Modern Homesteading: How to Make Sourdough Bread

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This post is sponsored by People’s Food Co-op

This series, sponsored by People’s Co-op, will teach you how to ferment your own vegetables, brew kombucha, bake bread with your own sourdough starter, make your own bath bombs, and hand-pull mozzarella.


What is Modern Homesteading?

Historically, homesteading refers to families that took advantage of government programs starting in the 1850’s and beyond to receive free land in exchange for moving to an area that the government was looking to populate.

Over the years, homesteading had become synonymous with self-sustaining practices such as growing your own food, creating your own textiles, and craftwork. In recent years, such practices have made a resurgence and modern homesteading can now be considered a cultural movement.

During quarantine in early 2020, the popularity of modern homesteading practices skyrocketed. The great thing about modern homestead is that it is no longer associated with where you live, but instead how you live.  Modern homesteading allows a family or an individual to make or create the items they consume and use.

This series, sponsored by People’s Co-op, will teach you how to ferment your own vegetables, brew kombucha, bake bread with your own sourdough starter, make your own bath bombs, and hand-pull mozzarella.

The majority of the items listed in this series are available at People’s Food Co-op, including some specialty items that are harder to find!


What is Sourdough?

Before I began my sourdough journey, my mind had decided it was a crazy complex way to make bread. However, in all reality, it is the absolute simplest concept ever.

You start with flour and water. Then you let nature take it’s course, and over time, you have a natural leaven to make bread rise!

If you’re sitting there with your jaw dropped, I was there just 7 short months ago. I’m crazy about fresh bread, but when yeast was literally no where to be found during the early quarantine of 2020, I needed to look for other ways to make bread. Hence, my new found hobby of sourdough baking.

What’s so special about sourdough?

If you’ve ever tasted sourdough bread, you’ll notice there is a slight tang to it. This tang comes from the same good bacteria that makes yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and sour cream tangy—lactobacillus. Fermentation alone is good for your digestive system. The lactobacillis helps feed the good bacteria in your digestive system to fight off the bad bacteria.

Another fun fact about sourdough is that because of the long fermentation process, it most likely will not cause a spike in blood sugars like processed white bread can do.

Sourdough Starter 101

Now that you have a little background on sourdough, you’re probably chomping at the bit to get this show on the road. You want to make sourdough bread right now!

Well, I’m here to burst that excitement bubble just a little bit. Unless you have a starter ready and waiting, it’s going to be a few weeks before that first sourdough loaf leaves your oven.

But do not fret! I am here to walk you through making and maintaining your sourdough starter.

Before I get into the nitty gritty details-the easiest way to obtain a sourdough starter is by getting some starter from a friend. If you know someone who has a starter, shoot them a text or give them a call and ask if they could share. It is SO easy to share, and it eliminates a big part of the waiting process! However, if you’re embarking on this adventure alone, like I did, keep reading this next section!

Supplies Needed: 
  • container (quart/liter mason jar, bowl, plastic container)
  • bowl for the beginning of the process
  • plastic wrap
  • flour (I use King Arthur’s Flour found at People’s Food Co-op)
  • water
  • kitchen scale that can measure in grams

Making the Starter

  1. Get your kitchen scale and put a bowl on it. Zero it out.
  2. You will now use equal parts flour and water. Add 100 grams flour and then add about 100 grams of water. It does not need to be perfectly exact, but get close.
  3. Now mix the flour and water with your fingers. It will look like dough.
  4. Now you wait. Let it sit on your counter for about 3 days. Cover with a tea towel or with saran wrap. When you start to see bubbles, you will know that it is working! That means that yeast is beginning to form. 
  5. Once you start to see those bubbles, it’s time to begin the process of strengthening your starter. Every day, dump a little of the mixture into the garbage. Then add 50 grams flour and 50 grams water, mix and cover.
  6. After about 1-3 weeks (it really varies among bakers), your starter is going to be strong enough to begin baking! Feel free to name it at this point. My sourdough starter’s name is “Joy.” When your starter is very bubbly and looks “active”, you will know it is strong enough. By active I mean bubbles are moving and grooving in your bowl. The picture below is of my active starter Joy, before I made bread the other day.

Now we get to the fun part. You have an active sourdough starter, your hard work has paid off. Now you can sit back and relax, right? WRONG! Sourdough starter needs to be maintained daily. I am a person who bakes frequently, so my starter is always on my counter-top. Every single day, whether I bake or not, I dump and feed Joy. This process keeps her strong and active, so she is always ready when I want to bake!

However, if you want to bake every so often, you can place your starter in the fridge. When it is in the fridge, you only need to feed it about once a week. Then, before you want to bake, you’ll want to take it out of the fridge and feed it for at least a day on the counter. (In my opinion, take it out a day or two before baking–some may take it straight out of the fridge and prep for bake day!)

Prepping for Bake Day

Now that you have an active starter on your hands, your next step is to find some tried and true sourdough recipes to wow your friends and families. I’ll be sharing my simple artisan bread recipe below.

When beginning your search, you’ll notice that recipes will call for certain measurements of active starter. To get that active starter, you’ll want to do a larger feed of your starter the night before you’re going to begin the baking process.

The night before, dump a little of your starter then add 200-250g flour and 200-250g water. If your starter is stored in a smaller container, put it in a larger container when you’re prepping to bake. I usually add right around 200g of each the night before, and it’s been the perfect amount for the various recipes I’ve used.

