A year in sourdough

I’d like to start with a story of my one hundred year old starter, passed down from generation to generation but alas this is just not so. It started with this little packet of freeze-dried magic from Ed Woods… who I assume was a real person but I’ve no personal connection to except for our http://www.com encounter. sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com I ripped open the packet and followed the instructions to start developing my newbie starter. It took a mere five days if I remember correctly. We have had a relationship for about 18 months now so the beginning is a little fuzzy.

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I continued to nurture it with additional flour and water and the powdered stuff came alive

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Until it nearly exploded

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Full of life it was…I had to get used to the idea of either using and replenishing or tossing a little to feed it. I even had two jars going so I’d have a back-up. But I’m working from just one jar now.

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My original inspirations and methods were sparked by Audra at Girl Meets Dirt. She has a very informative post to read word for word. She’s made some beautiful bread.

I also refer to this simple recipe from Stone Soup blog – rustic sourdough.

I somewhat sacrificed my Creuset dutch oven, unintentionally. I do believe a dutch oven has been one secret to success. I would also buy a cheap one if I was starting over.

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It really only takes one baking round at 500° to toast and speckle it black inside and out. But the enamel has not cracked and the handle has not melted.

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I start the night before by weighing all the ingredients… Check out Stone Soup. Sometimes I’ll use 20% whole wheat. So 65 grams of whole wheat bread flour and 260 grams of unbleached organic white flour.

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I tend to keep a fairly hydrated starter. You can see the consistency here- it’s practically pourable. Here is a site that explains in detail about hydration. I have a broader sense of hydration and just sort of eyeball it. I might get more into it if/when I’m ready for the next learning curve.

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I just bring the ingredients together with a spoon. I let it do its thing overnight.

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And when my starter has had regular attention it will go something like this-bubbly and alive. When not, I just try to give it a little more time to develop.

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I have also just started with a sponge and it too is happy when the starter is- The sponge is just the starter with a portion of the flour added to work a little before the rest of the flour and salt are added. Sometimes I skip the sponge.

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The next morning I massage it out to a rectangle and start the ‘no knead’ method. Brilliant
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Then fold the long edge on top down and the bottom edge up and fold in thirds

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I love to make bread on a day off and just do the turns every 45 minutes or so- I go for 3-4 total. After the last turn I put it in a clean, floured tea towel. Or if I want to make it during the work week- I’ll do it in stages over a couple days in and out of the fridge and it will get nice and sour. The trick, I think, is not to be in a rush.

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I wrap it up in the floured towel for a final rise for an hour. During the last 30 minutes I set the dutch oven in the oven and put it up to 500°- My oven temp can run a little under- so I might vary 25-50 degrees.

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I gently unwrap the tea towel and it goes carefully, topside down, into the hot dutch oven. I will score the top with a sharp knife (a bread razor is ideal). The lid goes on, back to the oven, and the loaf begins to cook. The trapped steam creates an incredible crust and I’m not having to mist the oven to create humidity. Out comes something like this

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Or this

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And this… sourdough pizza crust cooked on a stone in my gas grill at about 500+°- SO GOOD! It was last summer with all our garden veggies for toppings- you may see this again.

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When the starter is neglected –

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You will see this brown liquid forming- just a little alcohol and acetic acid. If it’s pink and stinky you are in trouble and it may be time for the garbage disposal funeral. The King Arthur site has some good info here. And it really takes some serious neglect to do it in.

When we are in gluten free periods the starter gets a little put off. I take it out for a night- drain the liquid off the top and let it get good and warmed up say overnight. Then I leave about a cup of starter and feed it for a couple days. Sourdoughhome.com is another valuable resource.

Here’s the latest loaf after a little starter revival..not too shabby.

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Every now and again a bread loaf. But I just can’t get the same crust. And we are so spoiled.sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

This one was particularly holey.

Sourdough bread-13 It toasted up nicely with some homemade orange marmaladeSourdough bread-14Last but not least – I want to give you a link to a woman in the UK- She offered kind assistance when I first called for starter rescue help. I love her recipes and philosophy. A good place to start on her site is with an informative post on why sourdough is easier to digest than “healthy” store bought bread.

Happy bread making and eating:)

42 responses

  1. This is simply magic as it’s the bread’ smell when it’s ready… I am in love with sourdough so it’s pretty easy, but thanks for sharing your experience and amazing results… Have a nice day!

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  2. I read this, and two thoughts – like the little devil and the angel sitting on each of my shoulders – were running roung my head: Ooooh I so want to try my hand at this sourduogh stuff. – But I’m too lazy for that. – I really should give this a go. – Good lucky, lazy sod 🙂
    Sound mad? Probably is. I hope I’ll get over the laziness!

