The Bread Files: Sourdough

"Hi hunny, I'm home! K gave you a present today." He walked away, leaving a mysterious 4 oz. baby food jar on the counter.

I held it up, closely inspecting it… Elmer's craft paste? Baby batter? What the heck was it? I politely asked my husband, "What the *#@$ is this is stuff?"

"Sourdough starter!" he replied.  


With my wild suspicions tamed, I knew this was a new pet. K likes to give me pets. During last year he gave me praying mantis eggs for my garden and the year before it was Mexican jumping beans, low maintenance pets, no big deal. This sourdough starter has to be fed twice a day, kept at a mild temperature, and loved: quite a difference from a hopping bean or a carnivorous alien-like insect.

The starter looked a little flat when I scooped it out of its baby food jar, and I knew that 4 oz. of goo was not enough to make a proper loaf of bread. This pet would have to grow before I could use it…and it was hungry.

In a larger bowl I mixed up 1 cup of all purpose unbleached flour and 1 1/2 cup of water: this would be its food. I then vigorously mixed it into the goo. Within the hour it was happy; it had bubbles forming on the top; it was...ALIVE!

It's been a week since that mystery goo was set down on my counter top and I am proud to say that with twice-a-day feedings, it has now increased to nearly 6 cups. So, time for bread!

1 generous cup of starter
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. olive oil
5-6 cups AP or bread flour
Mix together until combined and cohesive dough forms. You can use a standing mixer w/ dough hook or your hands, whichever you prefer.
Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in bowl and flip to coat both sides with oil. Cover with a towel and put in a warm, dark place 8-12 hours or overnight.

Makes two loaves

When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and knead by hand for 10 minutes (or in a standing mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes), adding a little flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into rounds and place on parchment paper, drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, and cover with plastic wrap and then a towel. Set aside for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

At this point, preheat your oven to 400', and place a pizza stone in there to preheat along with your oven. I let mine preheat for 20-30 minutes before I bake to make sure the pizza stone is screaming hot.

A pizza stone, although not necessary, helps develop a nice crust. If you don't have one, I recommend getting one. Be sure to get the thickest one you can find or it may well crack after only a few times in the oven.

Just before adding your loaves to the oven, slash the tops of your dough rounds about 2-4 times, with the slashes intersecting each other. This is going to let your bread 'grow' and look really pretty. I find if you use a very sharp knife this is much easier. The sharp knife won't pull on the dough and deflate all the rising it just did.

Using a sheet pan with no edges or a wooden cutting board, slide your loaf/loaves onto the hot stone. I could only do one loaf at a time because I was a dumb-ass and bought the small pizza stone instead of the bigger one. I'm still kicking myself for that mistake.

Bake the loaves for about 25 minutes until until the top has browned. If you like a good crispy crust, use a spray bottle filled with water to spray the tops of the loaves a few times after the first 15 minutes of baking, and then bake for another 10 minutes or so.

A few good clues letting you know it's ready to come out of the oven:

- the loavess will be nicely browned
- your kitchen will be smelling amazing
- flick a loaf with your finger, and it should sound hollow

When you have these three things, remove your loaf/loaves from the oven, take the parchment off the bottom, and set it/them on a wire rack to cool. 

enjoy~ 99% BitterSweet


  1. Looks great!!! I love a hardy bread. Just like gramma use to make.

  2. If your friends don't pony up any starter, you can make a new batch using flour, water, and a little store bought yeast. Traditionally a slurry of water & flour was left out to become exposed to wild, airborne yeasts, but in today's cities those organisms are less prevalent than in pre-industrial times. Begin with a ratio of @ 3 parts water to 1 part flour; add a half teaspoon of baking yeast, stir well and let rest covered in a cool place over night. Each day for the next week add fresh water and flour (3:1 ratio). Keep feeding it, and it could last for generations. After a week to 10 days the starter will smell noticeably and pleasantly sour. Now you can start your sourdough experiment. Have any friends who brew their own beer? They may have access to exotic yeasts to start your fun. Research: levain, poolish, wild yeast


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