Sourdough Starter and Bread

8,722

163

29

Introduction: Sourdough Starter and Bread

About: Hi, I'm Éva from Hungary. I love baking, cooking, and gardening, not to mention the perfect combination: cooking using fruits and veggies from our garden. I often experiment with new ingredients and try to use…

Hello everyone,

If someone had told me a couple of months ago that there will be a shortage of yeast, I would not have believed it. It actually became a reality a couple of weeks ago. People were rushing to supermarkets shopping like crazy for months’ supply of flour and yeast. It’s no wonder considering the fact that Lombardy, Italy, the first epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, is only a 10 - 12 hours pleasant drive from here. Since nobody knew what to expect, people started to get prepared for a possible long-lasting isolation.

I bake regularly, therefore I constantly keep a few kilos of flour in the pantry, but when I saw the news about supermarket shelves getting empty, I thought it is time to get my own supplies. I was in time for flour, but not for yeast. I have a few sachets of active dry yeast at home but I knew that it would not last very long, more so as I was expecting a more intense consumption than usual, with schools closing down and all my kids staying at home.

Though here - luckily - the number of known infections has been relatively low so far, I got more and more careful as the days went by, I tried to avoid food that I thought may not be safe to eat, like store – sliced hams, other meat products and also bread and rolls. After all, who knows who touched them with not so clean hands.

So, with just my normal stock of dried yeast on hand, and a strong intention to make my own bread it was quite straightforward that I’ll have to start making my own sourdough starter. To be honest, this was not a frightening thought for me, as I find baking bread fun. I have been baking bread for years once in a while. In the past years I normally used yeast to rise the dough, because it’s very convenient, but I always admired the fact that you only need 3 ingredients to make a gorgeous bread: flour, salt and water. As I recall I made starter from scratch maybe three times previously, but soon my enthusiasm dwindled. It’s not that I did not enjoy it, but there was always something more important and my poor starter ended its career in the dustbin after a while.

In order to refresh my knowledge I watched a number of videos, read articles mostly on the Internet on how to make starter and sourdough bread and then I plunged into the adventure. This is the third loaf I made and I am not saying that I am at the end of the journey, but I got to the point of making a delicious bread and I have had a lot of fun doing it.

I am going to guide you through the steps to make your own starter and the bread itself. I need to warn you though that this is going to be a long Instructable and the project to make takes more than a week (7-10 days to make the starter, 1 – 1.5 days to make the bread). But it’s like 95% waiting, the actual work to be done is a maximum 10 minutes (with preparation) in the starter-making period and a maximum of 1.5 hours when making the bread. Don’t rush it, many of us have all the time in the world, including me.

Step 1: You’ll Need

Unlike usually, I am not giving you exact measurements here, but I promise that the amounts given will certainly be enough to make one 500 g loaf bread and the stock starter and I won’t be revealing any secret ingredient in the middle of the recipe.

Flour – 1.5 kgs (bread flour if possible, even better if you use 1.2 kg bread flour and 0.3 kg whole grain wheat flour or rye flour)

Water

Salt

(plus 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil to put into the rising bowl)

Tools:

for the starter:

  • digital scale
  • clean jars with lid or plastic boxes
  • spoons

for the bread:

  • stand mixer
  • mixing bowl
  • rising bowl (banneton)
  • sharp knife (or a bread lame)
  • parchment paper
  • sieve
  • brush
  • oven
  • baking sheet

Step 2: Starter

First of all, what is a starter? The starter is the rising agent of the bread, technically a piece of dough that could be runny but also firmer that you reserve from the previous baking. You can ask for it from your neighbor or your baker, but you might as well make your starter – as you will see it - by mixing flour and water in the same ratio. It than transforms into a natural culture with the help of lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast that is all around us, on your hands and also in the air. The more you bake using yeast the larger number of them can be found in your kitchen, therefore the less time it will take you to arrive at a strong starter.

Let’s start!

Step 3: Day 1.

