[Superstruct] Wild Bread

Where Sourdough Comes From

This is what I know about sourdough bread.

You can buy sourdough starter, but I made mine from scratch. You mix together flour (unbleached organic, or whole wheat, or even rye) and water, cover with something breathable like cheesecloth, and let it sit till it bubbles. I added a splash of cultured buttermilk to mine as well, which gives it lactobacilus cultures for a jump-start. Whole grapes are another effective addition (that dull white coating is yeast). It’s ready when it has a layer of foamy bubbles on top.

The starter needs to be fed each time before you use it, but it can sit dormant in the fridge (or other cold place) indefinitely between feedings. If it seems a little weak after a long period of inactivity, use some to make pancakes and feed it again. But I neglected mine all summer and it was just fine when I finally reactivated it. For feeding I mix in a cup of flour, and enough water to make it pourable. If you measure, the added ingredients should be equal amounts of flour and water by weight.

Round 4

My basic bread recipe is 1 cup active starter, 2 cups flour, .5 cups water, and a heaping teaspoon of salt. I mix and knead it in a kitchenaid stand mixer, but you can do it all by hand if that’s what you have. The dough is sufficiently kneaded when it’s smooth and pliable, like soft modeling clay or skin. Let rise until it doubles in size (2+ hours), form into a loaf, proof for another hour or two, and bake at 450F for approx. 25 minutes. For handformed (no pan) loaves, I usually slash the top with a knife before baking so it doesn’t explode out the side.

That’s all. After this it’s just practice, and practice, and more practice. Even the mistakes will be edible. If the dough doesn’t rise, turn it into pizza instead.

Other recipes:
Sourdough biscuits: Cut 1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp) into 1.5 cups flour + 1tsp salt. Add 1 cup starter and a splash of cream. Mix. Bake @ 450 for 12 min.
Sesame wheat crackers: 1 cup sourdough starter, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1/4 cup oil. Split into 3rds to roll thin and cut into squares. Bake @ 300, 15 minutes on each side.

If you want a reference book, Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood is very thorough. The author is a pathologist who has collected sourdough cultures from around the world, and he gives detailed explanations of how and why sourdough works, including using grains other than wheat.

9 responses to “[Superstruct] Wild Bread

  1. Its getting chilly this time of the year, and its the perfect excuse to start firing up that oven and baking some bread. Here is an easy Cheddar Dill Scones Recipe you have to try that I discovered at http://www.foodista.com (there is also some easy recipes on this blog that you might like as well) Cheers!

  2. Oh thankyou for the link to here! I’m getting back into bread and helping a young baker get a feel for it. Will be checking back!

  3. Just mixed up my starter; will see what happens over time. How long does it typically take before it’ll start bubbling?

  4. I think mine took most of a week. It’s frustrating at first: nothing happens, and more nothing, then finally you see bubbles.

    I checked Classic Sourdoughs again, and it recommends stirring twice a day, and feeding it as soon as bubbles start to form.

  5. I have bubbles! I have bubbles!

    I did things a bit differently, though – stirred twice a day and fed it yesterday morning and again today (when I saw tons of bubbles.) Will take out my cup of starter, feed again and then refrigerate the rest later tonight…

  6. Congrats! I’m eager to hear how your first loaf of bread turns out.

  7. Think I overdid it – it was really sour-smelling and separated this evening; stirred the liquid back in, pulled out a cup of starter, fed it and then refrigerated rest.

    Now? I have a lump of dough in a bowl that’s not doing much of anything…

  8. Once there’s liquid on top, it’s already past the peak of activity, and has to be fed again to reactivate. It’s picky about that. But make pizza or focaccia with the dough you have, and try again. If you’re not ready to bake yet, put the dough in the fridge and deal with it tomorrow.

  9. Also: don’t be afraid to dump extra starter down the drain (or into the compost) at first. You only need about a cup to keep things going, and it’s going to want to be fed a lot the first couple of weeks, so you’ll have more starter than you really can work with if you keep it all.