care for a starter, keep in in the fridge unless you’re using it daily. Otherwise, the night before you want to make bread, take the starter out and compost all about 2 Tbsp. Feed this remaining starter an equal ratio of flour and water (if you’re making 1 loaf below you’ll need 100g of this mixture, so you’ll want to make a little extra to keep your starter going. I recommend feeding it 75 g flour and 75 g room temperature water). Cover this mixture with a plate or lid and let ferment overnight. The next day go on with making your bread, returning the extra fresh starter to the fridge. On weeks when you don’t make bread, follow this same method but use less flour and water (say 50 g of each).

If you get a starter and want to change it over to a different type of flour (say rye, or even gluten free), you can feed your starter in the method stated above, but instead of returning it to the fridge, keep it on the counter feeding it every 12 or so hours. After a couple of feeds your starter will consist of nearly all the intended flour.

PROBLEMS THAT CAN ARISE WITH STARTER

  • Liquid – Sometimes you’ll get a layer of greyish liquid on top of your starter. This is called hooch and occurs when the starter isn’t fed enough (like when I forget to feed it for months on end…. 😉 ) and it’s basically going hungry. If there is lots of this liquid on top you can pour it off, but I often just stir it into the next feeding, no problem.
  • Apricot / Alcohol Smell – This is again a sign that your starter is hungry. It is consuming itself and you’ll need to feed more often. If this happens, feed your starter as you normally would and continue using it.
  • Mould – I’ve never seen this happen, and it will only happen if you use an unsanitary jar. If you do see mould you can treat it one of two ways. If there is a little mould on the top, remove it with a clean spoon. Take a little bit of the starter and feed it. Continue feeding it for a couple of days to ensure their is no mould growth, then return the starter to the fridge until you need to use it. If the mould is beyond just the surface area, your starter is garbage and you’ll need to start over.
  • Heat– I’ve had this happen to a couple of friends who have left their starter in the oven (to keep it slightly warmer) and accidentally turned it on. In cases like this, your starter is cooked and you’ll most likely need to start fresh.

seed bread - Sourdough Made Easy starter after-2

Plan to get started two days before you want bread. 99.9 % of this time is inactive waiting, with only about 40 minutes total work. This is a tentative schedule for how I’d make bread.

  • 9:00 p.m. Friday- Make leaven
  • 10:00 a.m. Saturday- Make bread dough
  • 10:30 a.m. Saturday- First fold
  • 2:00 p.m. Saturday- Place dough in fridge
  • 8:00 a.m. Sunday – Bake

BASIC RUSTIC SOURDOUGH RECIPE

10 grams sea salt
500 g  grams flour (I like 50% sifted and 50% whole grain-but use any ratio)*
100 grams leaven (made the night before)
375 grams water (room temperature)
seeds or nuts (see below)

*The more white/sifted flour used means you’ll have a lighter loaf – the more whole grain, the denser.

STEP 1 – MAKING THE LEAVEN –

Two nights before you want bread, you’ll need to make the leaven (a word from French to “give rise”). This is usually the last thing I do before I go to bed. Take out about 1-2 Tbsp. of your starter from the fridge and mix it with 50 g of room temperature water and 50g of flour (sifted, whole grain, spelt, or a combo, whatever you prefer as long as the flour to water ration is 1:1).Cover the bowl with a plate and leave it on the counter to ferment overnight (a minimum of 8-12 hours). The next morning you know you can begin making bread if you pinch a little bit of the leaven off and it can float on the water’s surface (this means it’s full of fermented gas). If the ball of dough sinks, let the leaven sit out a little longer to ferment. If you can’t get to making bread until later in the evening, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

SOURDOUGH 101-6

(left) levain after 12 hours, (right) levain ready to use

STEP 2 – MIX + AUTOLYSE –

Once your leaven is ready you can get started on the bread. Combine 100 g of the leaven with 350 g of water. The remaining leaven can go in the fridge as the base for your next loaf, keeping the starter alive. Add the flour to the water mixture and using your hands mix to combine. Once mixed, cover with a tea towel and let sit anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. This gives the flour time to absorb the water and is called an ‘autolyse”. After the bread has had time to rest, add the remaining 25 g of water and the salt. Mix well until combined. If you want to add flavours or seeds to your bread, now is the time.

SOURDOUGH 101-5

(left) after autolyse , (right) after first turn

STEP 3 – TURNING –

After you’ve mixed in the salt you can do your first fold. To do this begin by getting your hands damp (it’s less sticky that way) and reach under the dough on the opposite side of the bowl from you. Pull the dough up and over towards you. Repeat this so the side closest to you folds over to the side away from you and the side on your left folds towards you right, and your right folds towards you left. Think of it as wrapping a package.  Next, scoop your hands under the ball of dough and flip it over completely. This completes one “fold”. You will do one of these complete “folds” every 30 minutes for 3 hours (perfect reading or Netflix time!) for a total of 6 times. I like to write down each fold I do just to make sure I haven’t lost count. After the 6th and last fold, let the bread sit for a final 20-30 minutes.