Measure

  • 25 g bread flour,
  • 25 g whole grain wheat flour and
  • 50 g lukewarm tap water

into a clean jar and mix thoroughly. Place the lid on the jar loosely. Do not seal it because we need the starter to contact with the air in the kitchen. Leave it at room temperature. If it is cold in the kitchen, you may wrap the sides and the bottom of the jar into a kitchen towel. Wait for 24 hours.

Step 4: Day 2.

24 hours passed. This period is about patience, you have to wait until bubbles appear on the surface of the starter. It happens a lot faster in an environment where there is a bigger concentration of wild yeast in the air due to regular baking.

As you see in the photos, not much happened since the day before.

Add 50 g flour, 50 g water, mix, cover with a lid. Leave it to rest.

Step 5: Day 3 – 5.

The first photo was taken 48 hours after I started. You can see that there is a dramatic change, there are lots of bubbles on the surface of the starter, it is almost foamy. It has a sour smell. This is the time when we start feeding the starter and get acquainted with a new term, feeding.

(If you can see a few bubbles, but not many, repeat the process of day 2, and feed a day later.)

Feeding: take a new, clean jar, measure

  • 50 g of the starter*,
  • 50 g flour (preferably half and half bread and whole grain wheat) and
  • 50 g lukewarm water

mix, loosely cover, let stand.

I repeated this process every day until day 5.

*I collected the rest in a jar in the fridge and used it for baking flatbread.

Step 6: Day 6-7.

I had to feed the starter twice a day (in the morning and in the evening) on days 6 – 7. as fermentation speeded up. By this time my starter was really strong* full of bubbles with a pleasant acidic smell. In the last pictures you can see how much increases in volume after feeding, you can also see the bubbles.

** If you are not a regular baker, or it is cooler in your kitchen, you may need 2-3 more days.

Step 7: Sourdough Bread Schedule

Now we are at the point when we can start making the bread itself. We cared for the starter for 7-10 days and by now it should be ready to help your bread rise beautifully. It is time to knead, shape and bake your bread. I thought a simplified timeline would help you figure out how to fit the process into your day, please find attached.

Step 8: Refreshing the Starter

Now we will be using the starter that we were feeding for days, but we need to activate it even more, and we also have to increase its quantity a bit so that we will have enough for the bread and we will be able to save a batch for our next baking (this is the so called stock starter). It is good to know that you won’t have to start all over again.

Where to store the starter?

If you bake at least every other day, then you can keep the starter at room temperature and keep feeding it twice a day.

Otherwise, keep the stock starter in the fridge and you can almost forget about it until the next baking. Almost, as the starter does not die in the fridge (how lucky we are) just gets hibernated, so a little care is needed. Once or twice a week take it out of the fridge, let it come up to room temperature (1-3 hours) and feed as described in step 5., leave it on the counter for 30 minutes, then secure the lid and put it back into the fridge. It will be sitting there happily until the next feeding time.

When you are in the baking mood, remove the stock starter from the fridge, let it warm to room temperature.

Refresh the stock starter to arrive at a fresh starter, it will be stronger and taste more delicate, less acidic.

Refreshing is a very similar process to feeding, but we are using different quantities. When feeding, we mixed the starter with flour and water in 1:1:1 ratio, now we take 1 unit starter and add 2 units flour and 2 units lukewarm water. More food means happier and more active sourdough starter and that is exactly what we need to raise the dough.

Method:

Measure into a clean jar 50 g starter, 100 g flour and 100 g water, mix well and let it sit – loosely covered with a lid for 8 – 12 hours.

(I started with 80 grams of water, but definitely needed that 20 grams more.)

You can compare pics 9 and 10 to see how drastic change occurs in the volume and the fluffyness of the starter. In the last two photos you can see the structure formed by glutene.

Step 9: Autolyse

Gather the ingredients of the bread:

500 g bread flour

340 g water (lukewarm, as usual)

100 g fresh starter

15 g salt

Autolyse is a fancy word for combining the flour and the water followed by a 30-60 minutes rest period. As to my understanding it helps gluten to develop and as a result, it is easier to work the dough. If you are craving for a more scientific explanation, you may check it out here: https://bakerpedia.com/processes/autolyse/

In practice:

Put 500 g flour into the mixing bowl, add 340 g water, combine. Let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

Step 10: Combine the Dough

Add the fresh starter to the flour and water mixture, equip your stand mixer with a dough hook and start kneading. I kneaded the dough at speed 2 for two times 3 minutes with a one minute break in between.