You’ll know your starter is active and ready when it is nice and bubbly and floats in water. To test before you begin your recipe, take a spoonful of starter and drop into a bowl of water. If it floats, you’re good to go!

The Fun Part (and a few extra notes!)

Ok, you’ve made your starter. You’ve fed it enough to prep for baking day. Now you choose your recipe and get working! Here’s a list of goodies I’ve tried so far: artisan bread, honey wheat sandwich bread, English muffins, pizza crust, donuts, donut holes, banana bread, zucchini bread, tortillas, flatbread, dinner rolls, and pancakes. The possibilities are endless, and the internet is FULL of great ideas.

Before I share my artisan recipe, I want to show you a few tools I’ve found very handy in my sourdough baking life. These are not absolute must haves, but they have made the process a lot smoother.

Left to right: Bread Lame for scoring bread, Danish Dough Hook for mixing dough, Dough Scraper for cutting bread and shaping dough, all tools resting in a Banneton bowl
  • Bread Lame-I chose to buy a bread lame to do the scoring in my artisan loaves. You can also just use a razor blade and have the same result.
  • Danish Dough Hook-now this isn’t absolutely necessary, but it sure makes mixing dough a lot easier and less messy. If you don’t use one of these, I would suggest mixing with your hands instead.
  • Dough Scraper-this comes in handy when you are separating dough. For example, in my artisan recipe, you are actually making two loaves. This handy tool separates the dough nicely. Then, when you are in your final shaping of the bread, the dough scraper is used to tighten the boule and get a nice taught top.
  • Banneton Bowl-a regular mixing bowl lined with a tea towel will do just fine, but I love using the Banneton Bowl and getting that perfect round shape every time.
  • If you’ve made yeast breads in the past, you will need to brace yourself for this next piece. Baking sourdough bread is an endeavor. You cannot typically make the dough and eat the bread on the same day. I usually give myself 24 hours between starting the dough to when I want to gift or serve the bread. Some recipes will be quicker, but using sourdough starter takes a little longer for the dough to rise. But let me tell you, it is worth the wait!
  • For the recipe I shared, I love going to People’s Food Co-op and finding different whole wheat flours to use. My absolute favorite is the 1874 Turkey Red from Penner Farms. It is grown and milled right here in Minnesota! It gives my bread such a hearty texture and flavor.

Sourdough Artisan Bread

Tricia KnutsonTricia Knutson
This recipe will turn your active sourdough starter to a beautifully crafted crusty artisan bread.
Course Side Dish

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Kitchen Scale
  • Danish Dough Hook
  • 2 Banneton Baskets or bowls lined with tea towels
  • Bread Lame
  • Dough Scraper
  • Dutch Oven (cast iron or ceramic)
  • Parchment Paper

Ingredients
  

  • 700 g warm water
  • 200 g active sourdough starter
  • 800 g white flour
  • 200 g whole wheat flour
  • 35 g salt

Instructions
 

  • Add 700 grams warm water to large mixing bowl
  • Pour 200 grams active starter into the warm water. (Be sure it floats)
  • Using your fingers, mix starter and water to dissolve the yeast
  • Add 800 grams white flour, 200 grams whole wheat flour, and 35 grams salt to the yeast mixture
  • Using dough hook, mix until it is a wet shaggy dough.
  • Cover dough with a tea towel and let rest 20-30 minutes
  • Wet hands. Now you will do a stretch and fold method. You will reach under the dough at the top of the bowl, grab the dough, stretch it up, and fold it over the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn to the right. Repeat the stretch and fold. You will do this a total of 4 times.
  • Let dough rest under a tea towel for about 45-60 minutes. (if it goes longer than that, it's just fine. Just do not go shorter)
  • Repeat the stretch and fold procedure rotating the bowl 4 times.
  • Let dough rest under a tea towel for about 45-60 minutes. (if it goes longer than that, it's just fine. Just do not go shorter)
  • Repeat the stretch and fold procedure rotating the bowl 4 times.
  • Let dough rest under a tea towel for about 45-60 minutes. (if it goes longer than that, it's just fine. Just do not go shorter)
  • Now it is time to pre-shape the dough. Dump your dough onto a floured surface. Using the dough scraper, cut your dough in half. Roll the dough tightly and tuck the ends underneath. Do this several times until you have a tight, round boule. Do this to both pieces of dough. Lightly flour the tops and cover with a tea towel.
  • Let rest 20-30 minutes
  • Prepare your proofing baskets-lightly flour your banneton basket or lightly flour a tea towel lined bowl. Time to final shape your dough. Using the dough scraper, gently scrape underneath the round boules tightening up the dough. Once you have your desired shape, flip the dough into the proofing baskets seam side up.
  • Cover with a towel and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. I prefer to let mine stay in the fridge overnight.
  • Place dutch oven inside oven, and preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This will create the steam you need to get that nice crispy crust
  • Remove your dough from the fridge. You can bake one now and leave the other to bake later in the day, or it could stay in your fridge for several days before baking.
  • Take a piece of parchment paper, big enough for the dough. Flip your dough onto the parchment paper. Using your bread lame or razor blade, score the top of your bread. You can make a design, or just give it a nice slice down the middle. I try to make my cut at least a half inch deep to allow the gas to escape while baking. Get creative!
  • Lift the lid off the dutch oven and carefully place your dough with the parchment paper into the dutch oven. Put the lid on.
    Keep it at this temperature for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, remove the lid and lower the temperature to 450 degrees.
  • Bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven! Do not cut until completely cool otherwise the center will be doughy and dense. Enjoy!