Sourdough Bread doesn't have to be complicated!
I fell in love with canning, cooking from scratch, and all things baking when I first got married. I grew up cooking, canning and gardening with my Mom and Grandmothers, but I didn't really start to appreciate it until I was an adult. I now know that not everyone gets that privilege of growing up that way, and I don't take it for granted. Before we had kids, canning and cooking from scratch became my hobbies. I loved the challenge of making things homemade and the thrill of looking at our plates and seeing that we grew or raised everything on it! Then came sourdough!
Growing up we had homemade food and rolls and cornbread, but not really sandwich bread. So sourdough was new to me. I decided to jump in and give it a try. This was before Pinterest and Instagram so I had to search cookbooks. I ended up finding a recipe to make your own starter and went to work. I babied it and fed it and was so proud the first time I made a homemade, from scratch bread!
Kids and responsibilities and years later, I got out of the habit of sourdough bread making. I tried different sandwich bread recipes, and found a few that were good and stayed together, but I missed the sourdough taste!
My sister gave me some of her starter, but it just wasn't a good time so it sat in the back of the fridge for a few months. Then, the holidays came and the baking bug hit me. I decided to get it out and wake it up!
Now, this is where it can get intimidating. Many people will tell you all kinds of rules and steps that you must do for your sourdough to be successful, but the truth is it's a whole lot harder to mess up than you think. I'm convinced that you can NOT kill it!
There have been many times that I have left it on the counter and forgotten to feed it, and it still perks back up each time. I leave my starter on the counter and feed it with equal parts water and flour each day. I do not discard any unless it has a great amount of "hooch". The hooch is the grayish clear liquid that rises to the top. It does not mean anything is wrong with your starter, but many people do choose to pour this off and use it to make "discard" recipes. I keep it simple and just stir mine up with my starter when adding my flour and water each night. This does add to the "sour" taste so if you prefer a milder tasting sourdough, you may want to discard.
Just like many recipes from scratch, its not necessarily the process, its just getting in the rhythm of cooking from scratch. I think many of us have the capacity and time to cook from scratch, if we just get in the practice of doing it. For me, that is making a batch once a week to have for sandwiches and then mixing up some dough as needed for cinnamon rolls or crackers throughout the week.
The good thing about sourdough is, if you get busy, just feed it to keep alive and use when you need it. Or if you are in a really busy phase of life, stick it in the fridge like I did. You can take it out and "wake it up" when you want to use it again. See, its not as intimidating as it seems! It's actually really forgiving and versatile!
For this recipe, I mix up the dough the night before. Let it rise overnight. Then knead it and form in the morning. Let it rise again for about an hour as the oven is preheating, then bake. Slice and bag up for the week!
1/2 cup of active, bubbly sourdough starter
1 1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of oil
4 cups of flour (I use unbleached all purpose)
2 teaspoons of salt
In a large bowl mix water, starter and oil.
Then add in salt, sugar, and flour one cup at a time
Mix until a dough ball forms
Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 8-10 hours in a warm place (I use the oven with the light on)
Pour dough out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch and fold it, kneading it into a log and tucking the ends under
Shape into a loaf and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan
Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour
Bake at 350º for 30-45 minutes (the crust should be golden brown)
Rest for 30 minutes, then cut and store in an airtight container.