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    • It’s a funny mix really as it is actually pretty easy – and the no knead is, in my opinion, a total hit for the lazy baker such as myself. Yes, it can be a drawn out process but imagine yourself lying around in your pj’s for an entire Sunday, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper, then your book and in between articles and chapters, you casually stroll to the counter and take like 90 seconds to ‘turn’ the dough – maybe 3-4 times. The last time you turn the oven on and spend 3 minutes to put it in the floured tea towel. You get up for a snack another 45 min later and plop it in your hot dutch oven for 45 minutes and bam- you’ve got bread for a few days. Try that:)

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      • Couch, coffee, PJs?! NOW you have my attention! Why didn’t you say that in the first place? 😀
        Thanks, Wendy, I know I will definitely try this, even if it’s not tomorrow. I’ve bookmared your post and all the helpful links already.

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  3. I love sourdough bread. Whew, what a lot of work and attention! You aren’t afraid to cook anything, and I admire that! I have been making a lot of whole wheat pie crusts lately, and the hideous mess that come s with it. Hope all is well at Chez Chloe!

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  4. Pingback: Come to Bethlehem and eat. | jenny's lark

  5. Go google Ed Woods. Or Cultures for Health is good too. I think it’s actually a lot better for you that store bought bread. Or at least that’s what I tell myself despite the fact it’s mostly white flour (organic) that I like to put jam on (usually homemade). Best wishes on your run!

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  6. Making bread is something that I’m really enjoying lately, is so relaxing! Right now I’m using the regular fresh yeast, I was afraid to not being able to manage it, but since even my mum has become a huge fan of sourdough as well, I’d like to try… your year in sourdough looks as an amazing and tasty adventure!

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  7. YUM. I’m about to leave for two months again but when I’m back in July, I’m trying this, then coming into the shop to pepper you with questions. And then hiking up and down the mountain 16 times b/c i will have eaten an entire loaf of bread….

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  8. Such a delicious post Wendy and so much care has been given to your beautiful bread & sourdoughs. I would gladly stand in a queue for either of these wonderful loaves in the morning. They look that good!

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  9. Your breads are gorgeous. I just read your post slowly and carefully, and I want to read it again. Seems like such an art to nurture a starter and follow through to the end resulting in these beautifully crusty breads. Very inspiring.

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  10. Oh dear. I love sourdough bread and I love baking my own. You have motivated me to start a new starter. I learned to bake bread in a wood oven as a small child. It was something we did every week. I forget about baking my own sometimes, but you have just gotten me inspired. My family loves when I bake our bread so this will be fun.

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  11. Wendy, I’ve always wanted to make a sourdough starter but I’m intimidated by keeping things alive (plants, children, etc). I love the beautiful photos you have here and all of the bread you’ve baked with your starter looks incredible. Nothing is better than homemade bread. I love all the links to other excellent posts you include here. Pinning so that I can use this as a future bread reference!

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  12. I tried making a sourdough starter once but it was too much for me to handle! I was so worried I was either going to kill it…or kill myself by letting it get moldy without realizing. I better learn how to feed things appropriately before my baby comes. Maybe I should give it all another shot because your bread looks so delicious!

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    • Definitely give it another shot. I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick from sourdough… or any fermented food for that matter. It’s lovely to have around for a few days for toast with jam and toasted tuna melts, oh and fried egg sandwiches- maybe I need to make some more this weekend!

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    • You know sometimes it’s about timing. I had that experience recently. It was a pretty familiar topic on juicing but all of the sudden it clicked and I was like- hey I can do this. cheers!

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  13. I really like the idea of sourdough pizza – your post are really tickle me to start baking on a serious level, but I know better than so. I love toasted or grilled sourdough bread.
    Beautiful post – as always and the photos …. just so fantastic.

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    • I’m about to knock out some more pizza on the grill. Really it deserves its own post. We’ve been so busy with the garden, animals and store- not a lot of posting about anything. But I’m still here:) xx wendy

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  14. I never thought to make a sour dough inside of a dutch oven. Cool idea! I love sour dough breads and you have made so many lovely loaves. What do you do with your little baby starter if you go on holiday or something? Take Care, BAM

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    • It needs far less care than anything else in our household! I will feed it for days at a time and then nothing for a month or two and it gets sad, lonely and needs extra TLC before I use it again. But really it’s quite hardy. Using it once every week or two is ideal but not always practical.

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  15. I would love to have a sourdough starter living in my refrigerator but alas I travel too much. I have heard of people traveling with a little of their starter but….. 🙂

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    • I’m happy you feel inspired… always the first step. I can’t wait to make pizza on the grill again. The high temp and hot stone cooks up a crisp crust that I just can’t get in my oven.

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  16. Pingback: Shakshuka- baked eggs, tomato and goodness « Chez Chloé

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