Homemade Sourdough Bread (Including Starter)

This has been a fun week for me. In preparation for some food that I want to make tomorrow, I decided that I would try my hand at making fresh sourdough bread. This is mainly because I could not find any raw sourdough bread in the grocery stores, so this ended up working out for me. I tried to find if there was a standard recipe for a starter, but there are many variations (some called for a thinner starter, some called for a thicker starter). Some required very precise measurements. When I cook, I am not usually precise, but when I bake, I try to be precise with the main ingredients. Since there were so many variations, I tried to do my best and see what happened.

I started this on Sunday, since most recipes said it would take about 5 or 6 days for the starter to be ready. I used just over 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Mixed it up, put it in a bowl and loosely covered it with plastic wrap. It seemed to be a bit thick, but I didn’t want to overthink things.

Monday night came and I was ready for phase two. It had set for 24 hours and did not look as thick. There was a little moisture around the outside edges, so my first thought was that I didn’t mix it all the way, but I think this was more just the natural process.

It was feeding time, so I mixed in the same amounts of flour and water as the first day, covered loosely with plastic wrap and let it be.

Tuesday night arrived, and it was looking a little thinner, but there weren’t any bubbles or anything. This is when I was starting to question if I had done it right. Even though the recipes said it could take a couple of days to start seeing bubbles, I had doubt. The recipes also said it should be kept at a temperature of 70-75 degrees. I keep my house between 60-65, and I had it in a glass bowl, which felt even colder. So I was questioning whether or not this would work.

I did another feeding, and had my fingers crossed that something – anything – would happen.

Wednesday evening came along and I was happy. There were a couple of bubbles in there. Not many, but at least some. I had some optimism. It didn’t taste any different, though (I took little tastes every night, just because I’m weird like that).

It was time to feed it again. I had not factored in all of the days I would be adding flour and water, so the original bowl I started with got to be too small. I had to upgrade to a larger bowl (which happened to be plastic). Loosely covered it, and let it go.

Thursday night arrived and I was happy with what I saw. There were quite a few bubbles, and it started to have an “aroma” to it.

I did my evening feeding and let it be for another day.

Friday night came and then came the words. “Feed me, Seymour!”. This was really odd, since my name is not Seymour, and I did not name this Audrey II. For those of you who get the reference, thank you for rolling your eyes. For those of you who did not get the reference, you can roll your eyes later. The aroma had definitely become more distinct. I now understood why they call it sourdough.

I wanted to try to do a test run on Saturday, so I decided to take some of the starter aside. I fed the starter base and let it sit.

I took out one cup of the starter.

I added 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. I mixed it all together, put a light layer of oil on the top, covered it loosely with plastic wrap, and let it stay in the bowl to sit overnight. It was still a bit sticky, which I think was a mistake on my part.

When I woke up in the morning, there was not much of a change to the dough. I added a little flour to it and turned the oven on to 400.

I put a little bit of flour on a baking sheet and placed the bread on top of it. I then gave it an “X” on the top. There was still another 10 minutes before the oven was ready, and it started to rise a little within that time. That let me know I messed up with how I put this all together. No matter, I put it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

The house had a nice sourdough bread smell to it, so I was a happy camper. I checked the temperature with a thermometer (it should be around 210 in the center), and it was ready to cool.

I learned quite a few things with this test run. I should have made the dough a better consistency. It was too sticky, which meant it needed more flour. I think that the additional flour might have helped with the rising. I’m no food scientist, so I could be wrong. Once I had it at the right consistency, I should have given it more time to rise. I also should have baked it on parchment paper or used some cooking spray. It stuck to the pan in a couple of places, and it was not fun when it was time to clean the pan.

As far as the flavor goes, I was happy. The outer crust was hard, but not overly chewy, which is one of the things I don’t really like about sourdough bread. The inner part of the bread had the familiar flavor. Biting into it reminded me of the flavors that I’m used to. It was a bit dense, but that was probably because I did not let it rise properly.

So what I have is a gassy, dense sourdough starter and sourdough bread. Gassy and Dense – just like its dad. Awww. I’m glad that this first batch did not turn out perfectly. I got some of the basics down, but I need to learn. I’ve made different types of bread before and they all worked out. This will just take me some more practice. Trying and failing is better than not trying and regretting. Stay positive!