If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you’ll know that I have an animal living in my refrigerator. It breaths oxygen and needs to be fed on a weekly basis. Not sure what the heck I’m talking about? Well, then let me enlighten you. It’s my beloved sourdough starter.
If you’ve never used a sourdough starter before, you really need to get one started and have your own little refrigerator pet. I use mine for everything from pizza dough and biscuits, to breadsticks and pancakes. And in fact, almost any recipe that uses commercial yeast can be converted and used with your starter.
There are tons of websites on the internet that talk about sourdough starters; how to make one, manage one, and use one. But the basic premise to create your own is to mix one cup of lukewarm water with one cup of flour and let it sit out for 24 hours. Cover your starter to keep from getting dust and other gunk in it, but be sure to leave a corner uncovered. Yeast need to breath oxygen to live.
When the 24 hours is up, discard half your mixture (or just split into two bowls to make a second batch for a friend) and add another half cup of flour and half cup of lukewarm water. Keep doing this every 24 hours until your starter begins to really foam and puff up. It should have a pleasant beer smell to it. And that’s pretty much all there is to it; you’ve created your own starter! This process can take anywhere from 3 days to a little over a week depending on conditions in your area.
Once your starter is alive and kicking, you can keep it in your fridge (covered with a corner open for breathing) and feed it once a week. Even if you forget and it goes longer, it will more than likely still be fine. Starter is some hearty stuff. The only thing that will really kill it quickly is to get it too hot. When you’re ready to use it, bring it out of the fridge, discard half and feed it the half cup lukewarm water/flour. Let it sit for a few hours to warm up and come back alive. I like to put mine on my windowsill in the morning and it’s ready to use by lunch time.
There are many great websites out there that talk about starters. The one I used that I thought was easy to understand and follow was THIS one. <
Ok, on to the bread. For me, there’s nothing better than the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Except maybe the point where you slice the bread, still warm, slather a little butter on it, and put your mouth to it. It’s the closest thing to heaven on earth. I’ve always found it amazing that something requiring such simple ingredients as yeast, flour, water, and salt, can yield a result so delicious and amazing as a loaf of bread. Here’s what you’ll need to create this delicious bread boule.
1 Cup of Warm Water
3 Cups of Bread Flour
1 Cup of Sourdough Starter
1 Tbsp of Sugar
1 tsp of Salt
1 Tbsp of Vinegar
1/4 Cup of Milk
3 Tbsp of Butter, Softened
Before I get started, I wanted to make mention that when using a sourdough starter, expect your rising times to be longer than with commercial yeast. It’s not uncommon for a rise to go 4 to 5 hours instead of 2 to 3. This loaf of bread actually took me 2 days to make. I did the first rise which took four hours and then did the second rise as a slow rise in my fridge overnight. I cooked it up in the morning, and we had the bread for dinner that evening. Just wanted to put that out there so you don’t panic when nothing seems to be happening with your dough.
The first step is to combine all your ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix them well to form a dough ball and then begin to knead your dough on a well floured surface for about 10 minutes. The kneading helps to get the gluten into the dough so you don’t want to skimp on the time here. Once your dough is good and kneaded, spray a little cooking spray on the bottom of your bowl, drop your dough in and then flip it over so both sides get covered in the oil.
Cover your bowl with a dish cloth and set it aside to rise for 4 to 8 hours. I like to put mine in the oven to rise with the light on. Sometimes I’ll even turn the oven on for 1 minute at 170 degrees and then turn it off to get a nice warm environment. Make sure if you do this, that you can touch your hand to the side of the oven. If you can’t, it’s too hot and you need to let it cool for a few minutes before putting your bread dough in to rise.
Once your dough is risen, you’ll pull it out and knead it again for about 5 minutes, adding a tbsp of flour at a time to keep the dough from being sticky. I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup when all was said and done, but yours may vary from that.
Now you will grease up a pan, sprinkle a little cornmeal across the bottom of it and shape your dough into boules. Cover your bread and let it rise again until double in size. If you do a warm rise, expect it to take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. I mentioned it above, but I did a slow rise in my refrigerator. I placed a cover over the bread and stuck it in my fridge overnight. Here’s what I woke up to the next morning:
They’re look quite lovely already if I do say so myself. Run a few 1 inch cuts down the middle of your loaves and they’re ready for the oven.
Place the pan with your boules in the oven, and set your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Let your boules cool for about an hour before slicing (if you can make it that long!). Here are my finished boules.
And here’s what they look like on the inside. If that’s not fit for a king, I don’t know what is! Grab your butter and cut yourself a piece of yummy homemade bread goodness.
Total Time: 6 Hours
1 Cup Lukewarm Water
3 Cups Bread Flour
1 Cup Sourdough Starter
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Vinegar
1/4 Cup Milk
3 Tbsp Butter, Softened
The first step is to combine all your ingredients together in a large bowl.
them well to form a dough ball and then begin to knead your dough on a well floured surface for about 10 minutes.
