Homemade Sourdough

I am so so new to sourdough and breadmaking that I wouldn’t write too much about the techniques – this post is more of a work in progress and learning experience. You’ll be able to find better tutorials here, here and here, or from my awesome bread making friends. I’ve been quite into artisan bread making these days so expect more to come maybe! There’s something about feeding a sourdough starter from scratch every single day, measuring out the flour and water by weight, and monitoring how it looks and smells everyday to track its progress, and worrying what happens when some variable invariably changes. It’s hard to plan your life around bread man, though yes, it is satisfying indeed.

Unlike cake making that tends to use more specific ratios to achieve products that’s mostly predictable, there are so many variables that can go on with bread making including activity of yeast, type of flour, humidity of the dough, how developed the gluten is, etc. The thing is, each variable does not necessarily lead to complete failure, just a different sort of bread. I suppose you’ll develop an intuition the more experience you get, but i can see how a bread obsession can form, as there’s always something that you want to improve with each bake. And with each bake there will be leftover sourdough starter that you’re either going to maintain and feed, or… make more bread.

For my first attempt, I picked the most basic recipe to start, which is one by Chef John (Part 1: Starter, and Part 2: The Loaf). He has a way of breaking down recipes to really simple directions. This method requires once a day feeding, at 2:1:1 starter:flour:water ratio. Feeding is essentially discarding a portion of the active/activating sourdough, topping up with fresh flour and water, then leaving to ferment. My more experienced sourdough baking friend actually recommended the method by Full Proof Baking (and her bakes are gorgeous), but I wasn’t too sure if I should start off with the BD/TDS feeds with such precise ratios, since I was still dipping my toes in the foreign sourdough land.

The sourdough starter was fed everyday for 14 days before I attempted this recipe. The ones pictured above were my second and third attempts (first was an absolute rock haha – don’t use a starter that has not been activated properly yet, especially if your intuition already tells you it’s probably going to fail!). The flavor was nice and the natural sourness shined through, but as mentioned the texture is definitely a work in progress.

Homemade Sourdough

Makes 1 sourdough loaf
Homemade Sourdough Starter adapted from Food Wishes

700 grams bread flour
700 grams filtered water

Homemade Sourdough Loaf adapted from Food Wishes

100 grams sourdough starter
250 grams water
8 grams kosher salt
394 grams bread flour
rice flour to dust loaf

1 10-inch banneton
(I don’t own one, so used a bowl lined with a lightly floured tea towel)

To make Sourdough Starter 

Day 1: Mix 70 grams flour and 70 grams water together in a container with a lid. Container needs to be large enough to accommodate another 70 grams water and flour. Cover loosely so gases can escape. Leave for 24 hours at 70 degrees F (Room temperature in Singapore is fine)

Day 2: Add 70 grams flour and 70 grams water. Stir. Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours at 70 degrees.

Day 3: Remove half (140 grams) of the starter. Add 70 grams flour and 70 grams water. Stir. Cover loosely and leave for 24 hours at 70 degrees.

Day 4 through about Day 10: Repeat Step 3 each day until starter smells fruity, yeasty, and is beautifully fermented. You can test this by seeing if the mixture doubles within 2 to 3 hours of feeding.

Refrigerate until needed. Most people recommend you feed the starter once a month or so (Step 3).
To make bread using a refrigerated starter: feed it at room temperature for two days. Use your refreshed starter to make bread on the third day. Remember to set aside 140 grams of starter and feed it again before returning it to the fridge.

* For my first attempt, I followed the directions and fed it with 70g flour and 70g water. For subsequent maintenance a month later, I have been using 35g flour 35g water, at the same ratios. 

To make Sourdough Loaf (at least 10 days later)

Measure out starter into a bowl. Add water, salt, and bread flour. Mix until ingredients are well blended into a very sticky dough. Cover with aluminum foil; let rest 4 hours at 70 to 75 degrees F (22 degrees C).

With wet hands, fold dough over on itself 3 or 4 times. Cover with foil and allow dough to ferment for 2 more hours.

Generously dust a bread form with rice flour.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (you can use bread flour or all-purpose flour). Shape into a ball with a smooth, unbroken surface, using just enough flour on the surface to keep it from sticking. Transfer smooth-side down to banneton. Pinch together the rougher edges of the surface toward the center to smooth them and maintain the round ball shape.

Cover and refrigerate 12 hours to slow the fermentation process.

Remove loaf from the refrigerator and let it rise in a warm spot until the dough springs slowly back and retains a slight indentation when poked gently with a finger, about 3 to 5 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Dust surface of dough with flour. Gently invert banneton over the baking sheet and transfer dough onto parchment paper. Gently brush off excess rice flour. Score the top of the dough about 1/8-inch deep with a sharp knife to create a shallow slit running across the center. Mist entire surface lightly with water.**

Bake in the center of preheated oven until beautifully browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely (do not slice loaf while it is still warm).

**Instead of that (I don’t own a spray bottle), an alternative is to place a tray in the bottom of the oven with boiling water. This creates steam that will ensure an even rise and retains the moisture.
**Scoring well is also important! It allows the rapid rise in the hot oven, before the crust forms and prevents any further rise from the yeast


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