When my housemate first brought home a starter I used a few different recipes and made a loaf every day for 2 weeks. I don’t think there is a one size fit all recipe but I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing! Sourdough is a living thing that responds differently to so many factors. About a week in I go frustrated and wanted to quit – our chickens and compost were eating a lot of sourdough – but I wanted to conquer. And we did.
The starter was a white flour sourdough starter, but I wanted spelt. We use spelt and einkorn mostly in our house as they are less altered (not GMO though) than most regular wheat. If I could find sprouted spelt out of plastic I would use that but I can’t – locals, we get our spelt in 25b paper bags fro Moore’s Flour Mill. To switch it over to spelt I jus fed it whole spelt flour. In about 3 feedings it was pretty much all spelt and getting bubbly so I made my first loaf. The loaves have got better with time so I don’t know if that’s that the starter is feeding off the spelt better, or another factor.
And no, our starter doesn’t have a name yet. I just feel silly naming a jar of flour, sorry sourdough people 😉
Feeding the Starter
My unnamed starter lives in a mason jar on my kitchen work surface, and then in my fridge. I cover it with a cotton cloth and loosely fit a mason jar ring over that to keep it in place. You want to keep it sealed but also let it breath. The sourdough culture feeds off the flour so you need to feed it regularly. I feed mine once a day when it’s out of the fridge, and additionally if I see a thin watery layer on top that means it needs another feeding.
There are two types (probably many more) or sourdough people that I’ve seen in reading about it. When you find recipes they are either very exact including complex ratios and measurements, or people who wing it a bit more. I’m the wing it a bit more type.
I typically feed the starter roughly equal amounts of flour, and filtered water to the amount of starter I have. That means I also discard (or save for crackers/pizza/rolls) some starter each time so I don’t end up with too much. Usually about 100g of each. But most times I eye ball it.
Making the Bread
You have to prepare with this one. I suggest figuring out how much you need per week, making it all in one go, and then putting the starter in the fridge in between batches. That way you’ll save on throwing out lots of extra starter at all your feedings. I make two loaves once per week.
The whole process from fridge to fresh bread takes 60-70 hours, or 3 nights and 2.5 days with my routine, but most of that time the bread is sitting. Don’t be intimidated, just get into a rhythm! Promise, it’s ok.
I started off by using THIS exact recipe on the Food52 site. I wasn’t getting the best results, so I took pieces from other recipes I’d tried and altered it. As a recipe creator I don’t like posting altered recipes on my blog (Note: it really honours the recipe creator when you send people to their actual recipe rather than reposting so I never repost other people’s recipes! The recipes people create for free usually are made possible by people actually visiting their blog or site so I always want to do that.) However, this one is too different to just list the things I did differently! But start at the Food52 site maybe, that’s a way more tried and tested one that mine but like I said, sourdough is an animal that works differently everywhere and for everyone so this is how I’ve altered it for us.
In the evening I take 100g active bubbly starter (usually 4 hours after feeding) and mix it with 100g flour, and 100g filtered water. I mix them up in a bowl and then cover with a loose cloth and set it in the corner of my kitchen overnight. Sometime in the morning, I then add in 350g flour, 200g water and a few teaspoons of pink salt. That mixes up into a dough consistency, then I cover it again and put it back in the corner.
After 4-5 hours of it resting, I toss a decent amount of flour onto my counter (in an area I don’t mind bread sitting for the next few hours) and turn out the dough. After pressing it down I give it not even a knead but just a quick fold, pulling the edges and folding them into the centre, turning the whole thing over, and covering with the cloth. This process gets repeated regular over the next 4-5 hours. I aim for every 30minutes but if I have to leave the house I leave it an hour, and then sometimes I do itevery 15 minutes for a few repetitions. I haven’t noticed any difference.
After 4-5 hours of this, I shape it for a bread tin (I use either THIS Lodge pan lined with compostable parchment paper or a 6″ round deep cake tin.) I use a really sharp and serrated bread knife to score the top of the loaf. I usually make 4-6 diagonal cuts from side to side. Then it gets covered with a cloth again and left overnight or for 12 hours. Because of the 4 hours and 8 hours before this really only works overnight. Usually I finish the kneading at 10pm and then get ready to bake at 10am the next day, which lets it cook and cool for fresh bread for lunch.
When I’m ready to bake I preheat the oven to 350F. I like to bake the bread in a humid oven to keep the crust softer so I put a pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven through the preheating time and the whole cooking time too. An oven proof dish with about an inch of water in is perfect. Once the oven preheats just take the cloth off an pop the loaf in. If your oven preheats really quickly, leave the water pan in for 10 minutes before adding the loaf.
I bake for about 40 minutes or until it feels springy not doughy when I press down the top, and it just has a hollow sound when I tap the bottom of the loaf. Then ideally leave the loaf to stand for an hour before cutting it. It can fall apart a little when you cut it hot, but honestly, we still eat it hot. We just cut it carefully with a very sharp bread knife.
Refrigerating the Starter
So that I don’t end up discarding too much starter, I put the jar in the fridge as soon as I’ve taken off the 100g to make my bread. Then I pull it out the afternoon of the day before I want to start my process. Usually within 3 feedings it’s active and bubbly again and ready for bread.
The 4 Day Process
Remove starter from fridge and start feeding.
In the evening about 3-4 hours after feeding: Mix together 100g starter, 100g flour, 100g filtered water. Mix and cover with towel.
Return starter to fridge.
1pm: Add 350g flour, 200g filtered water and 2 tsp pink salt. Mix and cover with towel.
5pm: Turn onto floured surface and start folding process.
5pm-10pm: Continue folding and covering every 30 minutes.
10pm: Shape, put in tin, and score.
10am: Preheat over and bake loaf 40 minutes.
Let cool and enjoy!