Cover your bowl with a dish cloth and set it aside to rise for 4 to 8 hours.
Once your dough is risen, you'll pull it out and knead it again for about 5 minutes, adding a tbsp of flour at a time to keep the dough from being sticky. I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup when all was said and done, but yours may vary from that.
Now you will grease up a pan, sprinkle a little cornmeal across the bottom of it and shape your dough into boules. Cover your bread and let it rise again until double in size.
Run a few 1 inch cuts down the middle of your loaves and they're ready for the oven.
Place the pan with your boules in the oven, and set your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven.
The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Let your boules cool for about an hour before slicing.
[…] pate and a tri-colored vegetarian pate. For the bread I attempted French baguettes using my sourdough starter. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The salmon pate was the biggest hit. All three of my […]
thank you SO much for posting this! I started my first starter this week, and I am very impatiently waiting for it to be ready.
5 Star Foodie says
A lovely loaf! Sounds wonderful fresh out of the oven!
M @ Betty Crapper says
I've always wanted to make and bake with starter. Thanks for the clear instructions, but I'm not sure I can tackle that now. How do you keep yourself from forgetting to feed the animal?
Betty, Honestly, I don't. I'm pretty bad about remembering to feed him. It doesn't really matter though. I think the last stint, I probably didn't use him for a month, fed him that morning and he bounced right back to life. He'll work regardless, it may just take a bit longer or an extra feeding to get him up to baking quality.
Julie, these loaves look fabulous! You know I love to bake breads don't you? I must admit, I am a little afraid to try this sourdough starter. Maybe someday I'll find the courage..LOL!
Chef Dennis says
that is positively gorgeous bread!!! I am not much of a baker, still learning here, and I do love sourdough….you make it sound so easy!
thanks so much for sharing such an informative post!
Nanny Goats In Panties says
I have never done the starter thing before, and I love sourdough bread. I love all bread, actually. If it wasn't considered extreme behavior resulting in malnutrition I would eat nothing but bread all day every day.
Did I mention that I like bread?
Anyway, thanks for sharing your recipe and I hope you have a wonderful weekend. (visiting from SITS)
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From Tracie says
Mmmm there is nothing I love more than freshly baked bread! Yum!
Did you read my mind…because i didn't post it. I so want a sourdough starter! I keep saying I am going to make my own bread and have not done it yet…now that I have a new oven…I have no excuses.
I've never had a pet since my childhood, but this is so intriguing. The idea of having this pet in the refrigerator is a great idea! And what is I love about this pet is that it is functional 🙂 The result looks fantastic! I can even feel its tempting smell. Thanks for this post.
Ma What's 4 dinner says
I worship at the altar of your baking godliness. Do you think that you can come out here and teach me how to bake? I try, I suck. I think it's a patience thing. But I really really really like bread. That's an understatement by the way!
Thanks for your guest post. It was great. We got home late yesterday. It went really well and was a ton of fun, but I'm so tired! Thanks for helping out.
Lots of yummy love,
Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner
Lea Ann says
Beautiful looking bread. One of these days I'd like to fiddle around with some sourdough starter. Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower. You have a great blog and I will also be a reader.
Dani G says
This looks so good. Reminds me of how great that clam chowder in the sourdough bread bowl was in San Francisco. Great, I'm hungry now. Happy SITS Saturday!
I have been baking bread for awhile now, but I've yet to use a starter (a shame, I know!). Thank you for this informative post. I look forward to giving this a try!
i remember reading about a bread starter from anthony bourdain's book No Reservations, where his bread guy used to call in to tell him to "feed the b–ch…"
i'm a new follower from SITS 🙂
Recycling Mom says
Glad I found you, need to find some new recipes to use up all the flour I have in my freezer 🙂
Following now f/ LBS.
~Emily @ Random Recycling
Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds says
Baking bread is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Next to making homemade gnocchi. It just seems like you're creating something out of nothing.
I wonder if I could keep this starter alive in the fridge.
Miel Abeille says
I can almost smell the bready goodness from those photos! When I get a hankerin' for baking my own bread, I'll have to refer to this recipe. Thanks, Julie!
The Cilantropist says
I am always yearning to have a pet in my fridge myself… but somehow I always rationalize why I don't have the patience (or maybe memory) to take care of a starter with so many other things going on. But. Seeing your bread! Yuuum! Well, I just might need to have a change of heart. 🙂
Sarah @ Mum In Bloom says
Julie you are amazing & have wiped away my fear of starting a starter. Ok, I'm ready now. Love the photos 🙂
fabulous–you just don't see many boules these days and that's a shame! i like to hollow mine out for soup. bravo, julie!
This makes me wish I had some of my Grandma’s old sourdough starter… I’ll have to get some next time I’m at her house.
do you make a cranberry white chocolate boule