My brother-in-law, Travis, is a great baker (in addition to being a talented musician!). He makes awesome sourdough bread. Over Thanksgiving, I asked him to teach me, and together we made a starter (which we named, “Olga’s Starter”) and of course he made some of his bread from the La Habra Starter. I asked if he would be willing to share his knowledge with you. I hope you enjoy! (And if you’d like to make your own starter, he will be doing a follow-up post in the new year!) I took Olga’s starter home with me to care for. It’s almost ready to bake with… I can’t wait to try it!
Hello, my name is Travis and Rachel married my brother, so now we’re family. She asked me if I would be into sharing what I’ve learned about bread here and I couldn’t have been more excited to share. I have an interest in bread. I love it. I love it with jam. I love it plain, with a spread of butter or peanut butter, I love it with sandwich things between it. And the smell of baking bread is definitely a favorite of mine. There is nothing better than fresh bread. Except maybe bacon.
So, about ten years ago I started looking into baking my own bread, and being kind of a science nerd I started learning about the way bread starters are used and made. I like sourdough bread and found that essentially a bread starter is a sourdough starter, so I dug a little deeper and found out that with a little patience and time it’s simple to make your own. And with a stable healthy starter you can make so many types of bread it’s crazy. You may also buy many good sourdough starters and each has a different story, which in itself is interesting especially if you like history. Check out the story of San Francisco sourdough.
Like many essential things, when you dig you find a lot of really sweet and interesting things.
Anyway so, here is an easy recipe for a simple sourdough bread, named after a starter I began in La Habra, CA. All good starters should have a good name.
- 1 cup “fed” sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 5 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously.
- Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, for about 12 hours.
- Add the remaining ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.
- Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it’s relaxed, smoothed out, and risen. Depending on the vigor of your starter, it may become REALLY puffy, as pictured; or it may just rise a bit. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Understand this: sourdough bread (especially sourdough without added commercial yeast) is as much art as science; everyone’s timetable will be different. So please allow yourself to go with the flow, and not treat this as an exact, to-the-minute process.
- Gently divide the dough in half.
- Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours. Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.
- Make two fairly deep horizontal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.
- Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.
In keeping a usable starter you use a lot of flour, and are discarding about a cup of starter every three days or so. I started to think about ways to use the removed cup of starter and made up this sweet pancake or waffle recipe.