Posted on

Friday Favorites: We’re Gonna ‘Starter’ Revoloution (aka Learning to Bake Sourdough)

Baking Sourdough Bread

“Friday Favorites” features my favorite great ideas/recipes/etc., from across the giant world wide webs.

The evolution of the Internet is often both a blessing and a curse. It has completely changed how we, as an entire global population, communicate, and in the process enabled amazing social change and the organization of grassroots movements on any number of issues. It’s also resulted in countless hours of wasted time watching cat videos, taking surveys to find out our secret superhero power and besting each other at SongPop.

But with all its good and bad, my favorite thing about the Internet is that now it is possible to learn how to do absolutely anything, without leaving your home. I’m harnessing that power right now to learn how to make sourdough bread (maybe that will ultimately be my secret superhero power?).

A word of warning–this is a project still in the works, folks. I’ll have to give you an update on success later. Right now, I’m working on “starting” a starter. In case you’re not much of a baker and unfamiliar with what a starter is,  it’s basically fermented dough that is used to “start” sourdough (as well as a number of other recipes). The starter creates a culture to grow naturally occurring yeast and bacteria (the good kind), which serves as the leavening agent for the bread (in other words, helps the bread rise), and gives the bread that wonderful distinctive tangy taste.

sourdough starter
The start of my starter. This is just after a “feeding,” so there isn’t a lot of bubbling…yet.

Years ago I tried to get a starter going, based on a short two paragraph set of directions from a cookbook somewhere. It didn’t go so well. On one hand, starting a starter is a pretty basic process–you mix flour and water, give it some time, add more flour and water, more time, more flour/water, and so on. On the other hand, it’s an inexact science and there is a lot of conflicting information out there, so  a lot of it is experimentation. All of my research indicates you can count on it taking at least a week to develop a “stable” starter, and that’s if everything goes right on your first try–which it may not. It can also take one to three months for the flavor to fully develop. So, if you plan on serving some authentic sourdough for a big family dinner this weekend, you probably should find a good local baker.

Anyhoo, I’m still trying to get my starter to the “stable” phase (meaning it will reliably double between additions of more flour and water–aka “feedings”), but hoping I might be able to try baking a loaf this weekend–that’s still up in the air though. In the meantime, I’ve identified a few more “favorite” resources I’ll pass along to you, if by chance you want to try your hand at sourdough.

The most exhaustive resource I found was at SourdoughHome. The level of narrative and explanation on the sourdough process was a little overwhelming and almost exhausting, but it definitely covers a lot of ground and provides a good understanding of the art and science of sourdough baking.

While SourdoughHome was the most comprehensive guide out there, Nourished Kitchen and Wild Yeast both offer a simple, concise guide to starters, so they’re worth checking out as well.

UPDATE: I baked my first sourdough today with my starter. It was not an “authentic” sourdough recipe, which would use only the rising action of the wild yeast in the starter, since 1) my starter isn’t rising reliably enough yet to use without added yeast and 2) that takes a lot longer and I didn’t really have that kind of time, since I wanted to have a loaf ready for the Kiddo to try before he went back to his mom’s this evening.

Baking Sourdough Bread


I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour. FYI, King Arthur Flour also offers a great tutorial for starting a starter, which I missed including in my earlier links. I had to give the bread about twice as long for the first rise as called for in the recipe, since my starter isn’t very strong yet. My bread had only a slight bit of that familiar sourdough twang, again because I’m working with a new starter, but it was still both Kiddo- and Guy-approved. Oh yeah, I kind of loved it too. 🙂