03 March 2016

Sourdough Bread Tips

Sourdough Bread Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

To me, all yeast doughs are "magical," but there's no real magic to sourdough. Just wild yeast and lactobacilli doing their thing in their own sweet time, it's more art than science on the baker's part. As they say, it isn't rocket surgery! 

I've received so many questions about sourdough that I thought it was time to write another post about it. Time to dispel the myths! Really, nearly everything I've ever read on the subject makes it seem way more complicated than it is. 

If you are an experienced sourdough bread baker, you might be having wonderful success with entirely different methods than mine. If so, just keep on doing what you're doing. But if you're new to sourdough bread (true sourdough bread made with a wild yeast starter and no added commercial yeast), this post might be just what you need.

Sourdough Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

First of all, here's How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. And it doesn't require you to invest in a fancy crock or imported flour. You don't have to wait until grapes are in season or until you remember to pick up some distilled water.

Just do it!

You don't have to wait until you buy a digital kitchen scale (though it is a wonderful thing to have for many things). People sending me questions have quoted experts who give extremely precise directions for making a starter. 

Not necessary!

And you don't have to discard huge amounts of your starter. People sending me questions have pointed me to experts who would have them regularly discarding starter--both while they're starting the starter and when they're using the starter.

Not necessary!

Now then, after a week or two, you have a nice bubbly starter. How do you keep it going? Do you have to get a babysitter for it when you go on vacation?

Not necessary!

Sourdough Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

Since I like to bake sourdough bread twice a week, I could probably just leave my starter on the counter; but I keep it in the refrigerator. If I'm not baking bread for a while, I have had the habit of taking it out and feeding it once a week as mentioned in my How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter post. But guess what?

Not necessary!

Once every three weeks would be good, but we had an incredibly long spell of heat and humidity that killed my interest in anything to do with the oven. And I totally ignored my little half-pint jar of starter for months as it gradually migrated to a back corner of the refrigerator. When I finally revived myself and remembered the starter, I was sure it would be past reviving.

Not true!

Sourdough Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sure, it had separated into a couple layers and looked a little down on its luck, but I thought I should at least give it a try before I tossed it and started over. Hey, if I could be revived, anything could! I just took out a couple teaspoons of it and put it into a 2-cup glass measure and started feeding it. When I'm baking regularly, it just takes two feedings; but I fed this next-to-dead starter twice a day for a few days (small amounts, with NO discarding) until it was bubbly.

It was just fine!

So I put 2 tablespoons of the revived starter into a half-pint jar to store in the refrigerator, and I put the rest in a 2-cup glass measure to feed it up as directed in the Sourdough Artisan Bread post. (I most often make the Sourdough Sandwich Bread because Mr. Delightful finds it fits the toaster better.) 

Maintaining Sourdough Starter / www.delightfulrepast.com

I should also mention that the two sample schedules in that post are just samples. You don't have to be that structured. Most days, I do first feeding in the morning, second feeding in the evening, stir up the dough in the morning, let it rise until doubled (which can vary, but right now is about 6 hours), then shape the loaf, left it rise until doubled (which can vary, but right now is about 3 hours) and bake.

You'll find your own rhythm! 

So I guess the moral of the story is: Just do it! Sourdough seems to have a mystique about it that some might enjoy but that holds people back from giving it a try.

Don't be discouraged if your first bakes aren't completely successful. It takes a while to know your starter and your dough.

Just do it! And let me know if you have any questions.

PS Here's my recipe for Sourdough English Muffins.

Sourdough Tips / www.delightfulrepast.com

58 comments:

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Well, I’m all for anticipation, but this much prep is a little like inseminating a cow to get a hamburger sometime in the future. I mean, no, no, I’M not inseminating the cow…um, haha – let’s just skip that example. I got as far as the digital scale, but then I stood on it, and now there are springs everywhere. You got a recipe for broiled springs? Spring(s) rolls maybe? Ah, ptooie, I’ve blown this comment already. Anyway, I’m mightily impressed with all the preparation, and like I say, anticipation is half the fun, but I think I’ll opt for a nice breadless PBJ sandwich… Pass the napkins, please.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

:D Ha! Thanks for the comparison to animal husbandry (and the clarification about your role, or lack thereof, in it) -- just the sort of myth I'm trying to bust!

Sue/the view from great island said...

You've demystified all this for me, I'm so excited ---- I'm fascinated by sourdough starters but they've always scared me off :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Don't be scared, Sue! I'm here for you!

Daniela said...

