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Sourdough- Explained and Made Easy



The Sourdough Bread

Welcome to the tasty world of Sourdough and a traditional method for a fragrant and healthy sourdough breads. Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened breads and dates as far back as 3500 BCE. The health benefits, flavor and shelf life of a well crafted sourdough bread is something to be admired. The options are limitless once you have a well fed and balanced starter. Pancakes, dinner rolls, slicing breads, pretzels... you can shape your sourdough into whatever recipe you like.

History of Bread Making

There is a unique history and story behind this extremely old tradition of bread making.

Bread is older than metal; even before the bronze age, our ancestors were eating and baking flatbreads. There is evidence of neolithic grinding stones used to process grains, probably to make a flat bread; but the oldest bread yet found is a  loaf discovered in Switzerland, dating from 3500 BCE. The use of leavening was discovered and recorded by the the Egyptians; there is some discussion about how this process happened, and the degree to which there was an overlap between brewing and bread-making, but obviously without a handy time machine it’s going to remain a debating point among historians of ancient food.  What is not in doubt is that the ancient Egyptians knew both the brewing of beer and the process of baking leavened bread with use of sourdough, as proved by wall paintings and analyses of desiccated bread loves and beer remains.

Wild yeast is used in cultures all over the world in food preparations that are so seeped in culture and history that they have been made long before any form of written words.  

Until the time of the development of commercial yeasts, all leavened bread was made using naturally occurring yeasts – i.e. all bread was sourdough, with it’s slower raise.

The introduction of commercial yeasts in the nineteenth century was to the detriment of sourdough breads, with speed and consistency of production winning. By 1910, Governmental bills preventing night work and restricting hours worked made more labor intensive production less sustainable, and in response, the bakers moved towards faster raising breads, and commercial yeast.

Behind this culinary marvel lies a humble yet crucial ingredient – the sourdough starter. If you've ever been intrigued by the idea of crafting your own sourdough bread from scratch, here we go! 

What is a Sourdough Starter?

The sourdough starter is truly the secret ingredient that gives sourdough bread its distinctive taste and character. It's a simple combination of flour and water that captures wild yeast and beneficial bacteria, creating a living organism known as a 'starter culture.' This culture becomes the heart and soul of your sourdough baking journey, influencing the flavor, rise, and texture of the bread. Crafting your own sourdough bread from scratch starts with nurturing and maintaining a healthy sourdough starter.

Why Bother with a Sourdough Starter?

While the convenience of commercial yeast is undeniable, a sourdough starter adds a layer of complexity and depth to your bread that is unparalleled. The natural fermentation process not only imparts that signature tangy flavor but also offers a myriad of health benefits. Sourdough bread made from a well-maintained starter is easier to digest, boasts increased nutrient availability, and has a lower glycemic index compared to its commercial counterparts.

Now that we've piqued your interest, the journey begins with the creation of your very own sourdough starter. In the upcoming sections, we'll guide you through the step-by-step process.  Follow along with our sourdough journey as we use our new starter in upcoming sourdough recipes! 


Ingredients

  • 3 lbs Whole Wheat Bread Flour or Rye Meal

  • Water

Directions

Step 1: Day 1 - Creating the Initial Mixture

  1. In a clean glass or plastic container, mix 1/2 cup (60g) of flour with ½ cup (120ml) of water. Stir until you achieve a thick, paste-like consistency.

  2. Cover the container loosely with a lid or cloth to allow airflow. Let it sit at room temperature (ideally around 70°F or 21°C) for 24 hours. (My house is colder so I store mine in the microwave.)

Step 2: Day 2 - The First Feeding

  1. Check for any bubbles or slight expansion in the mixture. This indicates that wild yeast and bacteria are starting to colonize.

  2. If you start to see a darker liquid this is called hooch. Just drain it off and remove any discolored starter. Hooch is a mix of water and the alcohol that formed during the fermentation process. Its presence doesn't mean that something bad happened to your starter, it just means that it's hungry.

Step 3: Days 3-7 - Daily Feedings

  1. Discard half of the mixture and feed it daily with equal parts of flour and water. It should be the consistency of plain yogurt. Continue this process until you notice consistent bubbles, a tangy aroma, and a doubling in volume within 4-8 hours after feeding. Use a rubber band to mark your levels so you can see where the starter was after feeding and how much it grew and slid between feedings.

Step 4: Ready for Baking

  1. Once your starter consistently doubles in volume and exhibits a vigorous rise, it's ready to use in sourdough recipes.

  2. If you don't plan to bake daily, you can refrigerate your starter and feed it once a week. Bring it back to room temperature and feed it at least once before baking.


We offer 3 different types of fresh milled flour at our Farm Store:


Hard Red Wheat

Hard White Wheat

Rye Meal

*Hard red spring wheat is great for sourdough really bringing a lot of flavor and color


Yes, rye flour can be a good choice for making a sourdough starter:

  • Nutrients: Rye flour is rich in nutrients, microbes, and amylases, which helps the starter quickly convert sugars for fermentation.

  • Fermentation: Rye flour attracts yeast more easily than white flour, which makes it ferment faster.

  • Maintenance: Rye flour is easier to stir than whole wheat flour because it has less gluten. It also doesn't go into a slurry if you forget about it.

  • Smell: Rye flour smells like fruit.

  • Fermentation activity: Rye flour and whole wheat flour ferment more actively than other flours.

  • Tang: Some say that rye flour makes their loaves tangier. 

Some say that dark rye flour and whole wheat flour create vigorous starters in about 8–10 days. 

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