The tangy flavor, crusty outside, soft and chewy inside of a loaf of sourdough bread can’t be compared to any other genre of bread, which is why sourdough stands alone. A hot, fresh loaf of sourdough sliced into thin, steaming pieces topped with cubes of butter entices even one who may not be hungry. Cooled, the bread makes delicious sandwiches for any filling or great toast with jam or to hold a BLT.
Sourdough begins from a starter, which is a method many bread products use to begin. Making a starter for some baked goods can be tricky, and can sometimes get out of control. But sourdough starter is simple to start, simple to maintain, and simple to end without waste. In short, making sourdough bread is easy and fun!
Many sourdough recipes call for yeast, but true sourdough contains no yeast. The starter itself becomes what is needed to make a rising, hearty loaf of sourdough bread.
To create a sourdough starter, just mix some water and flour in a pint jar, and cover the jar with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Set the jar outside. Every day, add a little flour and water until it smells right. If it grows mold, throw it out, and begin again. Typically, a sourdough starter will take three to four days, but it can also take up to a week. Plain, unbleached white flour works best for sourdough bread starter. Make sure you keep the starter at a soupy consistency as well.
Once the starter is a success, pour it into a big glass bowl. Start adding flour and water to your starter, maintaining the soupy consistency. Depending on how much bread you want to make, how many loaves or how big a loaf, add the flour and water until you reach the desired amount. Once you have what you think is enough, don’t forget to get your pint jar back out and fill it back up with starter, from your freshly mixed dough, again. If you forget, you’ll have to make a whole new starter!
The pint jar filled with the starter will keep in the refrigerator for a good while. If you leave the starter untouched in the fridge for a long time (a month or so), a black liquid may form on the top. This liquid is harmless and just needs to be skimmed off before the starter is used. However, if the starter forms any mold or retains any bad odor, it will need to be tossed and a new starter begun.
To your big glass bowl, add about one tablespoon of Himalayan salt and more flour. This is also the step in which you can play with your ingredients, in case you want to add sunflower seeds or sesame seeds or whatever else. You can also choose to move forward with wheat flour at this stage. Starters made with whole wheat flour tend to have soaking issues, leading to mold. But adding whole wheat flour into your mix at this point will turn out well. Sticking with plain white flour works, too, of course.
Mix the ingredients, adding as needed, until the consistency is right. Shape your loaf, and let it rise under a slightly moistened towel. Several hours later, or even the length of the day, bake in the oven at 350 degrees for just short of an hour. If the top is becoming too brown or too hard too quickly, covering the loaf during the bulk of the baking is advised.
Another option is building your starter day after day until it’s the amount you would want for making a loaf of bread. Adding the salt and possibly some additional flour and water would be the only steps necessary at that point. And, don’t forget, again, to retain some of the starter!
Eating soured foods is healthy for gut maintenance, and the longer you let the sourdough rise and set, the more the dough will sour and the stronger the flavor will be. Many times, grain consumption causes people to have pooch bellies, or muffin tops, but since sourdough bread is free of commercial yeast and fermented enough to produce gut-friendly flora, most people add to their health by making their own sourdough bread a regular part of their diets.