I'm so fond of every kind of bread, I'd love to live with bread and chocolate, it could be enough for me !
Can you imagine how I appreciate this recipe of yours, my dearest Jeanie ?!?

With neverending gratitude I wish you a most wonderful reminder of your week, my lovely lady,
sening big, dear hugs to you
dany

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Dany! For my tea this afternoon, I'll have a perfectly toasted slice of it with marmalade and a small pot of Earl Grey tea. Hugs to you!

Bernideen said...

I can envision you there in the kitchen with your apron and the smell of bread in the room! So glad you shared another award winning recipe with us!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Oh, Bernideen, you just painted one of my all-time favorite scenes! Is there a better smell in the whole world than baking bread? I think not!

Parsimonious Perfection said...

Jean, wonderful! Everyone in my house adores a lovely crusty sourdough...I will be saving this, especially for winter months when we enjoy lots of homemade soups! thank you for sharing!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, PP! Yes, soup and bread, that's all you need!

Sippity Sup said...

You're so beautifully dedicated to this art form. GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Greg, thank you! I just want everybody to be able to have good bread any time.

Angie Schneider said...

Never dump those extra starter...always use them in making sandwich loaf with a little bit of yeast..thanks for sharing, Jean!

Elaine @ foodbod said...

Great post! There's far too much written about sourdough that makes it sound mysterious and hard to master, I think you've done a great job of demystifying it :)
I feed my starter as and when I remember; I don't throw any away; I feed it sufficient to create the amount I need when I make a loaf; I pretty much chuck my loaves together, fold the dough regularly for a few hours, then leave it to prove before baking. Shebang! Job done :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Angie, I'm going to share some your site with some of my non-wheat friends. They'll really appreciate the tremendous array of different grains you use.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Elaine! So many people make more work of maintaining a sourdough starter than of keeping a pet!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Loved this post, Jean! I do think people fuss over the details instead of 'just doing it' and letting the art of sour dough emerge to pleasantly surprise you! I loved the cadence of your writing with 'not necessary!' punctuating your points. And I loved how you lovingly acquiesced the shape of the loaf to Mr Delightful's preference!

As always your photos are most inviting! All in all, simply delightful!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sue, thanks so much! Only you would notice these things! Wasn't sure about the "not necessary" lines, but wanted to try something a little different.

April J Harris said...

When we first started to visit San Francisco about ten years ago, I really didn't like sourdough bread but it really has grown on me and now I love it! I've never made my own though, although I have thought about it. Your post makes it sound much more do-able, Jean, and I'm relieved it's not as complicated as some of the folks out there would have us believe! Thank you so much for sharing this post with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop. Pinned and will share.

Anne's Attic - Design said...

Your bread looks so beautiful! Thank you for sharing it on SYC! :) Jo

Rue said...

Thank you so much, Jean! I've made bread before, but SD really intimidated me. I think I might actually try it now :)

xo,
rue

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

April, thank you. And thank you for sharing the post. I really want to encourage people to try it.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jo! Much appreciated!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Rue, I'm so glad. I hope you'll try it soon and let me know how your starter comes along.

Tony Grant said...

I honestly need you to actually show me how to do this.
I tried a recipe from a book I was given at Christmas. The author chef called his sourdough starter a ,poolish. I followed everything he wrote religiously and I ended up with a mess. I had to chuck in the bin. I had bought a bag of Allinsons strong wholemeal flour from my local TESCOS. On the back of the bag of flour was a simple bread recipe which I followed and it worked. The recipe included dried yeast but it worked. I really do not know how to use a sourdough/ poolish starter. As I said Jean, I need you to actually show me!!!!! When are you coming over?? Ha! Ha!

Tony Grant said...

Since my last comment, Jean, I have Googled sourdough and been reading up a little more about the subject. I think you commented, just have a go! Ok I will have a go. I think I understand a little more about the biological processes.I am apprehensive about the final use of the sourdough. How easy it to combine the sourdough with flour to make an actual loaf of bread? That is the part where I went wrong with Jean Michel Raynauds methods in his book of beautifully photographed recipes set in moody French rustic interiors.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Tony, I'd love to go over and show you how it's done! Maybe get a group together and pay for my travel expenses?! :-) Anyway ... I give very explicit directions in the links within this post. Just click on How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter, Sourdough Artisan Bread, Sourdough Sandwich Bread, Sourdough English Muffins.

Cocoa and Lavender said...

