Several years ago I tried to make sourdough bread. I remember that the bread came out as hard as a brick and didn’t rise at all. It didn’t take much neglect until the starter was rancid and in the trash. I really didn’t believe it could be done.
Then one day I was reading my friend Keri Mae’s blog and saw that she had been making sourdough bread. And her bread was soft and delicious and she didn’t use any yeast other than her starter. I was amazed! I wanted to try again, but really lacked confidence in myself to make it happen. I decided to order a couple of starters from the company Keri Mae suggested. It took be over a year to get the nerve up to try them (I didn’t want to ruin them waste my money).
One day someone posted a link on Facebook to a free e-book, Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread. Now I will tell you, I was blown away by all the research done for the book. It totally makes sense to me. I have been grinding my own wheat now for 6 or 7 years, and I could never buy into the idea of soaking my wheat berries then drying them out so that I could grind them. For one thing, it is just too much hassle for me. Second, I was really skeptical of the perceived benefits of soaking the grain.
Thankfully, what Jessie shows in her book (in a nutshell) is that sourdough really is the way to go with baking. Sourdough is full of beneficial bacterial that is so good for our gut health. And it makes the nutrients in the bread more readily available. So I believed in the concept, I just didn’t know if it was doable on a practical level.
Anyhow, I decided to jump right in and get started. At first, I experienced the same presumed failure I had experienced before. The bread didn’t rise and the starter started smelling like paint thinner. However, this time instead of throwing it out, I went to Google first. Come to find out, I hadn’t ruined my starter after all. I just needed to feed it much more often, and wait about a week before using it. I did that and I now have the most pleasant smelling starter that works every time!
Here is what I have learned so far:
I took about a cup of flour (freshly ground whole wheat–soft or hard, doesn’t matter), a cup of water, and half of the starter from my packet. I stirred that up in a jar and left it sitting on the counter. I have found that my starter needs to be fed at least 2-3 times a day. I take about 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup water (always use approximately the same amount of each) and stir it into the jar. The first week while you are getting it ready to use, you will end up feeding it so much that it is too much for one jar. If you want, you can poor half into another jar and start it for a friend (or you can just poor out the excess).
After about a week, I noticed that when I fed my starter, not only would it start to bubble (it had been bubbling from about day 2), but it would also rise in the jar. After a few hours it would fizzle down and develop liquid on the top. This liquid is normal, just stir it back in when you feed it next.
When I make bread now, I usually try to feed the starter about 30 minutes before I want to use it so that it will be good and active in the dough.
I tried several recipes before I finally came up with my own. I wanted something simple and the size of this recipe is perfect for my large cast iron pan. I am not sure how many loaves it would make, as I just make rolls with it.
Flaxseed Sourdough Rolls
5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil most of the time, but have also used coconut oil with good results)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (before it is ground) flaxseed
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cup water, lukewarm
Very simple instructions…I just throw everything in my mixer and mix for a good 6-8 minutes. I usually don’t time it precisely, just make sure the dough has a nice elasticity to it.
I then roll the dough in balls and place in my cast iron skillet. I cover, let rise overnight, and pop them in the oven in the morning.
I usually bake at 350, but I am not sure how long I leave them in there. I just check to see if they are done.
More With Sourdough
I know that I have just scratched the surface with sourdough baking. I tried to make some sourdough donuts, but it was before my starter had really starter going and they were just too tangy. I am anxious to try it again now that I “got the hang of it”. In her book, Jessie has recipes for all kinds of sourdough goodies.
My friend Keri Mae is writing about sourdough today as well. I can’t wait to see what she posts. I am always learning something new from her and I am sure I will today as well. She has been using sourdough for a while now, so she’s sure to have some goodness in store! Make sure and visit her to learn more about sourdough bread.