I rock at baking. For real.
I don’t know if it’s from growing up with grandmas who loved to bake and I learned by osmosis, or if my looooove for sugar means that cooking with it is my love language, or if I’m just lucky. But, my baking always works out. Once, a coworker proposed to me after eating my coconut pound cake. Seriously.
But baking bread? Um . . .
You see, I try. And I try. And I try. I’m one of those people who doesn’t give up. Even when they should. Even when their family gently hints that it’s enough. Because if the truth be told, my second love to sugar is bread. I can make an entire meal of it. And so it kinda hurts–deep down in my little baking heart–that I can’t make this thing work.
UNTIL THIS WEEKEND!!!! (Cue angels singing)
And since I know the struggle is real for a lot of bread bakers, I thought I’d share my recipe and steps it took me to get there. I did fail a couple of times (of course!), but I found a recipe that works. So well that I got THREE (count ’em, three!) thumbs up from my kids.
I call that success.
As it turns out, there are things about sour dough that not all recipes explain. That can lead to bread that resembles a brick, and doesn’t taste much better. So I’ll include all I’ve learned tip-wise too. Make sure to follow those tips. They are what made the difference between success and failure.
Basic Sourdough Starter
You’ll need a one gallon glass jar (I found mine at Walmart in the canning section), a small scrap of fabric (or paper towel), and a rubber band or ribbon to tie around the neck. Your sour dough starter will expand and has to breathe. I’m told it can cause a glass jar to explode if you put the lid on instead of the fabric cover. Luckily, I read that somewhere before mine did, lol. I found this recipe from Green Cedars Farm:
1 package of dry yeast (1 tablespoon)
2 1/2 cups of warm water (make sure it’s warm)
2 tablespoons sugar (this activates the yeast, don’t leave it out)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (make sure you use all-purpose)
Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the water. Mix sugar and flour with remaining 2 cups of water, then add the yeast mixture. Put it in your glass jar and cover the top with a piece of fabric or paper towel, tied with a ribbon or rubber band.
So, above, you can see the steps of the starter. First when the yeast and water are mixed. Second after the flour and sugar mixture are added and placed in the jar. Third is after thirty minutes. And fourth, is after 24 hours. It’s aliiiiive!!!
This is where I messed up on the other rounds. I read multiple recipes that talked about storing the starter in the fridge. You can do that, but you have to get it up and running first! It takes several days, but it’s very little effort.
- Keep it at room temperature for 5-7 days, feeding it once per day by adding 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water.
- Once you put the feeder in, stir it thoroughly. Several recipes recommended just to wet the flour, which I tried. When I did it this way, my starter failed to get the “sour” smell and my bread didn’t rise. So, yeah. Stir that puppy.
- Each day, you’ll notice that there is a “sour” smell to your starter, that it has “risen” a little (and probably gone back down), and that larger bubbles are continuing to form. This means you’re rocking it.
Let’s Make Some Bread!
After you’ve done the above and are seeing success, it’s time to get baking! I found this recipe from fmicrofarm.com. This makes 2 loaves.
2 1/2 cups sourdough starter
3 1/2 cups bread flour (make sure to use bread flour)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
Knead well for 15-20 minutes. Divide dough into 2 well-greased loaf pans. Let rise overnight or 12 hours. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown on top.
In the above pics, you can see first, what it looks like after kneading. Second, the dough split into two loaves and placed in the oven (off) to rise. Third, what it looked like the next morning! And fourth, the side view the next morning where you can see the air pockets that have formed.
Things to note:
I kneaded by hand. My mixer messed up a previous batch and I didn’t want to take any chances. My dough started off pretty sticky so I added a little flour so that kneading went well. As I kneaded, it got sticky a few other times and I added a little flour. This didn’t seem to affect the bread at all. Just FYI. ALSO, you’ll want to brush some oil on top of the dough before you let it rise. That will keep it from drying out. I didn’t do it here and wonder if that’s why they spilled over the edges. The following loaves didn’t and were oiled.
- Once you’ve fed the starter, you can store in the fridge for up to 5 days before you need to feed it again. You can downsize to a quart sized jar at this point and share the love by giving away some starter, make something with it, or simply toss what you can’t keep.
- When you pull it out to feed it, add the feeder, then let the starter come to room temperature (or sit overnight) before using it to bake.
- If you aren’t planning to bake, remove the same amount of starter that you add in, let it get to room temp, then place back in the fridge.
- They say the “sourness” of the bread mellows over time. I actually like it a little strong, so the first batch didn’t bother me, but I can see how it mellowing would be good for some.
So, there you go!
If you fear bread, like I did, you can do this! As we enter into baking season I’m planning to try several variations with cinnamon rolls, cinnamon sour dough bread, pretzels, etc. Once you have the dough down–which you will with this–you can do whatever you like!