A relationship with sourdough is very committed and very rewarding. The entire breadmaking process takes 24 hours, but the end result is well worth it.
Here’s how to make the magic happen.
For the starter, you will need:
Wooden or plastic mixing spoons
A glass jar
And a kitchen scale
For (3) loaves, you will need:
100g active starter
1600g unbleached white flour, divided
1120g cold filtered water, divided
25g softened butter
30g fine sea salt
A stand mixer
A wooden spoon
A large plastic or glass bowl
And 3 loaf pans
The week before: starting sourdough
To make a sourdough starter, only two ingredients are needed- rye flour and filtered water. The entire process of growing an active starter takes a week, but don’t let that intimidate you - it only takes 5 minutes of human involvement per day.
Day 1: in a clean jar, mix 100g of rye flour with 100g of filtered water. Stir well, until completely combined. Cover the jar with a clean cloth, and secure with a rubber band.
Day 2: Take 100 grams of starter from the day before, and mix with 50g of rye flour and 50g of filtered water. Stir well, and cover with a clean cloth.
Days 3-7: Repeat step 2 each day with the starter from the day before. By day 7, the starter should be very bubbly and double in size.
The day before baking:
9 am: Make the levain. Mix 100g of white flour and 100g of filtered water. Add 100g of active sourdough starter, and mix well with a wooden spoon (this is key! using a metal spoon will kill the starter culture). Cover the bowl and wait.
2 pm: At this point, the “leavain” should be bubbly and double in size. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1020g of cold water with the leavain. Mix well. You can also do this by hand, but the mixing will take a little longer. After mixing, add 25g of softened butter, 60g of honey, and 1500g of unbleached white flour. Mix for about 5 minutes, or until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Cover the dough and let sit for 40 minutes. This is called the autolyse phase, where the flour absorbs the liquid.
3 pm: Add 30g of fine sea salt to the mixture. Mix well, and pour dough into a well-oiled bowl. Form into a smooth ball. For the next 2 hours, you will “fold” and “turn” the dough every 15 minutes. Basically, you will fold the dough over itself and turn the entire ball 90 degrees. Doing so creates nice air pockets that will result in a tall, soft loaf. Think of the 360 degrees of a circle. By folding at each 90-degree point, you are working all sides of the dough. This folding and turning process will be repeated 8 times in the 2 hours. In-between folds, cover the dough and let it rest.
Take a rest yourself. At this point, you probably need it.
5 pm: This commences the folding process! Cover the dough and let it rise for 2-4 hours.
9 pm: The dough should be bubbly and double in size. Pour dough onto a well-oiled countertop and divide into 3 equal balls. Stretch each ball into a 9x9 square, and roll each square into a log (imagine rolling up cinnamon rolls). Place the rolls of dough in 3 buttered loaf pans. Cover with a clean dishcloth, and leave to rise in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning: take loaves out of the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature on the counter for about an hour.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, or until bread reaches internal temperature of 180 degrees and is nice and golden on top. Let the loaves cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and turn them on their sides. Let the loaves cool completely before devouring.
I’ve found that sourdough tastes best with lots of friends and lots of butter.
Extra tips for a lovely sourdough:
Be sure to always use plastic or glass bowls/jars and wooden or plastic utensils. Metal kills the active yeasts in the starter.
Measure amounts with a kitchen scale. Sourdough is a very sensitive, precise, and persnickety pet to have, and requires exact weights.
Recipe & Photo by, Madeline Long