How To Sourdough

This is written for the person I was in March 2020, someone who has some experience baking, perhaps yeast breads, or pie crust, but who has not ventured into sourdough as leaven. There are plenty of paens to the wonders of sourdough so I'll leave that topic alone other than to say, if you want the most wonderful, nutritious, flavorful bread you have ever tasted, do sourdough.

What you need:

Maintaining the Starter
If you created your own starter you are already familiar with the feeding process. You may not be aware that you can maintain a minimal starter and waste less flour.

The starter must be fed, weekly if it's in the fridge, and daily if it's at room temperature. Remove (discard) until there is about 100 grams of starter left, and add equal parts all-purpose flour and water (50-60 grams each). Stir to combine and return to location. (reference).

What to Bake?!
So you suddenly have this needy, living thing in your fridge or on your counter... time to reap the delicious benefits!

If you have previously done yeast baking, every dough will feel too wet. If you haven't baked before, you'll be amazed at the adhesive power of flour and water. Keep your hands wet (do NOT use floured hands or surfaces) to handle the dough.

Here are my favorite recipes:

  • Pizza Dough (Note that you will need to bulk up your starter prior to making pizza dough as it calls for 227 grams of discard. Just do a 100g flour/100g water feed the day before and it will be plenty.)
  • Crackers (Same deal as pizza dough, feed heavy the day prior.)
  • Sourdough Sandwich Bread (note: you need a 10x5 inch loaf pan)
  • Sourdough Boule (note: she calls for a small portion of whole wheat flour, if you don't want to try and be "healthy-ish" just use all bread flour. You also need a dutch oven.)

I am planning to try her foccacia bread next.

Below are additional notes, linked to above, no need to read them again if you already have or don't have questions!

Sourdough Starter
To begin, you must have a starter: a glob of flour, water, and yeast. You can buy these on the internet, I recommend
King Arthur Baking Classic Sourdough Starter if you want to take this route. I made my own, using the instructions from King Arthur Baking. Do NOT believe that you will see activity by day 3 and be ready to use by day 5! Mine took 17 days to be ready for use.

Be aware that yeast have a terroir, meaning where it is from changes the flavor. If you buy a starter from San Francisco in hopes of enjoying that unique San Francisco sourdough flavor, you may have it initially but over time as your local yeast colonize your starter, it will take on the characteristics and flavor of your local yeast.

Food Scale
You also need a food scale; everything bread or dough is measured in grams as a half cup of one flour is not the same weight as a half cup of another flour. I like the
Ozeri ZK14-S Pronto because it can handle the full weight of my baking bowl and ingredients for a whole loaf.

Starter Container
My starter container doubles as an efficient rising container. Any straight-sided vessel with an adaptable lid will work.

Additional References
There are two sites where I gleaned all the information I have and use; these are good resources if you're looking for additional information:

King Arthur Baking
Alexandra's Kitchen