Sourdough How-To | Making a Home with Melanie
Photos: Laura Eddy
Sourdough How-To | Making a Home with Melanie
View my Sourdough essentials list here!
We were visiting friends in Oklahoma City a few weeks after our wedding when I had homemade sourdough bread for the first time. I started asking a million questions of Dylan. How he learned, who he learned from, how long it took, what the language meant. Within a week I had my hands in flour and water mixing up what would be my first two loaves of sourdough bread!
Before I met Jonathan, I imagine I was probably like most single women (let’s be honest – most single millennials). I would eat what was convenient and easy, but rarely went out of my way to whip up anything homemade for myself. My mom baked often and cooked for us just about every night growing up, and I figured that season would come for me, too. But the reality of it really hit after spending the 6 months leading up to our wedding living with my in-laws. We were cooking for 5 people every single night! And with everything shut down for COVID, there was rarely an evening we weren’t in the kitchen! Thankfully, baking comes pretty naturally to me. But I knew I needed (and WANTED) to find more ways to care for our home and future family as I prepared to enter married life. And I desired to do it in ways that were sustainable, fulfilling, and required skills that I could perfect and eventually pass on to our daughters.
Almost a year later, I’ve probably made more loaves of sourdough than I can count! There is something so satisfying about making something from scratch. It is purely for me and my family’s enjoyment, and something I love to do. I share about sourdough often on Instagram in hopes of inspiring other young women to spend more time seeking valuable homemaking skills and hobbies – ways that they can better serve their parents, siblings, husband, kids, friends, neighbors…whomever! Homemade bread is a great gift to share with your loved ones!
Every so often I have someone reach out for my sourdough recipe, and the truth is, it’s much more than just a recipe. It is a day of prep PLUS some of a process that will likely have a learning curve if sourdough is new to you. I will tell you I don’t always do it right (ask me how many times I’ve left out the salt…that is a DISASTER). And this is is definitely not the only way to do it. It’s just as much an art as it is a science, and this probably isn’t even the best way! But it is what has worked for me! So here it is – officially!
The Russell Sourdough How-To!
If you’re interested in starting sourdough, you need a “starter” of flour and water. Ask around your community for someone who would be willing to share, purchase online, or start your own!
My starter lives in my fridge. I pull it out 1-3 days before I want to bake, discard most of the starter (until just the edges and bottom of the jar are coated), and feed the remainder with all purpose flour daily leading up to my prep day – 120g flour, 110g of water. Pro-tip: use a rubber band to mark where the top of your starter is upon feeding. That way you’ll be able to see the progress of the growth to know when it has doubled! When beginning, you must have a scale and use precise measurements throughout this process!
Prep day! AKA Day Before Bake:
8AM: Feed starter (keeping it in a wide mouth jar like this will help!), cover, and let sit in an oven with the oven OFF but the light ON for 3-4 hours until active and bubbly. You want the top of the starter to be rounded as well, but definitely look for the bubbles! Test the starter by putting a piece in water – if it floats, it’s ready to use. Pro-tip if you missed it above: use a rubber band to mark where the top of your starter is upon feeding. That way you’ll be able to see the progress of the growth to know when it has doubled!
12PM: Autolyse. In a large bowl, add 1000g of flour. I use around 250g of whole wheat and 750g of bread flour. You can play around with your types of flour here once you get more comfortable. Add 20g of sea salt. Don’t forget it 🙂
Combine Autolyse + Starter
In a separate bowl, add 700-750g of water. I sometimes do a honey loaf, so I’ll add 40g of honey and combine well. Then add 100g of your fed and bubbly starter to water/honey mixture and mix until milky. This autolyse flour-water-starter ratio is not hard-set…see more in the Pro-Home Cooks video linked at the bottom of this blog post!
Combine water/honey/starter mixture with flour/salt mixture, mix until it forms a shaggy dough, let sit for 1 hour covered with a wet tea towel in a warm place.
Stretch & Folds + Bulk Rising
1:30 – 3:30PM: Working the dough. Do 1 bowl rotation of a shake, pull, and fold with your hands. Repeat every 30 minutes for 2 hours. Cover with damp tea towel in between sets.
3:30PM – 8:30PM: Bulk rising. Bowl remains covered and let rest for 2-5 hours in the oven again (with the oven OFF but light ON). Look for bubbles to form in dough to know the fermentation process is moving along/good to go. You want it to just double, not too much more! A glass mixing bowl that you can see through will help with this!
Shaping and Proofing
8:30ish: Generously flour your bannetons, add oats or sesame seeds to the bottom if desired. Flour your working surface and dump out dough. Use bench scraper to cut dough in half. Pull sides to flatten out the dough. Grab two closest corners and fold over each other. Fold it down longways, fold in seams. Push, turn, and pull to build surface tension.
9PM – 8AM: Overnight proof. Cover bannetons with plastic bag or damp tea towel and place in fridge overnight. Poke test – poke dough and it springs back just a bit, leaving a slight dent, then it’s ready to bake.
DAY OF BAKE
8AM: Preheat oven with your dutch oven inside at 450 degrees. Remove dough just before baking and place on parchment paper. Score the top with a lame or knife – this is a quick movement at a slight angle. You’ll swiftly score down one side of loaf in a backwards “C” shape. Place one loaf in dutch oven and bake with lid on for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, remove lid and return dutch oven to oven to caramelize crust, still at 450 degrees. You can put dutch oven on a cookie sheet to keep the bottom of the loaf from burning. Bake until golden color (approximately 15 min) then remove.
After the loaf is done to your liking, remove the bread and let rest on a baking rack for 3-5 hours. As tempting as it may be, I do not recommend slicing into it immediately! One, it’s scorching hot, and two, you’ll end up with a gummy interior! When it is time to serve, a bread knife or electric knife come in handy!
A few additional resources I highly recommend looking into before your first loaf – The Pantry Mama (and her Facebook group) and Pro Home Cooks. My recipe/process is a combination of these two, plus they have great tips, tricks, and trouble-shooting!
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