Trying Sourdough Again, and Having the Most Success So Far
I have to say, even though it was in the fridge for a long time, my starter was doing just fine. I have read a few articles and watched a few videos which say that established starter can be stored in the fridge for a long time without feeding. Some articles say it’s not true. Whatever is going on, my starter seems to be doing just fine with living in the fridge in between baking. But I decided it was time for my starter to have a chance at making a great loaf of sourdough again, so I divided off a small portion of the starter to keep living in the fridge and the rest I brought out to bulk up for baking.
The day before you bake, feed it at least two times, the last feeding giving your starter enough time to come to peak activity before you start to shape and rise. In my starter’s case, that’s about 4 hours. I’m going to do a quick 30-minute initial rise, so add that time in too. So that means I had to feed my starter about 4 ½ hours before the initial rise, I think that was about 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm, I can’t remember exactly what time. It depends on how long you want to stay up or if you have to go to bed early. Adjust for your schedule.
Now, the baking!
The next morning, fold the dough a few times to form a ball, getting good tension in your loaf. Put it in your banneton with any kind of “seam” side up (the less pretty side). I don’t have an official banneton, so I use a Dollar Tree colander with a floured bread towel (I make special towels that I only use for bread and rolls type purposes). Works just fine for me. Cover and let it rise for 2-3 hours.
In the last 30 minutes or so (depending on how long it takes your oven to come to temp) preheat your oven, along with your Dutch Oven. I can’t recommend any other way to bake sourdough, but if you don’t have one there are other options. I think they go into that in the recipe/video I’m going to reference. But the Dutch Oven is the best.
Get some parchment ready to cradle your loaf to lower it into the hot Dutch Oven and to be able to lift it out again. Make sure you tear off enough parchment for this purpose. Pull your oven tray out a bit and take off the cover of the Dutch Oven. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Tip out your loaf onto the parchment, slash with a sharp knife or a razor, and lower it into the Dutch Oven. Spritz with a bit of water and put the cover back on the Dutch Oven. Slide it back in and bake 20 minutes with the cover on and 30 minutes with the cover off.
At last, the reward! How to serve your glorious loaf? Being so nice and crusty, these kinds of loaves are great served with soup for dipping, especially French Onion. I found out also that my bread was GREAT for French Toast. On another night, I soaked a couple pieces in the juices of the steak I had broiled and then toasted the slices in a cast iron pan on the stove. That was really good. Of course, being homemade bread with no preservatives your loaf does have a limited shelf life. I stored mine in a container with a lid that didn’t really seal all that well with a piece of paper toweling to soak up some humidity. The loaf should last quite a few days, but really mine got eaten before it was in danger of going bad. If you’ve got some left over at a point when you feel like it might be getting past its prime, cube it up, toss it with olive oil and spices, and bake in the oven for AWESOME croutons. You can freeze these for months and use a few when you need them. But you probably won’t have enough bread for that unless you bake a loaf specifically for that purpose.
I have to say, this time the process of making sourdough bread was much more enjoyable for me. I was less stressed about the whole thing, I didn’t have any expectations about how it was going to turn out, I had dispensed with all those “bakers’ ratios” or whatever you call them, I almost kind of flew by the seat of my pants, so to speak. And everything turned out wonderful. Good luck in your baking, you can do it, too!
Ciao until next time!
- Great easy recipe with embedded video (be sure to watch the video, they have to rescue a newborn calf and it is cute) https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2020/04/sourdough-bread-recipe.html
- Something I just found on how to score your loaf: https://sourdoughbreadsupportgroup.com/sourdough-bread-scoring/?v=7516fd43adaa