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Sourdough tips?

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Sourdough tips?

Looks like we're going to start making sourdough bread when I get back from my upcoming trip. I've been baking other kinds of yeast bread for a while now, and have good sources of organic flour, etc. Does anyone have any recommended guides/tips/advice for sourdough baking?


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Posted by maco on June 11, 2013 at 19:25

I learned from this tutorial and also have this guy's book which is by a chemist who sells freeze dried cultures from all over the world, including one from the Pyramids at Giza and another from the Red Sea, which he believes are the oldest cultures in the world. He also has the San Francisco one.

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Posted by Skud on June 12, 2013 at 02:02

Ooh, thanks! That tutorial looks good, and he's even local -- as I noticed when I found he's using the same brand of organic flour that I use.

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Posted by Pdiff on July 30, 2013 at 05:37

Hi Skud! I'm new here and like the concept. A bit late, but Maco's suggestion is the goto source. He is a couple of hours south of me. I'd also recommend the Fresh Loaf site as the best baking info around, both professional and hobbyist ( I bake sourdough (wild yeast) pretty much all the time now. Dry yeast just seems like cheating :). Be aware though that any starter you buy will eventually be over come by your local yeasts, so that SF sourdough starter you bought and started won't stay that way forever. I just started my own with flour and water (see the site above for directions) and have had it for years.

I'll try to post some pics soon of the garden and wood oven I use. Good luck on the baking.


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Posted by Michelle on July 30, 2013 at 19:38

I have also read that if you have grapes with a fine white powder on, as many do, that can b used as a sour dough starter that makes for a unique culture.

I always wanted to make a sour dough culture for bread but the Scottish part of me rebels at the amount of flour used to feed the culture but is thrown away

What is your experience of the end results. Is it worth the cost? I really want you to say yes. It might silence the Scottish part of me. But tell me the actual experience.

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Posted by Skud on July 31, 2013 at 00:01 and edited at July 31, 2013 at 00:06

@Pdiff: thanks! I wound up developing my own method, which I blogged about recently: my sourdough technique

@Michelle: I find that we have very little waste using the technique described above. In the month or so I've been making it, I've thrown out maybe a cup or so of starter, and that's in a 2-person household where one person is out a lot and the other doesn't eat a lot of bread. I bake 1-2 loaves a week, usually a plain-ish one and sometimes an unusual/flavoured one (see choc-orange-fruit-nut bread recipe on the link above).

I think the tricks to low wastage are:

  1. Get a starter from someone who already has one, rather than starting your own. Starting a starter from scratch will have you throwing out a cupful of it a day, for a couple of weeks, until it gets going.
  2. Don't overfeed: mine gets half a cup of flour and half a cup of water each day, which is enough to wait at least a few days between bakings. Sometimes I skip a day too -- not on purpose, but I get busy and forget. It's winter here and that seems to work fine.
  3. Be generous with the amount of starter you use in your bread. I use at least a cupful, sometimes more. It's just flour and water and yeast, so the worst it'll do is make your bread taste more sour and/or rise faster, which is OK by me.
  4. If you're going away for a while or don't think you'll be baking, pop it in the fridge. I did this for ~4 days a couple of weeks ago when I knew I was going away. It slows it down, but it perks right back up again afterwards. When I got home I took it out, fed it, and baked the next day.
  5. If you do need to dispose of starter (and can't give it to friends/make pancakes or crumpets/etc), put it in the compost. You'll still get to keep the goodness of it within your household.
  6. Or just bake lots and give it away -- I had a colleague who used to bring a sourdough loaf to the office a couple of times a week, and people would grab a slice to have with their coffee as they came in. It depends whether you think of this as "waste" or "generosity" I suppose, and how tight your budget is/how strict your frugality is.
  7. Alternatively, bake lots and keep it, but come up with more ways of using bread: bread pudding, breadcrumbs, etc.

That's all I've got, but hopefully it's helpful :)

ETA: I didn't answer your actual question, "is it worth it?" For me, I find it is worth it for the following reasons:

  • the sourdough bread requires less attention/work/kneading than normal yeast bread, so is easier and quicker to do once you get the hang of it
  • sourdough lasts longer without going stale (we have 2-week-old loaves that are still OK toasted, and it's fine fresh for at least 3-4 days, which is twice as long as yeast bread lasts us)
  • we don't have to buy yeast packets (not a big deal, but one of the few things I used to get from the supermarket, so I'm glad not to have to)

The flavour is good, of course, but not miles above homebaked bread IMHO. To me, the "homebaked" step is where the real difference comes in over bought bread, and sourdough is just a variant on that.

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Posted by Michelle on July 31, 2013 at 11:43

Wow. Thank you kindly for the detailed answer. You have made me want to try it :)

My current recipe for bread only uses a quarter teaspoon of yeast each time

I must look round Napier for a starter when we get there.

Thank you so.

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Posted by Pdiff on July 31, 2013 at 16:52

Skud, Ha! Looks like you are a natural baker anyway:) I second the compost idea too. My methods are similar, although I've started raising the formed loaves in the fridge over night (and as long as 24 hrs). It makes things a two day process, but it enhances the sour flavor and gives me more control on baking times/schedules, especially in the hot summer months. Like you, I bake at high temps (500-550* F), so starting with cold dough is not really an issue.

I also keep my starter in the fridge all the time and only feed it when I need it. I'll revive it the night before I want to start the dough (roughly 2:2:1, that is 2 parts water, 2 parts flour, and 1 part starter). For 4 loaves, I'll shoot for 500g total, which gives me 400 for dough and 100 left over to go back into the fridge. I have kept starter in the fridge successfully for a couple of months without touching it, although I'll revive it a couple of times in a row after something like that.

Hope you try it Michelle. Baking and gardening! What more could one need :)

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Posted by Skud on August 01, 2013 at 04:06

@Pdiff: chickens?

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Posted by Pdiff on August 01, 2013 at 18:32

No, just dogs and cats :) Have thought about it, but neighbors have some and keep us supplied. did have bees for a while, but I had to let them go due to bad reactions on my part. That was sad, but necessary. After a visit to Scotland and Ireland this summer, I am curious about sheep, though :)

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Posted by maco on May 05, 2014 at 02:26

With how cold I kept the house through winter, my starter didn't really want to wake up and bake, so after a couple days I gave up and just stuck it back in the fridge. Consequently it went from about July to April (I was kind of busy with the new house and didn't bake much last summer) inside the fridge with very little activity. It took about 3-4 days to wake up at spring temperatures after all that hibernation, but it's happy now!