Are you ready to learn how to make Sourdough Bread and Starter? But before that, let’s see what we know and what we can grasp about them.
Sourdough bread is a slow-fermented traditional bread that dates back to 3000 BC in ancient Egypt. It is recently becoming more popular because more and more people are becoming aware of their health benefits.
Moreover, sourdough is known for its being tangy in flavor, with a chewy texture and crisp, crackly crust.
Furthermore, the Sourdough Starter is a fermented mix of flour and natural yeasts that help this bread rise. This sourdough starter is what makes this bread a healthier alternative from other regular bread. Let’s learn a little more about the Sourdough bread and starter.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread
So, what makes the sourdough bread better than the other bread?
There have been studies proving its health benefits. Below are some of them:
- Sourdough bread contains lactic acid which neutralizes levels of phytates because it lowers the pH of the bread. Phytates are antinutrients that bind to minerals and reduce the body’s ability to absorb them. Thus, the sourdough bread has a higher level of available minerals and up to 62% less phytic acid than conventional bread.
- Sourdough is also prebiotic which feeds the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system that keeps the gut healthy. Furthermore, it improves digestion by increasing the availability of nutrients.
- The bread is more digestible because the fermentation process breaks some of the gluten down. Thus, people who struggle to digest gluten can have this bread. However, someone who has coeliac disease should be cautious because the sourdough still contains Gliadin. Gliadin is the part of the wheat protein that affects people with coeliac.
- Due to the sourdough fermentation, the Glycemic Index (GI) of sourdough bread is reduced. It, therefore, slows down the speed at which sugars get in the bloodstream, thus, it has a better effect on blood sugar and insulin levels than other bread.
- Due to Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) in sourdough, the bread has higher levels of antioxidants, lunasin (the cancer-preventive polypeptide), and some anti-allergic substances that may help in the treatment of auto-immune diseases.
- Because of its high fiber content and low GI which makes one feel full longer and cuts back cravings, sourdough bread also has positive impacts on weight loss.
Let’s Make Sourdough Starter
Before making sourdough bread, you’ll have to start with a sourdough starter. This is what makes the bread extra special than the other regular bread that uses commercial yeast.
To make a sourdough starter is very simple but it will need some patience because this process will last 6 days and maybe more.
Furthermore, besides sourdough bread, the starter can also be used in pizza bread, buns, biscuits, other bread, and even pancakes. There are a whole lot more where you can use it instead of using the regular yeast.
Let’s get started with making the sourdough starter.
- Clean jar or any container (enough to contain at least 1L). With or without cover. Preferably (but not necessary) clear so you can easily see what’s happening to your starter.
- Kitchen weighing scale or measuring cups and spoons
- Cloth or plastic wrap to cover the jar if the jar doesn’t have its own cover.
- Kitchen thermometer (optional)
Ingredients for Day 1 up to Day 6
- 120 grams (½ cup) filtered water
- 120 grams (1 cup) whole grain flour or your choice of flour.
- “Wild Yeast” (found in the air around us)
To start, Get ready with filtered water, flour, and “wild yeast”.
You will also need a clean, at least 1 L mason jar or any jar/container. And of course your measuring tools. Nevertheless, if you have the kitchen weighing scale, that would be the best to use.
The flour can be whole grain, whole wheat, rye, or all-purpose flour. However, whole grain flour has a natural wild bacteria that will help with the fermentation process.
- Measure filtered water and flour.
- In a jar, mix the two into a thick paste with a fork, spoon, or spatula until fully incorporated.
- Cover the top but not tight. No need to screw the lid. May cover with plastic wrap with a rubber band, with a towel, or just place something on the top.
- Place in a warm place for 24 hours.
You will see some bubbles and smells soury sweet.
- Get ½ cup starter from the jar and place it in another jar (keep the remaining starter in another clean container as discard and can be used in another recipe) and clean up the first jar.
- Add feed with ½ c water and 1 cup flour (You may continue using the same flour or shift to white bread flour or other white flour.)
- Mix well until became pasty and well incorporated.
- Place the mixture / freshly fed starter back into the cleaned jar. Leave back in a warm place for 24 hours.
The starter is bubbling and there is a slide mark in the jar which shows that the starter expanded and slides down. It means that the starter reached its peak and needs to be fed again.
- This time, feed the starter 2x with 12 or more hours apart.
