I've been doing research on the benefits of sourdough bread and breadmaking with wild yeast versus commercial yeast. I could talk about it here, but know you can get informed from much more knowledgeable sources than me. Just google "wild yeast," "sourdough starter," "health benefits of sourdough bread," or something along those lines. The (very boiled down) gist is that using wild yeast helps maintain nutrients that help aid digestion, thereby minimizing problems caused by gluten sensitivity and increasing the nutritional benefit of grains.
For the past few weeks I've been working on establishing my starter. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but finally got a successful starter going. I'm still learning the intricacies of sourdough and have a lot to learn, but today I DID IT! My first successful sourdough bread that I want to devour.
I won't go into the details of creating and maintaining my sourdough starter here (I may write another post about it), but here is how I made the first sourdough bread that I actually wrote home about!
I don't have pictures of my first few steps because I was on the clock with Henry's patience, but I promise I have pictures below.
First, I took my sourdough starter and mixed it with a wooden spoon into 2 cups of water in the bowl of my standing mixer. I stirred it pretty vigorously until it was all combined. (I took a couple minutes to feed my starter before continuing. Because I had a little less starter remaining than my normal 4 oz, I just fed it with slightly less flour and water. By the next feed in the morning, I was back to my regular 4 oz starter-4 oz flour-4 oz water feed).
Once my starter was fed, I mixed in 3 cups of bread flour with the same wooden spoon. Again, mixing until well combined. Then one more cup of water and the salt (I've read different things about letting your dough sit for a while before adding the salt, but it didn't seem to affect mine. Maybe next time I will try waiting and see if there is a different result). Lastly, I added 3 cups of whole wheat flour and had my husband stir it while I held Henry (it was getting tough to mix by hand at this point. Next time I may try using my mixer, but I stuck with the wooden spoon throughout). Here's what it looked like at this point:
Then I placed a kitchen towel over the bowl and left it to rise. I let it rise for three and a half hours like this (from 6:15pm to 9:45pm), and then I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to continue rising overnight.
Henry and I were up early (we're both a little under the weather and we were excited to check on our bread). So, at 6am we took the bowl out of the refrigerator, placed it in a greased bowl for it's second rise.
We left it on the counter with a kitchen towel covering it for approximately 30 minutes (until 6:35am) and then put it in the refrigerator to continue rising while we napped. This time, I kept the towel on it instead of plastic wrap.
At 8:05am we took it out of the refrigerator and placed it (with the towel still on it) on the oven to continue rising while the oven and pot (lid on) preheated to 450 degrees.
Thirty minutes later (8:35am), we sprinkled some cornmeal on the bottom of our heated pot, put the dough in the pot, covered it with the lid, and baked for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I removed the lid and baked the bread for 15 more minutes.
After removing the bread from the oven, I placed the lid back on the pot and let it sit until just before 10am. At this point, the lid had condensation on it. I removed the lid and the bread and set it on a wire rack to cool. The reason I did this, is because I was looking for a slightly softer crust. If you want it crunchy and crispy, I would keep the lid off your bread.
I let the bread sit on the cooling rack for a few hours and then cut and tasted it around 3pm. After tasting it, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to try and keep it as fresh as possible.
I tried it with some homemade (not by me) jam, but prefer it plain (that's how good it was).
Sourdough bread is considered an art. It is a challenging process and it took me a few attempts. Just because I had success this time, doesn't mean I will next time (hopefully I will because this bread is good!). If you struggle, don't beat yourself up. Try to think of it as a learning process, and have faith that one day you will make that loaf of bread that you will have to call or write home about.
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 3 cups room temperature water
- 3 cups bread flour
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Cornmeal for dusting pot
- Pour 2 cups of water into a large mixing bowl.
- Stir 1 cup of starter into the water.
- Mix in 3 cups of bread flour.
- Mix in 1 cup of water and 2 teaspoons salt.
- Mix in 3 cups of whole wheat flour.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature for 3.5 hours.
- Remove towel, cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator and place dough in a greased bowl.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes and then return to refrigerator.
- Let rise for an hour and a half.
- Remove bowl, still covered, and place on oven.
- Place covered pot or dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
- After 30 minutes of preheating, sprinkle enough cornmeal to dust the bottom of your pot.
- Place the dough in the pot, recover with lid, and bake for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest in pot until slightly cooled (with lid on for a slightly softer crust or off for a crisper crust).
- Remove bread and place on wire rack to continue cooling.