Sharon January 15th, 2009

Sourdough is not specifically a method of preserving bread, although I do find that my sourdough loaves stay fresh longer than my yeasted ones.  But sourdough is a food preservation issue in two ways.  First, it is a ferment, which acts to preserve something (in this case, leavening power), it is also a substitute for a perishable commercial product, commercial yeast.  It is possible to capture yeasts directly, but sourdough is easier to keep and maintain, and it is delicious as well.

In order to get sourdough, you need to make a sour.  Now you can buy them at various places, but quite honestly, I think that’s not very appealing - why find some commercially uniform source of sourdough when you could have the fun and benefit of harvesting wild critters and tasting what your natural ecology produces.

 Thus, I offer up this reference:  There’s enough info here to keep you busy for a while - happy baking!


15 Responses to “Sourdough”

  1. Jessicaon 15 Jan 2023 at 11:38 am

    I’ve tried and tried - with five starters (homemade) and only one of them worked - the others went mouldy and dangerous looking. The one worked beautifully and I made two loaves and pancakes from it - and then I became over-confident and tried to use whole wheat flour to feed the starter - which it didn’t like and died. I look forward to reading the link properly and having another go.

    Another thing I found was that starters turned bad very quickly in summer, so maybe I should have kept it in the basement.

  2. curiousalexaon 15 Jan 2023 at 12:04 pm

    great site! as i feared, i do not knead enough, while adding too much flour. the recipe for whole wheat sourdough looks terrific for making with stored grains!

  3. tarynkayon 15 Jan 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Hmm… the website says not to use commercial yeast, but I did use that, along with flour and water, to start my starter. I had no problems starting it, and I use it every week to make bread successfully. It makes delicious bread and it’s cheaper because I don’t have to buy yeast anymore. Recently, I started making no-knead bread with it, which is really really good.

  4. Grandma Mision 15 Jan 2023 at 12:54 pm

    This is so weird… Just yesterday I went to, read, and was inspired by this site you mentioned. Sheesh, we’re on the same page once again.
    One of my major goals this year is to renew my confidence and have bread baking a regular weekly thrill/necessity.
    The one day I could get out last month (between the major snow storm - and then the highway closing floods here in the Northwest) I went to the closest rural food market and grabbed a loaf of their inexpensive bread (I usually buy from my local coop bakery).
    Suffice to say that bread was just plain nasty. Yukky, tasteless and wrapped in plastic to boot.
    Found a beautiful, EASY recipe for no-knead bread that makes the sweetest little artisan style loaves of boule I could ever imagine. Gonna tweek it some with more whole grains for more flavor, but even as it is it’s the “staff of life” and perfect for sandwiches, dipping in “every day soups and stews” and such!
    Now, on to sourdough!

  5. Edward Bryanton 15 Jan 2023 at 1:07 pm

    I think that keeping a wet sourdough starter is a pain and unnecessary.

    I save a piece of kneaded dough in a crock, covered with flour in the fridge. It will last 3-4 weeks without any additions and zero thought. When you are ready, pull out the dough(biga) and tear it into pieces into your bread bowl. Add water, salt and flour. Allow to ferment, multiply with more water and flour once it really begins to bubble, then knead and bake once your sponge is big enough. Save another biga and repeat .

  6. Jessicaon 15 Jan 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Dear Edward, would you mind being more specific about the amount of dough you save, quantities of water salt and flour and length of fermenting time please? Or recommend a book? Thanks!

  7. Edward Bryanton 15 Jan 2023 at 11:16 pm

    Hi Jessica,

    I save a biga about the size of a child’s fist. This method of baking is very flexible. You add a couple of cups of flour and enough water to make a wet sponge…about as thick as pancake batter. Fermenting times depend on the activity of the biga…after three or four weeks the starter wakes up slowly; as long as 24-36 hours. When used regularly(2-3 times a week), fermenting for six to eight hours is ample for the first amplification…less for subsequent amplifications. Timing is very loose…if you are too busy, just add flour and water or retard in the fridge. I sometimes go on for days this way, but you end up with a monumental amount of sponge.

    Sourdough’s tend to have much less raise, so I avoid the punching down phase. Once I am ready to bake, I fold in enough flour to make a workable dough. Then I turn it out on the cutting board and knead, letting the dough rest for ten or so minutes after a few minutes of kneading. Continue kneading for ten or so minutes, then cut the dough and shape loaves. I generally let the loaves proof for an hour or so, then into a 450 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes. I constantly spray water into my (gas) oven to simulate the steam of a wood-fired horno/brick oven.

    I think the book I was most influenced by was “The Bread Builders”, but I would have to check. If you are interested I could put together a list of books I found helpful.

  8. Laurie in MNon 15 Jan 2023 at 11:58 pm

    For those of you experienced bread bakers out there:

    Do you absolutely NEED to add regular flour in with whole wheat for everything to work? The “whole wheat” recipes I’ve encountered assert that you need the regular unbleached/white flour to provide enough lift with the whole wheat flour. I’m just curious as to whether all whole wheat works at all or whether you get a brick. :)

    I’ll happily take bread book recommendations, too. I’m currently working with my Betty Crocker cookbook and a bread machine recipe that seems to work more or less. (although recently it seems to be getting a weak spot about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the loaf. Not sure if I’m not kneading enough, or adding too much flour or what. I am a noob. ;) )

  9. Jessicaon 16 Jan 2023 at 8:28 am

    Thank you Edward. I look forward to trying that!

  10. Edward Bryanton 16 Jan 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Ok Jessica and Laurie,

    My favorite bread book is the “The Bread Builders”, especially chapters 3 and 4 which will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about starters and bread. Using the methods and information contained in “the Bread Builders” I have been successfully making bread using the technique I described above for the past decade; I never measure or time anything but that information is discussed.

    One of these days I will get the money and gumption to build a wood-fired oven…how to build such an oven is also explained in “The Bread Builders”.

    I also found the books “Bread Alone” and “The Il Fornaio Baking Book” moderately useful.

  11. simplephat in slcon 16 Jan 2023 at 5:58 pm

    Laurie, check out Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads Book, specifically pgs 95-98 to start. may be at your local library, it was mine. 100% whole wheat sandwich bread turned out great and i use to only bake bricks or have to add all purpose. talks more about the biga edward mention, too.

  12. Laurie in MNon 17 Jan 2023 at 11:43 pm

    Edward and simplephat:

    Awesome! Thank you for the info! I’ll be looking for the books recommended in my local library. :)

  13. Sharonon 18 Jan 2023 at 9:28 am

    I also recommend the _Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book_ for all whole grain breads, and _Secrets of a Jewish Baker_ for some really fascinating European style sours. If you plan to build an earth oven for baking, Kiko Denzer’s _Earth Ovens_ is the book to get, along with the _Bread Builders_ one above.


  14. Ponyon 19 Jan 2023 at 2:21 am

    Edward! What age of child? I get it that it is smaller than my fist (baseball), but would it be a ten year old’s (tennis ball) or maybe a one year old’s (golf ball)? Or something in between? ;)

  15. Edward Bryanton 19 Jan 2023 at 11:41 am

    Neither an infant, nor a babe, nor a toddler, nor even a tween or teen, but a child of the golden years…5-8, with a BMI of 18 under four feet tall. Also a good size for baking!

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