At this point add salt. (Salt may kill yeast so better let the yeast work itself into the dough first and add salt at a later.) Knead for another 2-3 minutes. I switched to speed 4 for about 30 seconds.

You can see in the pictures that the dough hook gradually cleaned the side of the bowl.

How do you know that the dough is ready? By doing the gluten test, take a bit of the dough between two fingers and lift it. you should be able to pull it easily without the dough tearing.

Step 11: Kneading

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and do some more kneading. It is good for the dough and good for you. Therapeutic, really. You can work all your anger into the dough.

How to knead by hand? One method is shown in one of my previous Instructables, in a short video in step 2. https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Ultimate-Swe...

The other is even more fun. Just smash the dough against the counter and fold. Repeat.

When the dough is not sticking to your hand anymore, it is ready. Form it into a ball, transfer it into a lightly oiled rising ball, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 45 minutes.

Step 12: Folding

From here on, we are working on the dough to incorporate as much air as possible, therefore you must treat it very gently. After the 45 minutes rest pull it into a rectangle then fold from the short side like an envelope (three – fold. Then turn it 90 degrees (pic. 5.) so it is the short side again close to you. Grab the end and roll it. Then put it back into the ball and let it rest for another 45 minutes.

Repeat the folding process two more times with 45 minutes rest period in between and give the dough a longer rest period (60 – 90 minutes after the third folding).

Step 13: Shaping the Dough

The time has come to shape the dough, for the last time, transfer it to the countertop.

With your fingertips, gently flatten the dough into a rectangle (pic.2.).

Roll the dough from the shorter side (pic.3.).

Turn the dough 90 degrees (pic.5. - see the huge bubble?) and repeat the process from the other side: gently flatten the dough and roll it (pic.6.).

Tighten the surface of the dough by pushing a scraper underneath the dough on the opposite side as to where you are standing and pull it towards you (pic. 7.) then turn the dough. If you want an oval bread, tighten the dough from two opposite sides and not round the bread. (pic.8.)

Place a kitchen towel into the banneton you are using, dust it generously with flour. In the absence of a proofing basket, you may use a not too large plastic bowl with kitchen towel, the idea is to support the sides of your bread.

Place the dough inside with the bottom facing up, cover loosely. Put it into the fridge for overnight, at least 14 hours, at 8 Celsius.

Step 14:

Remove the dough from the fridge.

Its volume has grown somewhat, but do not expect a considerable growth. There will be bubbles, but the real growth in volume will take place in the oven.

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature it can reach (mine 250 Celsius, no fan) with the baking tray inside.

Place a piece of parchment paper and a cutting board on top of the banneton (pic.2.) and turn it upside down. Gently remove the kitchen towel.

If you find lumps of flour on the top of the dough, remove it with a brush (pic.4.), (you may need to use a wet brush, or spray some water on to get rid of excess flour), then dust it lightly evenly with flour (pic.6.) using a sieve. Dusting will help your pattern stand out.

Scoring has a practical aspect, the dough will rise (hopefully, more or less 😊) along the cuts. Always use a sharp blade for scoring bread. I have always made one or two deeper cuts, but this was the first time I tried a little decoration scoring after watching those mesmerizing bread scoring videos on the Internet.

Step 15: The Outcome

When the oven reached 250 Celsius, take the baking tray out and slide the bread on top of the parchment paper onto it and put it in the oven. Throw 15-20 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven (or put a pan with boiling water) to provide steamy environment. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 220 Celsius and bake for another 20 minutes or so depending on your oven. Bake until golden brown. You know that it is ready when you hear a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

Let it cool on a rack and wait at least an hour before cutting it.

