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OK, now what? (sourdough)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I love sourdough bread.  I'd attempted to grow a couple of starters over the years with no luck.  After reading through all the threads here, I decided to give it another go.  One of the threads led me to the pineapple juice method.  I didn't have any pineapple juice, but we did have some unsweetened grapefruit juice...so I used it.  It worked.  My starter(s) have been alive and growing well for 2 weeks.  This past Sunday, I put one in the fridge to hibernate and left one out for daily feeding in preparation for making bread this Sunday...


Here's my question...what do I do now?  Google search turned up many, many recipes, most of which included using sugar, commercial yeasts, oil, etc.  I would really like to do a simple flour/water/sponge recipe but am having trouble finding one.


Does anyone have a tried and true simple recipe they would care to share? 





post #2 of 9

There is a simple recipe, but it's predicated on a few things. First is the hydration level of your starter. That is the ratio of flour to water, by weight. 100% hydration means equal weights of water and flour. By measures, that would be about 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup flour. Roughly, but close enough. So if your starter is to about that level of thickness......then its:


1/2 cup starter

1/2 cup pure water (spring or similar......tap water may have chlorine)

1.5 cups flour (white AP or bread flour or combination of white and wheat. No more than 1/3 wheat)

1/2 tsp pure salt (like canning salt...not table salt with iodine.....will kill the livestock)


If you use much whole wheat or rye flour, bump the amount of water up about 1 or 2 tsp. Those soak up more water. The right amount of water gives a loaf that will slump on it's own. That yields the nice open crumb or holes we all like to see.


Mix the starter and room temp water to a thin soup in a mixing bowl. Add the salt to the flour and mix together, then into the water and starter. Mix together. Should make a ball that is slightly sticky. Stop there and let it rest for half an hour (moisture is being absorbed by flour and gluten strands starting to form). Then pull it out for a stretch and fold (grab the wad and pull it gently apart. Flop one end over to the middle. The other end to the middle over that. Rotate 90 degrees and fold it in half. Back into the bowl.) Do 2 or 3 more stretch and folds at half hour intervals for the first two hours. This builds gluten strength without having to knead. Let it proof or rise another hour or two, then do one more stretch and fold, then shape it into a ball or loaf. Put it directly in the pan you want to bake it in, then into the refrigerator for 12 hours or so (leads to that brown blistered crust and the long fermentation gives the bacteria in the starter time to produce the acids for the sour flavor). Pull it out, let it warm up and proof for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then into the oven. I'd say about 475 for the first 20 minutes, then 425 for the last......or to simplify, 450 for the whole thing.


Just before going into the oven, use a razor or other sharp knife and slash a pattern on top for expansion and rise. Without steam, the crust on a free form loaf will "lock up" so it can't expand and you won't get much rise. So put a pan of hot water on a rack below the rack you are baking on, and spritz the loaf with cold water just as you poke it in. If using a bread pan, don't worry about that.


That is the simple crib notes version that should get you started. Actual time spent on this is way less than an hour. The starter does all the work. Time spent peeking is what runs up the bill.

post #3 of 9

BTW, if you happen to have a set of kitchen scales that will measure down to grams, that is far and away a better way of measuring the ingredients. Purists get pretty picky in the exact ratio of water to flour by weight. If you scoop flour up with a measuring cup, you pack it, so you get more than you think. A gram is a gram no matter how tight or loose you pack it. Also, with ingredients listed in grams, they become percentages. You can scale the size of the loaf up or down like turning a rheostat.


By weight, that recipe is:


80 Grams 100% starter (20%)

120 Grams water (30%)

200 Grams Flour (50%)

5 Grams Salt (1%)

405 Grams (1.1 pounds)


Note: 80 grams of 100% starter consists of 40 grams water and 40 grams flour. So in a 405 gram loaf, we have 120 + 40 = 160 Grams Water (160 / 405 = 39.4%) The ideal ratio of water to flour in bread is 38% to 40%. We are good!


Here is where it gets fun. A starter maintained with equal volumes of flour and water......a wet or thin and runny starter......is about 166% hydration (weight of the water as a percentage of the weight of the flour). In 80 grams of this starter, that would be 50 grams water and only 30 grams flour. So to balance it in the recipe, take away 10 grams of plain water and add 10 grams of plain flour.


New recipe with a "wet" or 166% starter is:


80 Grams 166% Starter (20%)

110 Grams Water (27%)

210 Grams Flour (52%)

5 Grams Salt (1%)

405 Grams Total


The 50 Grams water in the starter and 110 grams water added are still 160 grams or 39.4% of the total weight of the loaf.


Try adjusting that with measuring cups!


For most sourdough breads, these are pretty good numbers and percentages to work with that will match up with the way most starters are maintained.



Edited by Hog Warden - 5/25/10 at 1:58pm
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Awesome, thank you, that is just what I was looking for.


By the ratios (I've been using a kitchen scale) when I feed my colony it's 50g starter/50g AP flour/30g water. So at about 130g, I could take out my normal 50g and feed it and use the rest to start a loaf?


Just a couple clarifications, when I let it rest, should I cover it with wax paper/damp tea towel? 

I have helped my wife knead bread, could I just go ahead and knead it to the desired consistency?

If I make a loaf this evening, would it be OK to leave in the fridge for more than 12 hours so I can cook it tomorrow when I get home from work?


Thanks again!

post #5 of 9

You have a 60% starter (very firm). Yes, you can take out the 80 grams of surplus, and adjust the rest to account for the extra flour (a few grams more water....a few less flour), or simply go with the basic recipe. If it looks dry and stiff, knead in a bit more water.


A real easy and cheap cover is a plastic grocery bag. Lay the bag over the bowl at first. Put the bowl inside and tie the handles to seal it for the long proof. Purpose is to keep the dough from drying out. Plastic wrap works just as well and is see through. Helps peekers.


Kneading is more work, but is fine. You can leave it in the reefer for up to 18 hours......but if you go that long, you may want to shorten the proof on the front end. If you kneaded on the front end, just let it rise an hour or so and into the fridge. Let it rise some more on the backside right before you bake it.  If it proofs too long, it will go flat and won't rise much when you bake it.


Aggressive starters that have been fed wheat and/or rye flours sometimes go after the glutens, so really long proofs with those may tend to go flat on you. Something to watch for.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

It's kneaded up and doing the initial proof...we'll see what happens.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

It made bread.  Not great, but edible for sure. 

post #8 of 9

Sounds good and not so good? For a better tutorial than I can give......a couple good sites to review:




and another site with a lot of good videos on sourdough.......




Note that on both sites there is a lot of good information on how to feed and care for your starter, along with more recipes and techniques. Don't get caught up in the equipment. Not needed. You and the quality of your starter are the key to this.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

You're tutorial was great, I really appreciate it.  There was a combination of factors really, I didn't let it rest before I kneaded, kneaded in a bit much flour, left it in the fridge too long...so on and so forth.  The wife pulled it of the fridge at about 1-2pm today, so it had been in for 19-20 hours.  I tastes good, not overly sour, but my starter is only 2 weeks old.  I'm just happy that it actually raised the bread!!  I'll get better with practice. 

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