Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week and are staying cool wherever you are!
What is your favorite type of bread?
I absolutely love sourdough. For years, I purchased my loaves at the market. I have always been on the search for the perfect sourdoughs. Of course, every brand is so different!
When I lived in Rancho Cucamonga, I had the pleasure of living in the same city as Old Town Baking Company. They honestly make one of the best sourdoughs in town. Their Miners Sourdough and Whole Wheat Sourdough are just the best. They also sell their bread at grocery stores such as Gelson’s and Sprouts. They’re usually about $4 in-store and in markets they’re slightly marked up, but not by much.
During the Safer at Home order in Los Angeles/Southern California, I decided to grow my own starter!
My desire to grow my own starter to bake a sourdough was honestly inspired by the one and only, Jenna Fischer. She had so many live videos of her baking bread in general that it just really made me want to make my own!
She gets her inspiration from Bonnie Ohara of Alchemy Bread. So needless to say, I just had to buy her book to make the same sourdough Jenna Fischer was making on her Instagram. Also, because she did live videos and bookmarked them, it was easy for me to reference step-by-step to see if what I’m doing looked right.
I fed my starter for about two weeks before my first bake. I had two of my dear friends on standby the entire time I was baking that day. So thankful for them. I seriously freaked out every step of the way. Baking a sourdough can be one of the most stressful process I have ever been through when it comes to being in the kitchen. The entire time I’m going through the emotions of great confusion and frustration wondering if it’s the right texture and consistency, whether or not my starter is active enough, and asking myself “is this right?!”
However, despite the stress that comes along with a 12-22hr process, baking your own sourdough yields great satisfaction. There’s a sense a pride you take when you slice into the loaf for the first time. The anticipation of the crumb-shot is seriously a similar feeling to being at the top of Space Mountain right before the final drop. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic there, but you get the point.
I took a lot of pride in this first bake as well as all the subsequent bakes. I just finished my fourth bake last weekend and this time I had the courage to test out some additional ingredients—I made a Rosemary Garlic Unexpected Cheddar Sourdough. Let me tell you, if you are a garlic lover, it was amazing! The Unexpected Cheddar is from Trader Joe’s by the way. I think I will definitely switch up the cheese next time.
Growing you starter takes a lot of patience and care. Temperature also plays a major part. If it’s too cold, it may not rise/grow very well (sorry I’m still learning the correct bread baking terminologies). If it’s too hot, it can easily mold, especially during the beginning stages of growth.
I fed my started twice a day because my apartment was fairly warm. I also decided to create my starter during a heat wave that struck Southern California in April. I used both whole wheat and unbleached all purpose flour for the feeds. Some resources will say that if it has an alcohol aroma, to toss it, but I didn’t give up. Many more resources will tell you that it’s normal. It’s the yeast growing naturally. Mine also had much smaller bubbles than some pictures I’ve seen on Instagram from fellow bakers. They’re all going to smell relatively different and bubble differently! So it’s ok!
Once I completed my first bake, I fed my starter and put it in the fridge. From there, I fed it once a week on the same day until I was ready to for another bake.
Since I’m the only person in this household who eats sourdough, one recipe makes two loaves. So I often freeze the second loaf. Therefore, one bake usually lasts me a while.
For my second bake, I took my starter out of the fridge and fed it twice for one day before I initiated the starter overnight. I continued using the Beginner’s Sourdough recipe from Bonnie’s book. For some reason, this batch was not as sour as my first batch. I soon realized the reason why after I prepped my started for its third back a couple weeks later.
The longer you leave it out and feed prior to starting the recipe, the more time the yeast has to develop. So for the third bake, I took the starter out during my weekly feed and left it out to feed for exactly one week, feeding it twice a day. This achieved that signature sour in sourdough. For this third bake, I tried the Intermediate Sourdough recipe in Bonnie’s book. The difference was incorporating whole wheat flour now into your overnight starter (starts the bread recipe) along with several folds during the first 2.5 hours of the rise. More details listed in the book, of course.
Up until my third bake, I was using a small serrated knife to score the bread. Because the blade is naturally thicker, it didn’t not provide the smoothest cuts. So I finally invested in a bread lame from Wire Monkey Shop. Serious game changer I tell you!
For my fourth bake, I did the same thing with the starter. I took it out the day of its weekly feeding and left it out for a week, feeding it twice a day, before starting the Intermediate Sourdough recipe. When I tried this on the third bake, I noticed that my dough didn’t rise as much during the bake. I’m unsure why at this point, but this time around for the fourth bake, it did just fine!
Like I mentioned before, this fourth bake was a trial bake for some added ingredients. I am absolute obsessed right now with my Rosemary Garlic Unexpected Cheddar loaf. I love garlic and that might even be an understatement. I added 30g of chopped garlic (chop it and the pat it dry with a paper towel), 30g of Unexpected Cheddar from Trader Joe’s, and 1 sprig of rosemary (stem removed). The ingredients were folded in during the final proof. One of my friends really inspired me to be experimental. She’s always baking various flavors like jalapeño cheddar!
If you have the patience and are willing to go through trial and error, I encourage you to grow your own starter. If you don’t want to for whatever reason and have a good friend who happens to have a starter already, ask them to send some your way during their next feeding (the discards + feed). I truly encourage you to try making your own sourdough!
There are also a ton of things you can do with your sourdough discards. I didn’t get too experimental with this as of right now, but I did try sourdough pancakes and they were phenomenal! Farmhouse on Boone has a ton of recipes using sourdough starters! Be sure to check out her website!
My friends were kind and provided me with some sourdough troubleshooting articles:
- The Clever Carrot: Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter
- Heartbeet Kitchen: Top 5 Sourdough Starter Tips + Helpful Hints For Sourdough Baking Beginners
- King Arthur Baking: Sourdough Baking – The Complete Guide
So there you have it Friends! My sourdough baking journey! I’m not a professional at all, but I’m four bake-experienced! I also am lucky to have friends who have been baking their own sourdoughs for quite some time—so I often run to them for assistance!
The more you bake, the more confidence you build. I’m already planning out what the next experiment should be!