Bread Thoughts: A New Series
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Hey there! In case you haven't heard, I've decided to try to learn/teach myself how to make sourdough bread, and here's my big secret - I don't love sourdough flavor. That being said, you're probably wondering why anyone would go to the trouble to learn how to make bread this way if they don't love the flavor. Well, not all sourdough is sour, and I'm really interested in the technique (particularly making those beautifully cut loaves I see on instagram all the time.) I also want to learn more about natural leavening (natural yeast in the air! wow!) and more about the science of gluten, and this seemed like a good way to get there!
I've quickly learned that I do not have the patience for traditional sourdough bread making. Don't get me wrong, I love a good project, but bread making requires a lot of time, not necessarily a lot of labor and I prefer the opposite. Its relatively hands off, so as someone who has trouble leaving things be, its going to be a great exercise in patience for me.
Want to learn with me? Here's ideally what you'll have to start:
- a dutch oven, or a heavy oven safe pot with a lid - alternatively you can use a pizza stone and a well placed metal bowl, but more on that later
- a sourdough starter (ask around, someone you know probably has one and would be pumped to share it with you - shoutout to Kaylin for gifting me some of hers!)
- a large mixing bowl, dough scraper and scale
- dishcloths you don't mind getting forever covered in flour
Thats it for now! After my first week (would you believe I'm writing this late) I invested into a banneton and lame set from amazon. Not only did the banneton make the prettiest bread ever, but it really helped with some of the sticking issues I had during the first week.
I am not well educated enough in the way of sourdough to give you instructions on caring for your starter, but I can tell you what I'm doing! Instead of keeping it in the fridge and feeding it weekly, I'm keeping it out and feeding it every morning. On Sundays I feed it whole wheat flour as a special treat, but other days of the week, I'll dump out a few tbsp, then replace what I've poured out with equal parts flour and water.
So far some of the biggest issues I've been having this week are:
- sticking to the dishcloth during proofing
- issues with all the waste
Lets tackle these quickly, because I've already started to solve them in week two! (tbh its almost week three at this point but who's counting)
The Sticking: Sticking to the dishcloth was an easy fix, a well floured banneton solved that problem, and I'm excited to try some suggestions regarding rice flour/rice flour AP flour blend on it to make it even easier.
The waste: So your starter is alive! Pretty neat, and kind of stressful because you need to feed it flour and water to keep it alive. You also have to throw some of it out (ideally half) every time, so that the colony of happy yeasty organisms has enough to eat. I hate wasting food, so the idea of throwing out half of my starter every morning only to replace it really got me down. There are a few things I'm doing now to troubleshoot that, namely, keeping a smaller starter! In order to make a "leaven" something I'm really supposed to be making to make a ""good bread" you really only need a few tablespoons of starter. So I dropped my initial amount from over a cup to something closer to 1/2 a cup and I'm way happier with that. I know you can keep it in the fridge to slow down growth and cut down on feedings, but I'm not ready to do that yet.
Overall I was really pleased with my first week's breads. They were actually less troublesome than week 2's, more on that in the next post, but I think a good start is ideal because it made me want to make more!
For those of you who want a really good, fast bread that requires NO starter, fear not. I'll include that recipe here, and if you get "bitten by the bread bug" maybe sourdough is something you'll want to try. Either way, thanks for following along and happy eating!