Thanks for these tips! Funny, as I am reading this, a loaf of yeast end bread is baking in my oven. I have never tried sourdough and you are inspiring me to do so! ~ David

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

David, thank you. Reading while a loaf of bread is in the oven. Sounds wonderful. Hope you have a cup of tea in hand as well!

Tony Grant said...

"Maybe get a group together and pay for my travel expenses?! " I wish I could. Do you make YOU TUBE clips? It might be something you could have a go at.

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Oh, this sounds wonderful! Thank you for all the tips and recipes! I've always wanted to make a starter. xx Karen

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Karen, that's great! I hope you'll start a starter soon! Let me know if you have any questions along the way.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, homemade bread is the best. I love sourdough too. Thanks for sharing your tips and recipe. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Eileen. I shaped a sandwich loaf at 5:30 this morning! So should be having a slice by teatime this afternoon. Hope you have a wonderful week, too.

Stephanie said...

My dear Jean, forgive me for being so late to visit you, but 'tis better to be late than not come by at all, right? :)

I must confess that I have never made sourdough bread. Your tips are ever so helpful, my friend, and now I have no "excuse" for not making it :)

I greatly appreciate you sharing your wonderful posts with Roses of Inspiration. Have a lovely week! Hugs!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Quite all right, Stephanie. Thanks for the visit! I know you'd love a slice of this bread, toasted, with butter and jam along with a nice cup of tea.

Denise inVA said...

Hi Jean, what a lovely sounding recipe. We both love sour dough in this house but I have never had the courage to make it. I will make a note of the addy and be brave for once. I have company coming next month and this would make a wonderful bread to serve up. Thanks for stopping by my Today's Flowers meme, and if you ever take a picture of a flower, I would love for you to share it on my meme. But honestly, I am very happy you stop by and leave such a nice comment. Thank you so much and have a great week.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Denise. Yes, do be brave! You CAN do this -- and if you have any questions along the way, just let me know. Today's loaf has finished rising and is ready to go into the oven just as soon as the oven finishes preheating. (I got distracted by Downton Abbey, watching it on streaming.)

Art and Sand said...

I used to make sourdough bread decades ago and I'm not sure why I stopped. I might have to start making bread again.

Thanks for sharing at SYC.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

It's great fun, Carol, and the perfect activity on a cold or rainy day.

Swathi Iyer said...

Very useful tips, you know I love sourdough bread and it is my weakness, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop, pinning and tweeting.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks so much, sweet Swathi! Much appreciated, as always.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

I've never made a yeast bread, only quick breads and my favourite Irish soda bread. You sure make it look easy Jean and I've tried other recipes of yours so perhaps I'll jump in and give this a try one day.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Judith, I hope you will. I think you'd really have fun with it. But I do love Irish soda bread, too.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dear Jean, hello!!!!

I LOVE SOURDOUGH! I have never had a chance however, to nurse a starter and develop a really homemade bread. Pizza dough was once my specialty, but a busy job called me out of the kitchen!

Thank you kindly for coming over via Art and Sand! I tell ya, taking photos in the RAW setting is easy. Look at your menu on the camera and just click on RAW and JPEG. RAW photos take up more space on your computer, but once you open them up in Photoshop and tweak, you can resize and save as JPEGs. Have fun, I sure am! Many thanks for leaving a message! Anita

Shellie Bowdoin said...

I love sourdough...great tips. Thanks for adding this to the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop!

Shellie
www.thefabjourney.com

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Anita, even with a busy job, you have time for sourdough -- IF you do it MY way! :-) Really, I make it when there is no time, when I'm sick, in my sleep ... Thanks for the camera info.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Shellie, thank you!

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

Such beautiful photos of bread! My spouse use to make his own sourdough. It was delicious. xoxo Su

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Su, thank you! To me, there's nothing prettier than a loaf of bread (I'm a breadaholic!).

Jann Olson said...

I love sourdough and I can almost smell it baking! YUM! Thanks for the wonderful tips and thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jann! And thanks for hosting!

Miz Helen said...

Great tips for the Sour Dough, which I love! Looking forward to seeing you again at Full Plate Thursday tonight!
Hope you are having a great day!
Miz Helen

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Miz Helen! I do love a Full Plate!

bj said...

OOO, my...the next of my favorite things behind CHERRY PIE is BREAD......

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, bj! Bread is number one for me!

Joy | Yummy Seconds said...

This sourdough bread looks delicious.Homemade bread is always wonderful.Stumbling to share.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Joy, thank you! I won't rest until everyone is making sourdough bread! :D

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