Wild Yeast Sourdough

As you've probably noticed, I am a big fan of easy, simple, quick recipes that turn out looking much harder than they actually are.  This recipe is not any of that. While it does not have a long ingredient list and in theory is fairly straightforward, it ends up being kind of a hassle.

Now that I've got my disclaimer out of the way, I will say I think you should make this anyway. Once you get the starter going, you're free to make all sorts of delicious sourdough things, so the amortized cost is less. Plus it is quite the accomplishment to make sourdough from scratch. And finally (and more importantly) homemade sourdough is delicious.

First we make a starter. This takes about a week. Don't worry, mostly you have to leave it alone and let it do it's thing. Yeast likes when it is warm, so summer is a great time to do this. I have never had any success with sourdough before, so I followed the advice of Susan on the Wild Yeast Blog.  I, being me, did not feel compelled to follow it precisely however.  I did not let my tap water sit out for the chlorine to dissipate; there was no thermometer involved.

The general theory is you mix equal parts flour and water and let it sit for 24 hours.  Then every 12 hours you mix 1/3 a cup of the starter, 1/3 a cup flour and 1/3 cup water.  This is called "feeding".  You keep doing this until the culture is able to double in 12 hours, is really bubbly and smells sour.  Mine didn't seem to double but it was bubbly and so I used it anyway, to great success.  It will take about a week.  For the first four days or so, add 1-2 tbsps of whole wheat or rye flour.  This won't change the flavor of the bread but it does help the yeast get going.

For the bread I used the same no-knead recipe as this post.  I sort of made it up as I went and just used 1/2 a cup of starter instead of the yeast.  The dough was really sticky though so I ended up adding about 1 cup more of flour.  When I was doing some reading (after the fact, of course) I saw that most recipes have you make a sponge with the yeast, but my version seemed to turn out fine.

Wild-Yeast Sourdough

1. Mix 1/2 cup warm (~85 degree) water with 1/4 cup white flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat or rye flour.  Use a container at least 1 qt (a clear one with straight sides will help you tell how your starter is doing).  Your container needs to have a lid.
2. Let sit 24 hours.
3. Every 12 hours for ~4 days: discard all but 1/3 cup of the starter.  Mix with 1/3 cup warm water, 1/3 cup white flour and 1-2 tbsps wheat or rye flour.
4. Every 12 hours for ~3 days (until starter is bubbly, sour smelling and doubles in about 12 hours): discard all but 1/3 cup of the starter and mix with 1/3 cup warm water and 1/3 cup white flour.
5. Once your starter is going, you can put it in the fridge and only feed it once a week.  At that point, you will discard all but 1/3 cup starter and mix with 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup white flour.
3 cups  flour + up to 1 additional cup
1 1/2 cups water
 1/2 cup starter
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
olive oil (for coating)
1. Mix 3 cups flour, water, starter and salt in medium bowl.  Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and transfer dough.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest 12 hours at room temperature.  
3. Remove dough from bowl and fold once or twice.  Add enough flour so dough is not too sticky and a bit stiff.  It should still be softer than normal bread dough.  Let dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl.
4. Shape the dough into a ball.  Lightly coat with flour and place back in bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest another 1-2 hours.
5. Pre-heat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. 6. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 25 - 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 10 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.

Starter recipe from Wild Yeast Blog
Bread recipe from Jim Lahey

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  1. B and I need to make bread this weekend (actual quote: "what is yeast for?") -- you should post an accessible to noobs but still delicious *and* doesn't require a dutch oven recipe. Something where we can watch it rise several times for extra magic seemingness :o)

  2. Not that I shy away from long term relationships but anything with a starter seems like too much of a commitment. Looks delicious though...

  3. Your wish is my command: http://www.bionicbaker.com/2010/07/honey-whole-wheat-bread.html. Here is a much easier recipe requiring no dutch ovens or much commitment. Enjoy!

  4. I started my wild yeast yesterday. Wish me luck.