For those of you struggling to get your sourdough baking off the ground, let me offer some advice: Don’t give up.
Here is my journey:
It took 14 days to activate a viable, bubbly culture for baking. My main resources for information and guidance were Tara Jensen’s book, “A Baker’s Year”
and Baker Bettie, a YouTube discovery.
When it came time for the baking, however, my first attempt was a bitter failure. I can look back and realize I simply didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t understand what the dough needed at any given time, or what it should look like at any incremental step in the process.
I got impatient with the wet, sticky dough that never looked like it would ever come together to turn into bread. I tried to ‘take over’ and control the outcome, adding handfuls of flour and wrestling it into form.
What I ended up with was a hard, unpleasant tasting flatbread spread out in a pizza pan and baked only because I didn’t want to waste all that work, not to mention the precious bread flour.
I fed my starter and put it away in the fridge for a couple weeks. I needed some space. Time to heal from the experience.
Sourdough baking requires time, commitment and most of all…surrender to the process. A beginner’s mind. Because the process can be frustrating. As cooks we are most often focused on the result of our effort. But here is where we must exercise patience, because the final product is a long time in the making.
But, once we get that sourdough starter going, well, the options are only as limited as our flour supply.
On my second attempt I found this ‘Tasty’ video on YouTube. It was a game-changer.
After following the steps carefully, my bread came out perfect!
So, I did it again the next day and turned out another beautiful loaf.
Feeling confident, I decided to try English Muffins. After much research, this is the recipe I settled on and it is a good one! The only thing I would do differently is cut them larger, say, with a 4-inch cutter, because there was a bit of shrinkage in the baking.
With this next success, I decided to wade into deeper waters. Sourdough baguette. This is a work in progress, but I think I’m on the right track. This guy seems super smart and well-practiced in the art of sourdough baking. Joshua Weissman has over a million followers on YouTube. Not to shabby.
Riding the wave of my sourdough success, I jumped right into Joshua’s baguette method, but I used the same dough formula from the Tasty video. I think that was a bad idea, because I had a terrible time shaping the high-hydration dough and ended up deflating the gasses. My bread didn’t rise very much, but it was still very much edible!
There is so much more to learn. So many recipes to try. I’ve been exploring Sarah Owens’ Food 52 videos on YouTube. She is the author of the bestselling book, “Sourdough”.
I think she is going to be one of my primary resources as I move into the next leg of this sourdough baking journey.
For now, however, I’ve fed my starter and stored it in the fridge for a little while. I’m taking a little more space. Resting on my laurels. Reflecting on my successes and moments of challenge. Because, honestly, I am exhausted–having baked every day this week!
So, for now–and until next time, the bakery is closed.