And so it goes…winter, rain and wind. I can find nothing better to do on a blustery day than to bake. So since it is blustery here and I have nothing to do…we are going to go through the process and bake naturally leavened sourdough bread. San Francisco made be famous for sourdoughs, but lemme tell ya you can make a rocking one here in southern California or anywhere else for that matter at anytime.
But before you go hog wild on baking this oh so California bread you must remember one thing…you need a starter. No, running to the store for Red Star yeast doesn’t cut it, you have to culture your own.
As daunting as this may seem, it’s actually pretty easy. The hardest part is to keep you little ball of fun warm prior to making your bread. You will need to set aside 4 days for this culture to get going and ripen. You are hoping for some wild yeast to “fall” into your starter, along with some tasty bacteria. Your yeast leavens the bread; the bacteria will give it its signature “sour” flavor. Now, toss out the hand sanitizer and get ready to make a small mess.
Grab a small mixing bowl and add;
- ¼ cup of flour
- 2+ tablespoons of water
into the bowl and with a wood or plastic soon slowly add ½ of the water into the flour. Mix well with the spoon and add a bit more of the water until your dough comes together and you can make it into a small ball.
Place this ball on a lightly dusted cutting board or table and knead it for 8 minutes. You are looking for a firm ball that is well kneaded. Place this into a clean ceramic or glass bowl, cover it with a damp, warm towel and place in a warm place for a 1 ½ to 2 days…and no cheating!
Now it’s time to check out your starter, what it “should” look like is this;
A small ball with a crust on top that is cracked.
- If you see this move on to the next step.
- If not, place it back up and wait until you see the above or start over cause you blew it!
If you have moved on because you did the first steps correctly then go ahead and pick all of the hardened and dried dough off of your ball, leaving you with a small amount of sponge. Place this sponge back into the bowl and add the following;
- ½ cup flour
- 4 tablespoons (+-) of warm water
Now, using your spoon mix the sponge until it begins to look like a ball again. You are just going to repeat the first step just with a bit more flour. Knead for 5-8 minutes, cover with a damp cloth and place back in that warm spot it so quietly loves for another 24 hours.
Repeat the removal of the crust. Tear apart the starter and place it in a proper mixing bowl. Add ½ cup of flour and enough water, using your ratios above to make it back into that firm little ball. Knead for 5 minutes, cover and put back into its honey pot. Wait a minimum of 12 hours, though it’s better to let it sit at least overnight.
We are now at the point on Day 4 where we will make the bread, which of course is part 2 of this story. While you are making your starter I will be baking bread so look for part 2 in the coming days.
A thought about warmth and your yeasts honey pot. For fun, I used a very non-traditional heat source for my yeast starter….my laptop. Yup, that’s right my crusty old Sony laptop. I found that while I am running my boinc programs (World Community Grid, Seti and some climate change thing from the UK) my laptop’s processor pumps out quite a bit of heat.
Resting the bottom of the laptop on top of my bowl gave my started all the love it could to ferment during this chilly week here in San Diego. If you are looking for alternatives to using the oven you could always sit it on top of your cable control box, as this is how I started out while watching the NFL playoffs…
Fresh sourdough bread coming up!