Making sourdough has never been easier

By Emma Forshee

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy walking into a room and smelling the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread. The golden brown crust, perfect crunch, and soft and steamy crumb of a sourdough loaf is one thing I feel I simply cannot live without. 

Creating such a mouth-watering loaf is easy and very beginner friendly. Here’s how to start. 

Unlike other bread, which uses yeast or baking powder to rise, all great sourdough starts with a healthy sourdough starter or culture. A sourdough starter is the leavening agent of the bread (this is what makes it rise) and is made of flour and water. It cultures tiny, active bacteria through a process called fermentation. Don’t be alarmed! These bacteria are extremely good for your gut health and give the sourdough its “sour” or tangy taste. 

Because the sourdough culture contains many little bacteria, it is considered a living thing. It is almost like having a pet in a jar – it has to be fed every day and it needs nurturing. It can be fed by keeping 50 grams of healthy culture and discarding the rest. Add 100 grams of unbleached flour and 100 grams of filtered water to the culture and let it sit. 

It will grow and expand as it ferments, doubling in size, and it will start to smell a little like vinegar. This is good! It means your culture is alive and well. At this point, you can use your culture to make bread. 

There are only four ingredients needed to make the perfect sourdough loaf: flour, water, sourdough culture, and salt. 

To start, measure out 155 grams of warm, filtered water. Add 5 grams of salt and 60 grams of sourdough culture and give it a mix. 

Don’t be afraid to use your hands for this process! Using your hands to mix, stir, knead, and shape gives you a real sense of how the bread feels and will allow you to get in touch with how the bread is doing over the course of the baking process. 

After mixing the first three ingredients, it’s time to add the fours. Measure out 200 grams of unbleached bread flour and 55 grams of whole wheat flour. Use your hands to combine until it culminates into a shaggy mass. 

You may be wondering, why use two types of flour? Well, bread flour has a higher protein content than regular all-purpose flour. This allows for a higher rise and a stretchier dough. Similarly, whole wheat flour also contains more protein and is more hardy than regular flour. It makes the bread more filling than white bread that could be bought at a supermarket. The two types of flour together allow for a higher gluten and protein content. 

However, if you only happen to have all-purpose flour on hand, using 255 grams of all-purpose flour is fine. 

Once everything is mixed, cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for about 45 minutes to an hour. 

After it has rested, stretch and fold the dough. To do this, first dip your hand in water to prevent the dough from sticking to your skin (the dough will be very sticky – this is normal). Then, grab the edge of the dough and stretch it upward until it feels as though it will break. Put the stretched flap of dough across the loaf. Turn the loaf 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat until the whole loaf has been stretched and folded. 

Let the loaf rest for an hour before repeating this process. Repeat this process four times. 

After stretching and folding, the dough should be much less sticky. To shape the loaf, put the dough on a counter or table and shape it into a rough rectangle. Then stitch the loaf together and roll it away from you to create tension on the top. 

Dust with flour and place in a bread basket or a bowl with a towel in it. Make sure the basket or bowl has been thoroughly dusted with flour so the dough does not stick to it. 

Let rest in the refrigerator for up to 14 hours. This is the time when the loaf will rise or proof. 

After 14 hours, heat up your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a cast iron skillet or dutch oven on the oven rack to heat up as well. Baking the loaf in a dutch oven will allow for a good, crunchy crust. 

Once the oven is preheated, place the dough onto parchment paper and score the loaf. Scoring is a term that means cutting a slash in the side of a loaf to allow for the rising that will happen while the loaf bakes. Without scoring the loaf, it will rise and break the crust in various, often not aesthetic, ways. 

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the loaf for 35 minutes with the lid on the dutch oven, then take the lid off and bake for another 10-15 minutes. 

Taking the lid off the dutch oven allows the loaf to get a nice, brown crust, but does not really have much effect on the crumb of the loaf. 

Finally, let the loaf cool for an hour before serving. 



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