My First Sourdough!

I've been curious about making sourdough bread for a long time.  I'll admit it was a bit intimidating.  You have to have a starter and you have to feed the starter, whatever that meant.  So I just bought sourdough.  It was easier.

Well, my friends at King Arthur Flour send me an email with a $10 coupon in it.  I couldn't let it expire, right?  I ordered the sourdough starter and waited patiently for it to arrive.

It arrived last Tuesday.  I read the directions.  Then thought maybe I should just go buy a loaf of sourdough!  The initial feeding of the starter is almost as bad as getting a new puppy!   It's not as loud or messy but it takes a lot of care and "feeding."

The first feeding required 8-12 hours.  Cool, I can do that overnight, right?  Oh wait, there's a second and a third required before I can actually use the starter!  Unfortunately for me I have not won the lottery and I need to go to work.  So I decided I would do that initial 8-12 hour feeding while I was at work, then I could do the second two and maybe not too far after my bed time it would be ready to go.  Oh wait... then you have to wait for the bread to rise, twice, then bake it.  Maybe I'll just go buy that loaf of sourdough!

Thanks again to King Arthur Flour I found a recipe for sourdough bread that called for allowing the sponge to sit overnight or up to 24 hours.  Perfect.  I could give it 24 hours!  I had a plan, and it no longer included heading to the store for a loaf of sourdough bread.

Here's the cute little container of starter from KAF.  It wants to be fed.

The first feeding is a little water and a little flour and let it sit for 8-12 hours.  It is supposed to be at 68-70 degrees F.  We don't keep our house nearly that warm normally but I didn't want this to flop considering the time it was going to take so I set the thermostat to hold at 68 and went to work.  This was Wednesday morning.

When I got home, I gave my starter another feeding of a little flour and water.  This time it had to sit for 2-4 hours or until it started to show bubbles again.  Lucky for me it didn't take the entire 4 hours!  At this point you split the starter in half and either give half away or throw it away.

While I was looking for a good bread recipe, I found a recipe for sourdough popovers that called for fed or unfed starter.  So I kept the other half and decided to use it for popovers the following weekend.

The half that isn't given or thrown away is then fed again with a little more water and a little more flour.  After another 2-4 hours the starter can be used or refrigerated.  I wanted to use it!
The recipe I found for sourdough bread was also from King Arthur Flour.  It's called Merlin's Magic Sourdough bread and it seemed to be very forgiving to timing of rises, specifically you could go over the suggested times without ruining the dough!

In a large bowl, you mix together the starter, water, yeast and vital wheat gluten (which I actually stock in my pantry!).  To this you add 3 cups of flour and cover the mixture with a damp towel.  This "sponge" can sit overnight or for as long as 24 hours.  According to the recipe, the longer it rests, the more sour your final bread will be.  Sounded good to me!  Goodnight, see you Thursday morning!

When I got home from work on Thursday, I added the salt, oil and more flour to the sponge so that it made a dough.  This has to rise for 2 hours.  Time to walk the dogs!
Two hours later you punch the dough down.  I was a little worried, there wasn't much to punch.  I'm used to really deflating a dough during a punch down.  Oh well, I had to much invested at this point to give up.  I divided the dough in half, made two loaves and let them rise.  Again, the recipe suggests an hour, but more is ok.  Thursday night is yoga night so off I went to yoga, not worried that my dough would rise for too long!
Finally!  Time to put the dough in the oven.  I slashed the dough and placed it in my oven with my fingers and toes crossed, hoping a couple of good loaves of dough would come out.
About 20 minutes later I started to smell it!  And a little over half an hour later it was done!

Now the hardest part of all, waiting for it to cool!  Now at this point it's 9:30 or so at night.  My alarm clock goes off at 4:15.  This is late for me!  I was able to wait until about 10 and then I had to try it.  Was it going to taste like sourdough?

Whew!  Yes, it tasted like sourdough!  It wasn't as sour as I expected with all the resting my dough did, but it was definitely sourdough!  I did it!  I made sourdough!

On Friday when I got home from work I tried another piece.  Amazingly it was even better.  Maybe I was too tired the night before?  But I think the flavors just develop more as the dough cools.  This is good bread!

On Saturday afternoon we finally got to enjoy it in a sandwich.  I made a smoked turkey and Mona Lisa Gouda panini.  My husband wanted a cold sandwich so he had roast beef.  We both agreed it was good bread.

Will I continue to feed my starter and use it?  I will.  At least for a while.  According to Michael Ruhlman (who was gracious enough to answer my sourdough newby Tweets) the starter will say good almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.  And I found out, thank you Michael C. Zusman, also on Twitter, that you can even freeze it as a backup if the one in your frig does go bad.

So I'm feeding my starter again this morning.  This will be a weekend thing until my starter goes bad or I give up on it.  I have a whole bunch more recipes I need to try!

Oh yea, and I did make those popovers! 

I mixed a little of the starter with eggs, flour, milk and butter.  Even though the recipe didn't call for it I let it rest 30 minutes.  My "regular" recipe (thank you Ruhlman's Twenty... you need to buy this book if you don't have it!) is rested for an hour but I had places to go this morning!

The recipe said to fill the popover pans and that it made 6 popovers.  My pans weren't quite full.  Not sure if this had an impact or not.  Like all popover recipes you start with a really hot oven, then after a few minutes you cool it down a little to finish the baking.

They looked beautiful and they had that distinctive popover aroma.  Do you feel the "but" coming?  But they weren't as big as my normal popovers and they were very doughy inside.  They tasted very good.  In fact, our lab who was given a little taste, liked them so much she started drooling.  She's not a drooler normally.

They smelled great and tasted good but both my husband and I thought "regular" popovers are better.

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