Easy Tips for Making Sourdough Bread at Home
- Oct 22, 2020
One of the impacts of so many of us spending more time at home and eating out less is that we’re cooking more. After a while, it gets old just heating up the same microwave dinners and it’s time to see what some of those other gadgets in our kitchens actually do. While the more adventurous or simply more experienced home chefs are experimenting with lots of different dishes, a lot of people have come around to baking and in particular, baking bread like sourdough.
While you can certainly learn to bake various types of bread at home, one of the most popular is the time-tested sourdough. Sourdough is the oldest known form of leavened bread, dating back to ancient Egypt. It may have been discovered by accident when someone left bread dough out long enough for wild yeast to begin growing into the mix. This happy accident led to one of the most popular forms of bread in the world, and it happens to be easy and fun to make at home.
It Starts with your Starter
Most bread baking requires the use of some form of commercial yeast, typically bought at the store. However, sourdough is based on wild yeast that grows naturally. You can still order established sourdough start on the internet, and this may be the quickest way to get started (no pun intended), but you can also create your own sourdough starter by simply combining flour and water and letting it sit out for several days. The natural microorganisms in the air will take care of the rest and soon you will have your own batch of sourdough starter.
A few key notes about sourdough starter. Most people expect (want) sourdough to taste like San Francisco sourdough. If you go the route of creating your own starter, unless you live in the Bay area, you may find your flavor is a bit different. This is because the microorganisms in various regions differ, each creating ever so slightly different results when it comes to your starter. You could order dehydrated San Francisco starter on the internet if you want, but also remember that the microorganisms in your area will be involved in the continued existence of your starter, so the flavor will almost certainly vary,
Follow the instructions to either create or own or revive the dormant starter you ordered online and you will soon have a ‘pet’ sourdough starter living in your fridge. Don’t be surprised to learn that a lot of people name their starters like a pet. You’ll be feeding it periodically and of course, using it to make tasty bread and other sourdough recipes going forward.
The Recipe - Opinions Vary
So, what is the ‘right’ recipe for sourdough bread? Well, really there isn't just one. Sourdough is surprisingly versatile. People often think of baking as a fairly exact science. Many baking recipes for cakes and other tasty items are very specific and making even a small change can have significant impacts on your results - usually for the worse. But, you’ll find that sourdough is surprisingly forgiving to subtle and sometimes even more significant changes to the recipe. You’ll see different types and amounts of flour, various baking temperatures and times, etc. as you look at different recipes. I recommend following one closely on your first attempt or two. But, afterwards you may want to try some variations in different recipes. Eventually, you may find that you take certain aspects from different recipes to create your own unique process.
As to where to find a recipe… the internet comes to the rescue as you will find hundreds (thousands probably) of sites with recipes you can follow. Pick one that looks good and off you go!
Time to Upgrade your Kitchen Equipment?
You’ll definitely want some basic kitchen essentials to make sourdough. Measuring cups, mixing bowls, and a spatula are pretty much required. But, after that, you will find a number of useful items from proofing baskets, bread pans, dutch ovens, mixers, and other items that can make the process easier or just more elaborate, depending on your point of view. Had your eye on a cool Kitchen Aid Mixer? Here’s your excuse to buy one. But, really you can easily get by with just those first few essentials.
If you have ever thought about dipping your toe into baking bread at home, then sourdough should be a great place to start!