So…Does Everyone Now Have a Starter?
I know, I know. Since the quarantine earlier this year, everyone and their brother has started a starter. A sourdough starter. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love sourdough bread, and would love the world to adopt it as their very own. So you probably already have a recipe for it. You probably have been pulling fresh loaves out of the oven since March. You’re probably eating a piece as you read this. Buuuut, just in case you don’t, this post is for you.
I have had sourdough starter for many years thanks to my dear mother. She showed up one day with it in a jar. She showed me how to care for it, how to feed it, and how to make it bubble up happily. Now she is gluten free, but she still took my starter and stashed it in her freezer for all of my months in Spain. (I started a new starter in Spain, but didn’t travel back with it.)
Benefits of Sourdough Bread
Sourdough bread is easier to digest because the wild yeast predigests it for you during the long fermentation. It is healthier because the lactic acid produced during the fermentation process feeds your gut bacteria. The lactic acid also lowers the phytates in wheat, which basically means your body is able to get more nutrients out of the bread. I eat it for all those reasons, but the real reason is because it is so amazingly delicious.
The tangy flavor and chewy texture make sourdough bread perfect for toast, for dipping into soup, or for slathering butter on top with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a thick slice of cheddar. I don’t stop there, though. I cut the bread into thin slices and put them on a charcuterie tray. I save the ends in the freezer and eventually cube them and saute them in tons of olive oil with salt, pepper and Italian herbs for the best croutons. And I slice the bread thin, butter the outsides of each slice, put a lovely cheese in the middle and make an addictive grilled cheese.
Starting a Starter
So. Shall we move on to the recipe? Let’s. But first, make sure you have an active starter. It’s just flour and water. Here are some places you can go to make your own starter:
Which Type of Flour to Use
Now that you have your starter, we can try out the recipe. I like to use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flours. I always use organic flour and filtered water, but that’s not a must. You can make great sourdough without it, but sometimes the flavor of your water or how it’s treated in your area can affect the taste and/or how active the starter is.
If you use all-purpose or bread flour the bread will most likely rise higher. If you use all whole wheat it will be more dense. Both are good. It depends on what you plan to use it for. Do you want to dip it in olive oil and herbs? All white flour might be best. Do you want to make a hearty sandwich or toast? All whole wheat is fine. I often like to do a mix.
I’ve tried many sourdough recipes in the past. What I love about this one is it’s easy. There is no kneading, no getting out the scale to measure ingredients, and no looking at a long list of ingredients. Not to say that there aren’t better recipes out there, but if I’m going to whip up a loaf of bread, I like to do it without have to fuss over it. This recipe delivers. It is dependable and decidedly unfussy.
Enjoy the Process
Having just said that this recipe is easy, I should say that if this is your first time making sourdough you will want to read the recipe a few times to make sure you have a good understanding of it. Also make sure that your starter is active. It takes time for that to happen, so don’t be discouraged if your first loaf of bread with a young starter doesn’t turn out very well. Just turn it into toast or dip it into olive oil and enjoy the journey of learning sourdough bread. I swear, when I pull a loaf of fresh sourdough out of the oven, I feel completely joyful and excited. Even if I don’t plan to eat that particular loaf. I love the process and result of baking bread, and I hope you can learn to love it too.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.
Before You Go…
Take a look at these recipes that use sourdough in beautiful ways:
- Classic Grilled Cheese with Muenster: A deliciously, melty way to make a classic grilled cheese using sourdough bread and muenster cheese.
- Savory Bread Pudding with Winter Squash: You’ll be coming back to this recipe all winter long for it’s super satisfying flavor. Make it ahead of time if you’re hosting company.
- A Sour Cherry Pie I Actually Like: This is an addictively delicious pie (and I don’t normally like cherry desserts). Check it out for the pie itself, or just steal the sourdough pie crust to use for any recipe you like.
Twenty Four Hour Sourdough Bread
- Active sourdough starter
- Dutch oven
- Parchment paper
- Banneton basket is helpful but not required
- Tea towel
- 2 cups unbleached bread flour organic is best
- 2 cups whole wheat flour organic is best; can also use white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water or more as needed
- 1/2 cup active sourdough starter
- 2 tsp sea salt or Real Salt
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon or stiff silicone spatula. Scrape down the sides as best you can, pulling inward and pressing down toward the center. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, stirring as you go, until dough is mostly mixed. Cover bowl with a plate and let rise for 8-10 hours at room temperature.
- After 8-10 hours, the dough should look a bit bigger, but it won't rise as much as dough made with instant yeast. Take your spatula and pull the dough from the edge of the dough up and in, pressing down towards the center. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat, pulling dough up and in, and pressing down. Do this 4-5 times total. Cover the bowl and set a timer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes (no more than 45), repeat the turning/folding. Set a timer again for 30 minutes. Repeat this process two more times, for a total of four times.
- After you have turned the dough four times, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Don't use too much flour; you want the dough to stick just a little. Lightly flour your hands if necessary, and gently shape the dough into a round boule (sphere) turning the dough in a circular motion and tucking the sides down a bit as you turn.
- Let the dough rest about 10 minutes. Next, place a tea towel in a banneton basket or large bowl and lightly flour it. If your dough is particularly wet, use more flour on the tea towel to prevent it from sticking.
- Lightly flatten out the down. Pull in the far edge toward the middle and press down. Pull in the side edges, one at a time, toward the center and press down. Pull up the edge nearest you up and over the center, and re-form your boule, tucking and turning a few times to form a tight ball. This process gives the dough extra tension, which helps it develop a nice crumb.
- Flour the top of the boule, scoop it up, and place it top side down into the tea towel lined banneton basket (or bowl). Sprinkle more flour on top and cover with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel. Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours for the second long, slow rise.
- After 12 hours, place your Dutch oven (with the lid on) in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Once hot, remove the Dutch oven. Turn dough out (seam side down) onto a piece of parchment paper. Lift the parchment, with the dough, into the hot Dutch oven. Score the top with a lame or very sharp knife (a single line down the middle is sufficient), cutting about 1 inch deep.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, return bread to oven, and reduce heat to 475. Bake for another 20 minutes until bread is golden brown (dark brown or black in some spots). Let cool for about an hour.