SOURDOUGH 101-4

(left) after three turns, (right) after shaping

SOURDOUGH-1

STEP 4 – SHAPING –

To begin to shape your dough, gently scoop it out of the bowl, and using lightly floured hands (or a bench scraper) form into a rough ball. Let this dough rest on the counter for another 20 or so minutes before the final shape. In the meantime, get your banneton dusted with flour, or if you prefer, layer a clean tea towel in a medium mixing bowl and dust the cloth liberally with flour.

To finish shaping, flour the surface with just a touch of flour. Too much flour will prevent the dough from sticking to the surface and getting taunt.Turn your bread over onto the counter and gently fold it up like a burrito (see this video), then flip it over so that it’s seam side down and use you hands to cup and roll the dough. You want to make as much surface tension as possible without tearing the outside of the loaf. Once shaped, turn the loaf into the lined and floured bowl (top down). Gently flour the top of the loaf (which is in fact the bottom) before covering with the edges of the towel.

SOURDOUGH 101 SHAPE

STEP 5 – PROOFING-

Pop this loaf in the fridge overnight for a next day’s bake. You can keep a loaf in the fridge for two days, but I do think it is better after just one day of fermenting. If you don’t want to retard your loaf to bake it later, let it rise on the counter (in the prepared bowl) for 3-4 hours.

SOURDOUGH 101 copy SOURDOUGH 101- RETARTD
vi) BAKING

PREHEATING– The next day, take one of the racks out of your oven to create space. Place your dutch oven in the oven and preheat the it to 260 C (500 F) (or as hot as your oven can go, up to 500F). After the oven has come to temperature, let it heat for another 30 minutes to get the dutch oven fully heated.

SCORING – After the 30 minutes is up, take your bread out of the fridge. Gently invert the dough onto a piece of parchment paper that will be large enough to lift your bread into the dutch oven. With your lame or knife, gently score bread. This allows the loaf to expand and prevents any bulges. If you need some inspiration, check out this link.

SOURDOUGH 101 SCORING

BAKING– Working fast, take your dutch oven out of the oven carefully. Remove the lid and gently lift the parchment and bread into the pot, being super careful not to touch the sides. Cover the pot with the lid (be careful, it’s hot!) and put the entire dutch oven back into the oven. Turn down the heat to 230 C ( 450 F ) and bake for 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes are up, gently take the lid off of the dutch oven (be careful of steam) and bake for another 20- 25 minutes (I like mine a little darker, personally).

Once cooked, remove the pot from the oven and gently lift out the loaf by lifting the  parchment paper. If that’s too hard, just let the loaf cool in the pot.

STORING – I prefer to store my loaves in the cupboard or a bread box. If the loaf is whole, I don’t wrap it, but if it is cut, I like to wrap it in beeswaxed wrap like this. Other good wraps include cotton bags designed for bread, or just leaving the cut side down. What you don’t want to do is wrap your bread in plastic (which will soften any crust) or put in the fridge )which will dry it out and cause it to go mouldy faster).

SOURDOUGH 101-BAKED v)  FLAVOURS

You can add nearly anything to your basic loaf to make it something special or go with any meal.

SPICES– cumin, fennel, cinnamon, dried herbs, turmeric, cardamom powder, and anise are great ones to start with.

FRUIT +VEGGIES – cooked beets and other root veg like purple sweet potato or mashed pumpkin. Dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, dates, candied lemon or orange peel add a sweet touch. Dried fruit should be soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes (and drained and chopped) before adding to the bread.

FANCY– chopped fresh garlic, pitted olives, cheese, lavender,or sun dried tomatoes.

SEEDS + NUTS– toasted nuts like walnuts, pecans, or seeds like sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds are all amazing.

GRAINS– cooked and cooled polenta, cooked oatmeal or millet porridge, and sprouted grains bring a new texture to loaves.

 

SOURDOUGH TYPES

My Favourites

Seedy Loaf – I used 100% Sifted Spring Wheat and mixed in 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 2 tsp crushed fennel, and 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds after the autolyse. Before retarding the dough, I sprinkled some more seeds and some coarse salt on top.

Turmeric + leek – This loaf is 100% Sifted Spelt. After the autolyse I added one cooled sautéed leek, a tsp. of turmeric, and a pinch of black pepper.

Walnut Rosemary – For a slightly lighter loaf, I mixed 200 g of whole red fife flour with 300 g of sifted red fife flour. I also tossed in about 100g  toasted walnuts (chopped) and 2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary after the autolyse.

