My Sourdough Experiment

IMG_5089Having a sourdough starter is really stretching my math skills. Before you laugh and ask “what does math have to do with sourdough?” let me say this: I hate math. It’s always been difficult for me – especially basic math. Take out the numbers and I will happily solve formulas without a problem, but add numbers into the mix and suddenly I freeze. Make me add, subtract and multiply and I start to sweat a little; add fractions into the mix and it’s possible I might throw something at you. Baking often requires some basic math, but if you aren’t changing a recipe at all then not much math is required. You just follow the recipe. But, with sourdough I feel like I’m CONSTANTLY doing math. I have been maintaining about 200g of starter and feeding it a 1:1 ratio of water and flour (so it’s a 100% starter). But, for most recipes I need more starter then the amount I maintain and I need to have 100g left over to continue my starter. And sometimes I need it to be at a ratio that is different then 1:1. So, that’s where the math comes in.

I am constantly thinking “ok if I want to make this bread recipe on Saturday how much do I need to feed it at each of the feedings between now and Saturday so that I end up with the desired amount of sourdough starter at the desired ratio of water to flour?" Sounds like a word problem from a math test, doesn’t it? Anyway, I have to admit it’s been stretching for me and I can’t help but think that baking with a sourdough starter would be a GREAT way to teach kids practical hands on math skills.

So, how has our sourdough project been going overall? Well, the first week I took out half of the starter at each feeding like I had planned, but I didn’t throw it away as I said I would. I still just couldn’t bring myself to throw away all that good flour, plus I figured that even though it wasn’t active sourdough it was basically the same as soaked flour and so that’s how I used it. I make pancakes, crepes, and crackers with it. After a little over a week I had a very healthy, bubbly, active starter and my husband and I made our first loaf of real sourdough bread. We used a recipe from Alain Coumont’s "Communal Table". It was a bit time intensive, but not hard at all since they have you mix it all in a stand mixer with a bread hook and so there wasn’t a lot of kneading involved. The bread rose really well, but when we put it on the baking sheet to cook it fell a lot and I wasn’t so sure how it would turn out. It rose some more in the oven, though, and in the end it tasted GREAT. It was a HUGE loaf of bread and lasted us almost a week – without going stale. I had heard that sourdough wouldn’t go stale, but I didn’t really believe it until we made this bread. The outside did get a little bit tough, but the inside stayed soft and moist throughout the whole week.

The same weekend we made our first loaf we also made Cranberry Sunflower Seed Bread (theIMG_5092 bread in the picture). For this we actually just played around with a recipe a bit, I think I’m going to try it one more time and then I’ll post the recipe for you all. It turned out really good, but could use a little tweaking.

After that we made bagels and sourdough zucchini muffins, another loaf of the first recipe we tried (halved this time to make a smaller loaf) and I’m currently rising dough for this sourdough sandwich bread.

So, I think that I can officially say that our experiment with sourdough has been a success. Although I will freely divulge that even though everything we’ve made has turned out ok so far, some of it hasn’t turned out quite right or how I expected (like the muffins), so I feel like there’s still a lot more I need to learn about working with sourdough bread.

Anyone have any good tips or advice for using a sourdough starter? Or do you have a favorite sourdough recipe that you could recommend?

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman

This post has been entered in the Fight Back Friday May 21st blog carnival at Food RenegadeFood Revolution Friday at Notes from the Cookie Jar, Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker. Check out the links for lots other posts.