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Tutorial for Sourdough Starter

Tutorial for Sourdough Starter

I love making sourdough bread. A loaf of sourdough provides the crust and the flavour that I long for. Since a trip out to Mendocino, California sixteen years ago, I have been making and baking a variety. The latest version is one with cracked wheat and rolled oats which gives it moisture and texture.

 I have been fascinated by woodfired ovens since the field trip I took in third grade to our local baker in Renipont, Belgium. He would bring us baked goods at recess that we could buy from the back of his little white "camionette". But the day I stood in front of what seemed like a huge woodfired oven with my classmates, and peered inside what seemed like a cavern, and felt the heat reflecting off of the bricks, that's the day the idea of having a woodfired oven was planted in my brain.

Later, as I read about brick ovens and hearths, I discovered the world of sourdoughs. I attempted several different starters but was never quite satisfied. And then, I visited the Café Beaujolais bakery in Mendocino, California and spent a very early morning helping with the firing and baking of their bread, and I was sold.  Since then, I have had a continuous starter. When I turned over the bakery to Anna, she also got that starter. So I started a new batch at home and thought I could share the "how to" with you all.

There is nothing better than a fresh loaf of bread out of my home oven. If you have the passion, it is an awesome thing! Making sourdough bread takes time, but don't let that scare you because it's mostly hands off time. It is also the reason it tastes so good. The dough develops over a longer period giving it more flavour than a quick yeast bread. So here goes. First, I will get you started on your starter!! Then, in a different post, I will take you through the steps of making and baking your loaves (this recipe is for two large loaves).

The starter will take from seven to ten days to get ready. But it only takes a few minutes every day. If you know that from the start, then it might be easier to manage! Preferably, choose a ceramic or glass bowl to mix it in. I also use good flour such as Heartland Mill organic unbleached  all purpose flour or King Arthur all purpose unbleached flour. The photographs that I am including are from the time I taught my daughter how to make a starter by text message! Hopefully, they will help you as you make yours.

Day 1:

Put 1/2 c. warm water in your bowl. Slowly mix in 3/4 c. To 7/8 c. flour to make a soft and semi sticky dough.

Cover the container with Saran wrap and let sit at room temperature (70 degrees or so) for the next 24 hours.

Day 2:

 

Discard half of the starter. I just eyeball it. Add 1/2 c. warm water to the remaining starter and stir until dissolved. I usually do this with my hands. Add 2/3 c. flour, a little bit at a time until the dough is back to that soft and semi-sticky ball. Cover with Saran wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day3:

You might see some activity or tiny bubbles by now. Again, discard half of the starter, then add 1/2 c. warm water and 2/3 c. flour, as needed. Cover with Saran wrap. Let rest 12 hours. Then repeat.

Day 4:

Repeat Day 3: two feedings 12 hours apart.

Day 5:

Repeat Day 3: two feedings 12 hours apart.

Continue this process through Day 6 and Day 7 as needed. 

You are looking for a tangy aroma, a surface bubbling very gently and a sticky, thick texture.

 This is what it will start to look like.

This is what it will start to look like.

 This is more what you want it to look like.

This is more what you want it to look like.

Once ready, give it a last feeding. Discard 1/2 of it. Add 1/2 c. warm water. Add 2/3 c. flour, as needed. Cover and let sit overnight. Now you are ready to use it for your bread!

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