Baking Speed Challenge

First Prize in the
Baking Speed Challenge

1 Person Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Summer Fun: Student Design Challenge

    Summer Fun: Student Design Challenge
  • Fandom Contest

    Fandom Contest
  • Maps Challenge

    Maps Challenge

29 Comments

0
chuckoutofdate
chuckoutofdate

1 year ago

Not only was this the absolute best bread I've ever made, it is likely the best bread I have ever eaten. There is a real danger of me finishing the loaf by myself this afternoon! Thanks for your excellent instructions!

IMG_7626.JPG
0
Momos75
Momos75

Reply 1 year ago

I am happy to hear it, your loaf looks great!

0
maurlusch
maurlusch

Question 1 year ago on Step 3

How can I convert grams to a US measurement (cup measurements) to make this work?

0
jchesnut1973
jchesnut1973

Answer 1 year ago

Really, you can buy a scale for less than $20 that will run on 2 AA batteries for a year. It is both faster and more reliable than cup measures - that is measuring when flour by volume the amount you 'get' varies more than if you weigh it each time.. ALSO when I use my scale just about the only things that get dirty are the bowl I weigh into and the spatula I am stirring with. The scale is particularly excellent for things like honey.
You just hit the 'zero button' and add your ingredient until you get enough,then repeat for the next one. It is how my great-grandmother cooked her whole life (except her scale had brass weights).

0
Artemis11235
Artemis11235

Answer 1 year ago

In order to convert weight to volume, you need to know the density of your ingredient.
Density is how much a particular volume of the ingredient weighs, and people have put this helpful information online for those of us without kitchen scales.

This table from King Arthur Flour has the densities for many common baking ingredients: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/ingredient-weight-chart
From this chart, we can see that 1 cup of all purpose flour weighs 120 grams. Bread flour is the same, 120 grams per 1 cup.

So we need to change that 120g per 1 cup to 25g per ??? cup. Here's where math comes in handy.

25g is a fraction (a percentage) of 120g. If we can figure out what the fraction (percentage) is, we can apply it to the volume of 1 cup.

25 divided by 120 is 0.2083 <-- We can round that down to an even 0.20, or 20%, or 1/5 (one fifth) <-- these all mean the same thing. So in order to get 25g of flour using your measuring cups and spoons, you need 20% by volume of 1 cup.

Cups divide easily into quarter cups, but not fifth cups - easier to do it with tablespoons. There's 16 tablespoons in a cup.
16 x 1/5, or
16 x 0.2 (same thing) gives you 3.2 tablespoons of flour.

Tablespoons don't divide easily into anything but teaspoons, so let's keep going -
3 tablespoons plus 0.2 tablespoons.
0.2 tablespoons is 0.6 teaspoons (I got that by multiplying the 0.2 by 3, 3 being the number of teaspoons in a tablespoon).
So a little over half a teaspoon, which we could call a heaping half teaspoon.

And our final answer is: 25g of bread flour or all-purpose flour is 3 Tbsp + 1 heaping half tsp.

0
Momos75
Momos75

Reply 1 year ago

That was really thorough, Thank you. Still, are you sure about the final answer? “ 25g of bread flour or all-purpose flour is 3 Tbsp + 1 heaping half tsp“? If I take a tablespoon of bread flour and measure it, I get weights ranging between 13-17 grams. But I might misunderstand something.

0
Momos75
Momos75

Answer 1 year ago

Something has been on my mind ever since I sent my reply. I would suggest to use a digital scale if it is an option as it gives you more accurate measurements. Good luck anyway!

0
handosmed
handosmed

Question 1 year ago on Step 5

From what day on can I collect the starter to bake flatbread and how to bake it?

0
Momos75
Momos75

Answer 1 year ago

Hello, from the first day you start feeding and discarding. You can find the recipe I use here: https://www.instructables.com/id/L%C3%A1ngos-Deep-Fried-Flatbread/ When adding the starter, measure it and calculate it as half flour half water and decrease the quantities in the attached recipe accordingly. As this discarded starter is not mature yet, just on the way, so think about it as a flour and water mixture and not something that is going to help the dough rise ie. you need to add the yeast.

0
etorg
etorg

1 year ago

Are you discarding any of the starter in day one through 3. The volumes of additional flour would seem to outgrow your jar. My attempt has Very few bubbles but lots of mass using just bread flour. Thanks for the inpsiration.