- Do the feeding the same way as in day 2
- On the 12th hour. Repeat feeding.
*Remember to keep all the discards in a container to use up later in other recipes.
This is after 12 hours from the last feeding.
In case the starter didn’t rise up that well, let it stay a couple more hours until it rises and dropped.
- Do the same feeding 2x
It should double in size this time after 12 hours.
You may put a mark/line on the jar before leaving it so you’ll know how much the starter rises.
In case the starter didn’t rise up that well or doesn’t reach its peak and there is no mark of sliding down, skip feeding. It means the starter is not yet “hungry”. Leave it for a few more hours until it peaks.
- Check if it reached its peak (again, there is a mark that it slid down), that means the starter is hungry again.
- Feed again the same way. (12 hours interval or more hours depends if it reached its peak)
- Put a mark/line on the jar before leaving it so you’ll know how much the starter rises.
- Make sure it peaked and slid down.
- For the final feeding, use ⅓ cup starter with ½ cup water and 1 cup flour. (mark the jar)
- The starter should double in size within 4 to 6 hours.
- When it doubled in size and reached its peak, make a float test: Get a teaspoonful of starter and place on the water and it should be floating. Then, your starter is ready for your sourdough bread.
- For the leftover starter(starter that was left behind after using a part of it for sourdough bread), it can be kept in the refrigerator and make sure to feed it once a week to be able to use it for your next sourdough bread.
- For the discarded starter (the left out starter and not fed), you can keep them in a separate container and refrigerate. It can be used for other recipes.
- On feeding – there are times a 12-hour interval is too short. Make sure the starter reached its peak and then deflated down again (there is a slide mark on the jar). That’s when it’s time the starter should be fed again. You can skip feeding at night if it looks like the starter is still rising to its peak.
- In colder environments, the process may take longer than 6 days. It can reach up to 12 days. Find a warmer area in your kitchen but never in direct sunlight. If possible have a kitchen thermometer to make sure it is over 65ºF. Preferably 70 to 80ºF
- If the flour is not enough because it takes longer than 6 days, just refrigerate it for a few days to see if it can still get going.
- The smell of the sourdough starter should be sweet and tangy. If it smells bad, the jar may be unclean or you have introduced some bad bacteria in it. Start again.
- If there is some mold or discoloration on the surface of the starter, it could be contaminated. Scrape the top off if it is just on the surface.
- There may be some liquid at the top of the starter, don’t be alarmed. It’s a good sign that the starter is hungry. You can stir it in or pour out the water.
- You can divide the amount of ingredients into half to create a lesser starter.
The Sourdough Bread Recipe
Now you know how to make the Sourdough Starter. Let’s jump in and be ready to make your Sourdough Bread.
We will not need any bread machine nor mixer as this bread doesn’t require any kneading. It is best if the ingredients are weighed. But if you are comfortable using your measuring cups and spoons, or don’t have a weighing scale, it is alright to do the alternatives.
- 90 grams (⅓ cup) Sourdough Starter
- 380grams (1 ⅔ cups ) Water
- 500 grams (4 cups) Bread Flour or All-Purpose Flour
- 10 grams (2 tsp) fine sea salt
- Extra flour for dusting
- Your choice of seeds for flavoring: fennel seeds, anise seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, nigella seeds, etc. (optional, but tasty)
- Bowls or colanders for proofing
- Covering for the bowls such as plastic wraps or towel
- Pastry scraper
- Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pots with lids
- A serrated knife or any sharp knife
- Make sure the sourdough starter is active. The starter has been fed 6-10 hours before mixing the dough and placed on the counter/warm area of your kitchen. But if the starter is in the refrigerator and has been fed for the last 6 or 7 days, it is alright to use it straight from the jar, cold, and without feeding.
- Measure all the ingredients. In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. In another bowl, mix together the starter and water until milky. Include ½ tsp to 1 tsp of seeds or a combination of seeds here if you prefer.
- Pour the starter – water mixture into the flour-salt mixture and blend well with the wooden spoon or mash with your hand until well blended. Cover bowl with the dough with plastic wrap or a clean, damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Work on the dough by doing the stretch and fold. Start with dipping your hand in clean water so the dough will not stick to your fingers. Grab one side of the dough and stretch or pull it upward and place the end on top of the dough. Do the stretch and fold technique repeatedly for 20-30 secs turning the bowl clockwise or until the dough feels firm. Flip over and cover again and let it rest for another 15 to 30 minutes then do the stretch and fold again.
