Unless I discover something super duper awesome in the near future, this will be the last installment of a string of sourdough posts in the Candid Carbohydrate series…
Not that capturing wild yeast out of thin air isn’t awesome in and of itself. Because it totally is.
What if I told you you’d never have pay for baker’s yeast again?
Or that you could eat bread so packed with nutrients that it’s practically digested for you?
Still better yet, it contains the same gut-healthy bacteria as yogurt?!
See? Totally. Awesome.
Here are the previous posts we’ve covered on sourdough:
- Sourdough 101: The Crash Course
- Creating a Sourdough Starter
- A Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Making a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter
- Sourdough Pancake Recipe w/Ideas for Variations
After successfully starting and working through three different starters, using two different methods, and a total of five different flours, I’ve gained a bit more experience when it comes to sourdough.
Granted though, I am by no means an expert.
I’m just a frugal foodie who has collected a few tips along the way, and I’d like to share them all with you! It’s been said before – making sourdough is more experimentation than following a recipe. But it’s also been said that we should learn from each other’s mistakes. 😉
In as organized fashion as random tips can be organized, here are some tips when making sourdough (based on some additional research and my own experience):
- Water kefir can be used instead of filtered water when making a starter. In general, this method produces a ready starter is less time.
- The good, healthy bacteria live in the water that often collects at the surface. It’s the bacteria that gives the bread its sour taste.
- The yeast lives in the dough portion of the starter. The yeast is what must be fed so it can multiply to the point of causing dough to rise.
- Feeding the starter more often will cause the yeast to multiply faster.
- Pouring off excess water will lessen the sour taste.
- Pouring off excess starter does not affect the yeast’s ability to multiply in the long run.
- In general, thicker starters yield better baked goods, so use less water when feeding the starter.
- If the starter feels too thick for a recipe, add water.
- Yeast thrives better with more rather than less air circulation.
- Medium pyrex bowls covered with a dinner plate are excellent for maintaining a starter.
- The same medium pyrex bowl can be used to create a starter as well, in lieu of a quart jar.
- Sourdough is forgiving. It thrives when fed regularly, but won’t throw fits if you miss a feeding (or two).
- You want to bake with starter that is at its peak – when nearly all of the yeast has eaten but hasn’t begun to go dormant because of the lack of food. You can see when a starter has peaked because it will have a dome-shape on top.
- Starters peak in the 2-3 hour range after each feeding.
- Don’t skimp on the water that recipes call for. Sourdough recipes are wetter than traditional breads make with baker’s yeast.
- Make the following alterations to all sourdough recipes: In the beginning, combine the starter, water and half of the flour and let it sit for 10 minutes. Add the salt after all the remaining ingredients, knead briefly and let it sit for 10 minutes. When the dough is just pulling away from the sides of the mixer bowl, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and let it sit for 10 minutes. Knead by hand for 5 minutes, then rest for five minutes. Repeat one more time.
- The press-your-thumb-to-test-for-springyness test works. Do it.
- The see-through-your-dough test works too. Try it.
- Two rises will produce a more sour bread than a single rise.
During the Rise…
- The quicker the dough rises, the less sour the bread will be.
- The longer the dough rises, the more sour the bread will be.
- The warmer the temperature, the quicker the dough will rise.
- It is possible for sourdough to over-rise. When baked, this dough will become flat discs.
- The vessel in which dough rises can limit the extent of the rise. Be sure to leave plenty of room for expansion. (That’s a two-loaf recipe split into thirds above)
- Controlling the temperature allows you to be in greater control of when the dough will be ready, and in turn, when the bread will be ready.
- The following methods will provide a consistent temperature for the bread to rise: heating pad on low, in an oven with the light on or in a dehydrator. Consider adjusting the temperature higher and lower to find the “sweet spot.” Using my heating pad on low gives me a rise time of 5-6 hours.
- Sourdough will not necessarily double in size during the rise(s).
When it’s Baking…
- Using a pan filled with boiling water adds moisture to the bread.
More General Tips…
- Sourdough takes time, patience and practice. Don’t give up!
- If bread fails despite repeated attempts, use the starter for other baked goods for a few weeks to a month. Meanwhile, feed the starter consistently to build up the concentration of the yeast.