Make your own sourdough starter in just four days
Making your own sourdough starter takes just four days. I will repeat that: it only takes four days to make a sourdough starter. You have your sourdough starter forever and making your own starter just means you have a four day delay on home made bread during which time, as long as you don’t live in a VERY remote place, you simply have to go to the store to get some yeast for those four days.
Because I am petrified of US customs I did not travel here with my starter and because we are here for 6 weeks it certainly seemed worthwhile to make my own starter. For some reason, being in the USA made me nostalgic for a wheat starter (rather than the rye starter that I tend to use at home) although this has meant that I have had to change my baking rhythm. Rye generally moves more quickly than wheat and with cool weather, lots of rain and a heavy atmosphere, the all wheat sourdough bread is taking every bit of 14 hours to rise.
The result is great! Chewy bread with lots of flavour and a great distribution of holes – enough to be attractive but not so many or so large that the jam falls through. Below find the recipe for making a wheat sourdough starter and a recipe for Virtuous Bread’s New Haven Sourdough Bread. There are more sourdough recipes, as well as guidance on making starters and sourdough bread in general, on the site.
How to make a wheat sourdough starter:
Day 1: stir 1 cup of white wheat flour and 1 cup of water together. Cover. Leave on counter for 24 hours.
Day 2: add 1 cup flour and 1 cup water to the bowl. Stir, cover, leave for 24 hours.
Days 3 and 4: repeat.
If you want to make bread straight away, take 1 cup of bubbly starter out of the bowl and put it in a big mixing bowl. Pour the rest of the starter into a big kilner jar and pop it in the fridge where it will live forever. I really mean that – forever as long as it is in the fridge. Keep reading to see how you use this to make bread.
New Haven sourdough bread – makes 2 loaves
1 cup of wheat sourdough starter that has been refreshed (so it is all bubbly and nice). To read more about refreshing, keep reading.
4 cups of white wheat flour
1 cup water
3 teaspoons of salt
Bring the refreshed starter, water, and 3 cups of flour together in a bowl. Cover and and let them sit for 12-24 hours, until the dough is puffy. Add the remaining flour and mix it in – hand is easiest, it will be stiff and sticky. Cover and let sit for 1 hour. Add the salt and knead the dough well on the counter or in a machine for 10 minutes. Return to the bowl and cover with clingfilm/plastic wrap.
Let it rest for 6 hours, remembering to stretch and fold it in the bowl every hour or so if you can be bothered. If you cannot because you are normal and don’t want to be a slave to your dough, don’t bother. More stretch = more holes and slightly lighter bread.
Pull the dough out onto a non floured surface and divide it in two. Shape it any way you like. Into a tight sausage for a sausage shaped basket or tin; into a tight ball for a round basket or container; or free-form. In the Hansel and Gretel kitchen which we are using, we only have a baking tray. So I did this:
1. Shaped the dough into a loose ball and let it rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
2. Divided the dough into two and shaped each piece into a tight ball and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Shaped each ball into a tight sausage and let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
4. Shaped each sausage into a baguette shape and let rest on a very well floured surface, covered for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 C) and pop the bread in. I twisted mine a few times before laying them on baking trays that I had lined with non stick baking parchment. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 400 degrees F (200 C) and bake for a further 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
We ate this with leek and potato soup and the tartness was a perfect contrast to the richness of the soup. For the recipe, have a look on the best soup website EVER.
How to refresh your starter from the fridge
Remember that starter that you put in the fridge? When you want to make bread again, simply take it out of the fridge and do the following:
1. Remove one cup of the starter and put it in a bowl. Add one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and let sit for 12-24 hours until it is bubbly and lovely.
2. Take one cup of that and put it in a big mixing bowl. Put the rest back in the fridge in the original vat of goo for the next time you want to make bread. You do have enough to double the recipe AND put some back so you can do that if you want. Just remember to always put some back (or you have to make more and that takes 4 days).
3. To the one cup of bubbly starter in the mixing bowl, add 3 cups of flour and 1 cup of water. Stir, cover and leave for 12-24 hours until it is really puffy.
4. Add the final cup of flour, stir, cover and leave for one hour. Add the salt, knead and proceed as above!
Want to learn more? Come and take a class with us. The one day sourdough class will teach you all you need to know to become a sourdough wizard!