We have bread!
Things were looking bleak after we left week 1 with a starving starter.
Weeks 2 and 3 included reviving and maturing the starter, and baking lots of bread!
Beginning on day 8, I started feeding the starter twice/day. This quickly resolved the starvation problem and gave me all those airy bubbles for which I had been patiently waiting (and by "patiently waiting" I of course mean "obsessively checking").
By the end of week 2, my starter was predictably doubling in size. To better gage its growth, I started marking the top of the starter on the jar after each feed in the name of science/a more reliable visual than my memory.
See how it grew on day 16:
Bubbles + doubling in size mean it's ready to leaven bread!
I figured I would start with one loaf just to see how it went. Since then, I have not been able to stop. As a household, we're currently consuming an average of one sourdough loaf/day.
Will we keep this pace for the long haul? Time will tell. But the whole process of sourdough baking is so satisfying, it's hard to stop. And do we really want to?? All of this fresh, homemade bread is a definite highlight of our days right now.
But I guess if you are trying to live a low-carb life, proceed with caution.
Here are the loaves of week 3.
(I used the same recipe for all of these, with variations on method.)
Loaf 1: My first bake! This went off without a hitch. It rested overnight in the cool oven and was baked on a pizza stone in a 450 degree oven in the morning. The flavor and crust were pretty perfect, although I wouldn't be mad having an airier crumb.
Loaf 2: Look at those holes! This may have been my favorite loaf of the bunch. This one was also left to prove overnight in the cool oven. There was such extreme sticking that happened when I went to transfer the dough from the proofing basket to the pizza stone that I ended up having to reshape it right before baking. Despite this mishap, it ended up as the loaf with the best crumb!
(Also you can see that this one blew out at the bottom - for some reason this kept happening to loaves baked on my pizza stone. I switched to using a cast iron skillet and it has not happened since.)
Loaf 3: My least favorite. It looks too... clean? I need an ugly-beautiful loaf, you know?
Proved overnight in the fridge instead of the oven, then baked in the morning. The big pro here is that scoring went really well - look at those lines! But the crumb was tight, the bread was not sour enough, and it took so long to bake that the crust was super hard by the time the middle was done. Definitely not my preferred method!
We're in the early stages of fine-tuning a recipe, but here is what I've been using and have liked so far. As you can see from the examples above, even slight variations will produce different results, so don't take this recipe as law, and don't be afraid to venture off! Even the worst sourdough mistakes are (usually) edible.
- 400 grams all purpose flour (3 1/3 cups)
- 230 grams tepid water (1 cup)
- 5 grams salt (1 teaspoon)
- 160 grams active sourdough starter (1 scant cup)
- Mix: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until roughly incorporated. Knead: Turn onto a clean work surface and knead until a smooth dough forms. It will be sticky! As the gluten forms through kneading, it will soften up and stick less. Avoid adding too much flour - just a light dusting if you really need it. The end goal here is a smooth ball of dough that can hold its own weight. To test, pick up the whole ball of dough by a handful and hold it up. If it lasts a good 5 seconds before any tearing, kneading is done. This usually takes me about 15 minutes. Prove: Form the dough into a loose ball and place in a bowl. Cover loosely and prove at room temperature for 2-3 hours, until doubled in size.Shape: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough lightly a few times. Shape into a disc, fold it in half, turn 90 degrees, and repeat until you've gone all the way around the dough. Place seam-side down and cup your hands around the far side of it. Pull your hands gently toward yourself so the dough is pulled along the worksurface. You should feel the tension in the surface of the dough building. Turn 90 degrees and repeat until your dough is in a firm ball with the seam at the bottom. Prove: Place a tea towel in a large bowl and flour generously. Place the shaped dough seam-side up in the prepared bowl. Prove 3 hours - up to overnight - until the dough is roughly doubled in size. Score + Bake: Place a baking dish with 1-inch of water in it on the bottom rack of the oven. Place a cast iron skillet on a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Once preheated, remove the cast iron skillet and turn the prepared dough into it (it should be seam-side down now). Score with a sharp knife and return to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and the bread sounds hollow. Remove to a cutting board or wire rack and cool for an hour.
I've found it really helpful to watch videos of people baking sourdough before doing it myself. Here are a couple favorites: