What is sourdough? Well, it’s in the name, it’s literally a sour-dough. It’s not really an extreme sour taste as the name suggests. It definitely doesn’t taste as sour as you think it would. This just refers to how the both the bread and the starter
What is a sourdough starter? Let’s understand one thing first, wild yeast, it’s all around us, it’s in the air, and it settles on everything, including the flour. These wild yeasts are not dangerous at all, and are inactive.
You can make a sourdough starter by simply mixing flour and water. The wild yeast and bacteria (lactobacilli) that occur naturally in the environment start working together. This combination will generate byproducts that help your starter become active.
As with any fermentation process, it takes time. These will take a week or more to become mature. To maintain our sourdough starter’s activity, we need to feed it. When feeding our starter, we simply discard a certain amount of the old starter, and add fresh flour and water.
Sourdough starters were used before commercial yeast was created, but they perform the same way. The wild yeast in the starter will produce carbon dioxide bubbles, and when making bread, these gas bubbles get trapped within the dough, causing the bread to rise. Even though commercial yeast is readily available, most artisan bread makers use starters in their baking.
Now that we have gotten a general understanding, I’ll share the story of my sourdough journey. It was just a mere suggestion from my cousin; I didn’t think of it as something I would seriously take on. I did have a realization that I do prefer the taste of artisan bread, and I thought, how hard could it be to make one? So I researched more about it, and it peaked my interest.
On July 22, 2019 , I started my sourdough journey, and my first fermentation “baby” was born — my sourdough starter, aka Jimmy. Thanks to my cousin, or I may never have embarked on this commitment.
After one week of feeding my sourdough starter, I started making my own bread by following Joshua Weissman’s instructional video. There were two things that didn’t go so well on my first try: First, I did not own a dutch-oven, but I did see people using a baking stone and roasting pan filled with water. I decided to use that method, since I had a pizza stone at home.
Second, the combination of not scoring my loaves deeply enough before baking, and not having enough steam in the oven to get a nice crust on the outside—resulted in the loaf bursting open. This is why we need to score our loaves properly; it needs a spot to expand fully, or else it will open at its weakest spot. I baked an “okay” loaf, it didn’t look that pretty, but it still tasted good.
So I took a couple months off from attempting to make another sourdough bread. I had to do more research about it, and I decided to make something out of the discard from my sourdough starter. I tried my hand at making a one-day sourdough pizza crust. This turned out really well, and it really heightened the flavor of the pizza as well. I will post a recipe of this soon.
Another recipe I tried was a sourdough focaccia, this has to be one of my favorite recipes so far. It turned out so perfectly, and it was just bursting with flavor. I topped this one off with butter, garlic, and rosemary. I will also share this recipe soon!
After a couple weeks, I decided to make my sourdough bread again. This time, it was perfect. I finally decided to get myself a Lodge Cast Iron Combo Set instead of a dutch-oven. It was definitely more affordable, and I thought it would be a nice addition to my kitchen. I will one day get a dutch-oven, but not right now. Anyway, I followed the same Joshua Weissman method and recipe, and this time it turned out perfectly.
The cast iron set really helped get the steam in as it baked. This gave the bread a beautiful crust and nice crust all around. Not to mention, I made sure to score the loaf deeper this time, and it worked! No sign of bursting at the bottom. Nice crust, nice crumb, and same great taste. It was amazing.
Now, I bet you’re wondering if I’m gonna give you a recipe for this.The answer is not yet, I want to perfect the recipe so I know I am giving you guys a bulletproof sourdough recipe. I am still on my own sourdough journey. Sourdough is just a whole other world that I have only just scratched the surface.
There are so many other things to learn, like how much hydration plays in the bread, what results different flours give you, using a stiff starter versus a liquid one, how it works with your gut microbiome, etc. If you need more of an in depth look into the quirk of sourdough, here are some great references.
I’m obviously not going to stop here. I didn’t make this sourdough just to tell everyone I did it. I’m going to continue growing and see where it takes me! I do want to experiment more with different flours and I am actually considering making a whole grain starter. But we’ll see! I’ll update all of you when that happens!
If you’re wondering if you should start your own journey, I say just go for it. Do your research as I did, and just enjoy the process. And if you know a little more about sourdough than I do, please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments below! I would high appreciate it!