Fig and cinnamon – Made with  300 g Whole Red Fife, 200 g Sifted Spring, 200 g soaked-drained- and chopped dried figs, 1 rounded tsp. cinnamon.

xox Sophie

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachel @Clean Eating for the Non-Hippie
    October 10, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    That is one GORGEOUS loaf!!!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 11, 2017 at 5:55 am

      Thank you so much, Rachel! <3

  • Reply
    Amber
    October 11, 2017 at 12:05 am

    What beautiful bread! I feel so inspired to give making sourdough another go – I made it years ago, but then fell out of the habit. Thanks for the inspiration to try again xx

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Yay! That makes me so happy to hear, Amber! It’s an easy thing to fall out of the habit of making, but now is the perfect time of yet to get back on it. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  • Reply
    Jessica
    October 11, 2017 at 10:38 am

    I was so excited to wake up and read this post (!!) and it blew me away!! I’m sitting here with my cup of coffee in awe of the beauty you have captured of the process and of each variety! Sophie, seriously words cannot do this justice! You have shared such a user-friendly guide and it is written in such a readable voice. I’ve tried making a starter a couple time before but have only ever managed to kill it… I think I need to contact my local bakery because all I want to do now is bake bread. 100x over, thank you! xx Jess

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 13, 2017 at 4:30 am

      Aw, that makes me so happy to hear, Jessica! A million thanks to you <3 I know you can keep that starter alive. You got this! Can't wait to see what creations you come up with xox

  • Reply
    Emily
    October 11, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    What a clear and beautifully written post, Sophie! I started making sourdough using Tartine’s method a couple years ago, but feel I still need more practice to perfect my loaves. You’ve done such a wonderful job keeping the directions clear, simple, and un-intimidating. The lovely photos help to inspire as well. Love the flavor combos too!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 13, 2017 at 4:32 am

      You’re too kind, Emily! Thank you ever so much 🙂 The Tartine recipe is a great one for sure. And I bet your bread looks awesome. I’d love to see pics of it!

  • Reply
    Laura
    October 11, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    What size is your dutch oven? I’m going to purchase one for this purpose – Would 4/5/6 qt work best? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 13, 2017 at 4:34 am

      We have a 6 qt, but I feel we could even go bigger sometimes.

  • Reply
    Laine
    October 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Sophie, this post (and beautiful pictures!) makes me want to take my sourdough bread baking to the next level. <3 And I'd really love to try baking in some root vegetables or dried fruits. So far I've tried dried tomatoes and it came out very delicious!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 13, 2017 at 4:35 am

      Hey Laine! Thank you so much! The sound of dried tomatoes is literally making my mouth water! I recently made a roasted butternut squash, sage, and black pepper loaf – soooo good with soup <3

  • Reply
    Shira
    October 13, 2017 at 2:03 am

    Sophie! Thank you for this wonderful tutorial! Your love affair translates so wonderfully in your photos and in your written words. This is so inspiring, thank you so much! Your Favourites all sound delectable. xoxx

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 17, 2017 at 4:21 am

      Aw, thanks Shira! We seriously love our bread around here <3 I can't wait to start working on some more winter flavours....cardamon and cranberry he we come 😉

  • Reply
    Tori//Gringalicious.com
    October 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I had a starter going for over 2 years before my family made a move and I’ve been wanting to get back into sourdough. This post was such a great inspiration!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 17, 2017 at 4:25 am

      So happy to hear so, Tori! I can wait to see what wonderful creations you come up with!

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 14, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Love this! Sourdough bread is such a unique and gorgeous flavour, but takes some practice to get right. The fact that a basic loaf is made of such simple ingredients makes it versatile and able to pair with so many dishes and other flavours. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 17, 2017 at 4:37 am

      I’m thrilled to hear you like the post, Mary! It’s truly magically that something so delicious can be made with so few ingredients. XOX

  • Reply
    AW
    October 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve never made homemade bread before (!) but now that I can tolerate small amounts of gluten again I am alllll over this. Love these photos so much, Sophie!

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 17, 2017 at 4:39 am

      Ah, I think you’d be SO good at making bread! I can’t wait to see what wicked creations you’ll come up with. Thank you so much, Ashlae <3

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    October 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Super Gorgeous! I’ve been working on a GF sourdough for the last few weeks. It’s been getting better, but I’d love to hear about how the method you use differs.

    • Reply
      Sophie
      October 17, 2017 at 4:19 am

      Thank you so much, Rebecca! That’s awesome you’ve gotten into sourdough. My g/f sourdough isn’t that much different, just a lot less work, lol. I don’t do any of the folds because there is no gluten, but I still do the overnight proof. I’ll hopeful get a post up soon if you’re keen. xox Let me know if you have any questions.

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