- Cover the bowl with the dough with plastic wrap or a clean damp kitchen towel. Leave on a counter and let rise (proof) which can be from 3 to 12 hours depending on the temperature of the environment and the ingredients. (During summer, proofing time can be 3-6 hours at 75-85ºF. While at wintertime, it will take about 8-12 hours at 65-70ºF).
- Check the dough after the needed proof. At this time, the dough has bulked in size but not doubled (unlike the non-sourdough bread). To test when it’s ready, poke the dough with your finger (finger is dusted with flour) and if the indentation remains, the dough is ready.
- You will work on this dough on a floured top and “shape” it. You may use any flour like rice flour or any white flour, whichever works best for you to avoid the dough being sticky. You will use the scraper, too, to carefully scoop and lift the dough and tuck it in to shape the dough.
- To shape, place the dough on the floured board. Flip the dough over. Grab one side of the dough, pull it up, and fold it up to the middle. Next, grab the opposite side, pull it up and fold in the middle. Grab the side that wasn’t pulled yet and do the same. Do the same on the opposite side.
- With the use of your hand and other hand holding the scraper, flip the dough quickly so that the tucked side is now underneath. Shape the dough further with both of your hands cupped on the dough while gently rotating the dough and become round. Check this tutorial for shaping techniques.
- After shaping, the dough needs to rise again. Prepare a bowl lined with linen dusted with flour. You can also use a proofing basket, the seam of the dough side up. Or lined with parchment paper seam side down. Carefully lift and place the dough with your hand and with the help of the scraper on the other hand to keep the shape.
- Powder the top of the dough with some flour and the sides of the bowl as well. You may add seeds as a topping but this is optional. Cover and place in the refrigerator and let rise for another 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 500ºF along with the dutch oven or any heavy-bottomed pots with lids.
- To bake the dough, carefully remove the heated dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. Lift the dough by flipping or by lifting using the parchment paper and carefully place in the preheated dutch oven, seam side down.
- Score the surface of the dough quickly with the knife or a lame around 1 inch deep at 45º angle. You can do one stroke, a couple, or a hashtag stroke. Put the lid on and place inside the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes in 500ºF. It should be light golden in color and already puffed.
- Remove the lid, lower the heat to 450ºF. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the loaf is deep golden brown and crisp.
- Remove from the oven, transfer the bread onto the wire rack and let it cool down to room temperature before slicing.
You have just made your first Sourdough Bread.
There are other Sourdough recipes out there and most of them have their own way with their recipe. Whether the way the bread was baked the same way or not, no Sourdough bread is the same. This is because of the ‘wild yeast” present in the surroundings, the environment/weather, the fermentation process, and the proofing.
Either way, the end result depends on your personal touch with the timing and method you have developed over time as well as your patience.
Use this recipe as your jump-start or guide. If you have enjoyed and continued making this bread, you will, in time, develop your own technique and timing.
- To store, you can wrap the bread with a clean kitchen towel for up to 2 days to keep the crispness of the crust. Or in a paper bag for up to 3 days. You can also place it in a zip lock bag to keep it moist longer. Slice the bread and freeze for up to 2 months.
- If the dutch oven is not available, you may use a sheet pan covered with a metal bowl or a baking pan with a bowl that can fit on it as a cover. The bread might be flatter though but it still works. You may lower the temperature to 450ºF to begin and bake 25-30 minutes covered and 5-8 minutes uncovered. The internal temperature should be 204-208ºF.
- Usually, dutch ovens can handle 500ºF. If not or not sure, especially when using other means, 450ºF will be enough. Some clay bread baker cracks at 500ºF and plastic handle melt or crack.
- If the dough seems runny, most probably it is over-proofed or incorrectly measured the flour and water. An over-proofed dough is flat and runny with plenty of air bubbles at the top. It may have reached its peak and gone down. It also breaks apart when stretched. Take note of the rising time and adjust or shorten it next time. Take note of the current weather as it also affects the proofing time. Summer, when the weather is hot, shortens the proofing time.
- When measuring with a weighing scale, don’t forget to not include the weight of the bowls. When measuring the flour, do not include the seeds or any add ons.
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