I have always enjoyed an afternoon filled with mixing and kneading dough, and the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread. It’s one of those hobbies that leaves you feeling accomplished, relaxed, and eager to dig into your latest creation. I’ve made a variety of things in the past: bagels, 100% whole wheat loaves, english muffins, etc. But the one thing I have never had the courage to try my hand at was Sourdough Bread. For some reason, I just found the whole process (the extra two steps) extremely intimidating. But with all of my recent successes and renewed eagerness to try new things, I felt it was time to drive in and give it a shot.
The first step to sourdough bread is what scared me the most: the starter. To achieve that iconic tangy taste, you have to use a “starter” which is simply equal parts flour and water (with a little bit of yeast) fermented for a few days. But every article I read talked about how you have to “feed” the starter, as though it were a living thing. And technically it is since the yeast is alive.
I used this recipe for the starter, a 5-day process of feeding and fermenting. On the fifth day, I was ready to bake. To the right is my lovely jar of starter. I should really write the date on it so I know how old it is. Apparently, a starter can keep indefinitely as long as it is fed at least once a week. Some of the tangiest breads come from starters that are months or years old. I’m interested to see how long my starter lasts.
When it was time to mix up my bread, I used this recipe from the same website. The comments noted (and I also discovered) that the wet to dry ratio is a bit off, and the dough was much more moist than I think it should have been. I ended up using about a half to a full cup more flour than the recipe calls for.
Then I set it aside to rise. Initially, I was going to follow her rise time and have some delicious bread that very night, but with sourdough, the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more sour the taste. I intended to leave the whole batch in overnight, but as you can see, the bowl I had just wasn’t quite big enough for the batch. Oops!
So I ended up splitting the batch in half and setting one part in the fridge overnight, and the other I set out for a second rise to be baked that evening. After a second rise of about an hour and a half, I put the dough set aside for that night in the oven along with a baking sheet underneath (which stayed in during the oven’s preheat.)
When I put the bread in the oven, I poured a cup of water on to the heated baking sheet creating a burst of steam and quickly shut the oven door. This helps create that tough, chewy crust that is so delicious and essential to a good loaf of sourdough bread.
The result was extraordinary: a beautiful loaf that I am extremely proud of. You’ll noticed I have used Instagram pictures. I just recently downloaded the app and liked how it framed all of the pictures for me. That’s just one less step I have to do in photoshop. Don’t worry, I am completely aware of how awkward it is to be taking Instgram pictures of my food. I acknowledge it and I embrace it. I’m proud of my creation!
Anyway. The loaf came out of the oven fairly late at night so I let it sit and cool overnight on the counter. I prefer to wait until my bread is fully cooled before cutting into it because, while tempting, cutting into a still-warm loaf crushes the insides and makes for not-so-great sandwich bread.
So the next morning, I hopped out of bed because I was so eager to get my first taste. I cut of a piece, toasted it, and smothered it in butter. Perfection. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better. The crust was chewy and crunchy at the same time. The bread wasn’t super sour, but the taste was there. And the hydration was pretty high on this bread so it had the beautiful larger air bubbles. I could not be more thrilled with my first attempt.
But what better way to find out if your sourdough turned out perfect than to make a sandwich!
I went with a turkey, tomato, avocado, and spinach sandwich with mustard on (toasted) sourdough. Absolutely incredible. Just as good, if not better than what you would order in a restaurant.
I don’t think I can ever go back to regular bread.