0
Momos75
Momos75

Reply 1 year ago

Actually I started feeding (and discarding part of the starter) on day 3, 48 hours after starting the process. Till then, I had two days’, that is 200 g material altogether in the jar that did fit in the jar I used. Mine started to get really bubbly and foamy the reason may be that I bake a lot therefore there must be more wild yeast in the air that kicks in the process. Keep up, it should work. If it is cold in your kitchen you may wrap the jar into a kitchen towel or put it in the oven (turned off!) in the company of a pot filled with 40-45 degrees C water, to give it a boost.

0
etorg
etorg

Reply 1 year ago

Dramatic changes when I split the starter day 4. I used full bread flour til yesterday. The left container began some whole meal flour and tight remained pure bread flour. I would seem the wild yeast content is critical in faster results. Than you again and for the Langos recipe. Looks delicious.

73AF5322-5984-4A1F-A27A-EFA7410C058B.jpeg
0
etorg
etorg

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks I’m on day 4 and finally started getting enough bubbles to feeding. So if the process is slow and your repeating day 2 due to a lack of wild yeast in the air maybe it’s necessary to discard some. My pint jar would have overflowed... I’d like to use the discard for some naan bread. Is this possible with each day you discard on days 3 through 7

0
Momos75
Momos75

Reply 1 year ago

That's nice to hear! :-)
I hate to discard these parts of the starter, and yes it is definitely possible to bake it into something (you can collect a few days' discard in the fridge.
I used it to make deep fried flatbread https://www.instructables.com/id/L%C3%A1ngos-Deep-Fried-Flatbread/
and cracker. For rhe cracker I just spread it on a parchment paper in a thin layer, sprinkled with salt sesame seeds and cumin and baked it at 150 C in the oven.
One more thing: If your starter got bubbly on the 4th day, it indicates that it is likely that will not be ready - strong enough - on the 8th day for baking. If I were you I would keep feeding for 2-3 more days, feeding twice on the last few days.

IMG_8591.jpg
0
DonnH1
DonnH1

1 year ago

This was a really complete Instructable. One thing, though, came to mind when looking at the final image. How can you reduce the size of the holes in the finished loaf? Can you work the dough some more and knock it down? That seems to do the trick on regular bread loaves.

0
RyanW132
RyanW132

Reply 1 year ago

I make sourdough bread all of the time. My suggestion is to not do the folding that Momos75 put in the instructions and also not to let the dough rest in the refrigerator. As she mentioned, the folding is why the large holes are present, and the refrigeration makes the rest of the bread a little dense.

I routinely start my bread in the evening and let it rise in a lightly covered, oiled bowl overnight, at least 12 hours (unrefrigerated). After that I shape the dough into loaves and let them rise (again at room temperature) for about 4 more hours (rising times, particularly the second rise may need to be adjusted if your kitchen is particularly warm or cold). This results in a nice, even, not too dense texture.

I have experimented with an extra 24-48 hour rest in the refrigerator (in addition to the rise times I have mentioned above) but it always is more dense (but more sour!). The next time I do this I will wait until after the second rise, after it is formed into the loaves and then refrigerate.

Also, the best way that I have found to bake sourdough is inside a covered cast iron dutch oven. I bake at 450 deg F. I preheat the dutch oven and lid for about an hour then I put the shaped loaf into the covered dutch oven for 15 minutes then I uncover it and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The dutch oven traps the steam inside making a beautiful golden, chewy crust.

P.S. Beautiful Scoring, Momos75!

0
DonnH1
DonnH1

Reply 1 year ago

Wow, great ideas. Thanks.

0
Momos75
Momos75

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you. I guess everyone has to find her own ways. I experimented with longer rising time at room temperature but the bread lost its shape, flattened out practically when I removed it from the banetton. Maybe it was too warm in the house at that time.

0
RyanW132
RyanW132

Reply 1 year ago

Now that you mention it, I use 40 grams less water than you do for 500 grams of flour. I guess that accounts for your need to refrigerate and my need to leave at room temperature. I may have to experiment with a wetter dough if I want to try I longer rest in the refrigerator.

Thanks