Recently, a coworker gifted us with some sourdough starter (‘Lucita’, named after the mother starter we got her from, who they called ‘Lucy’. Anyway…). Admittedly, I was daunted after looking up how to care for it, feed it, and just how McFreaking Long it took to make bread. Then, I figured out a system and it has been life-changing. I’m not a pastry pro so I’m going to link you to other recipes, but I want to talk about what I’ve learned and how I have incorporated this into my life in a low maintenance way because there’s a lot of info out there and frankly, who has the time for some of it??
First, I keep our sourdough starter in the fridge until Thursday night, when I pull Lucita out, remove any hooch (ick) that likely formed on top during the week, and add 1/4 cup flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir into starter. I like to keep a rubber band around our Weck container so I can see how much it rises and falls. I also recommend the Weck container as the top fits loosely enough to allow air to escape as it ferments. I continue feeding my starter morning and night on Friday and Saturday to get the starter nice and active for my Sunday bake, which is my preferred day since I’m typically home all day and have the time to babysit dough for seven hours. (Yes, that’s how long it takes and yes, this is a ‘fast’ way of making bread, haha.) If your starter grows a lot, scoop some out and keep feeding. You can discard the excess or use it for pancakes/waffles or our favorite: pizza dough (see my pizza post here).
Then, on Sunday, I make the bread using this recipe. A few tips:
- Start early. Start to finish this takes 7 hours, but most of the time is just letting the dough sit and rise, so don’t be daunted!
- Set timers on your phone.
- HEAVILY oil the bowl you let your dough rise in, and generously oil your hands each time you handle the dough to avoid frustration.
- For the first 3 hour rise, I set two timers for 1.5 hours, so I remember to fold the dough halfway through.
- I use a cast-iron skillet because I don’t have a dutch oven. It works just fine.
- I do the higher end of the bake time, 15 minutes with lid on and 15 minutes lid off. This gets just the right amount of crusty and prevents a doughy bottom.
- The bread lasts about a week and a half (if you can resist eating it that long). There are no preservatives in there, so always cut it on a clean board and store it in a bag to prevent molding.
After making the bread dough, I feed the starter one last time and let it sit out for the afternoon to eat it all up before putting it back in the fridge to go (mostly) dormant until Thursday when I bring it back out and do it all over again! I’ve found that as my container gets super dirty (because starter is like glue it’s so sticky), it produces more hooch/alcohol. I clean/swap my container every 2-3 weeks, depending on how grimy it gets.
And that’s it!! It seems like a lot, but just take the plunge and it’ll become a part of your routine. I suggest asking a local bakery if you can have some of their starter, or you can purchase some from King Arthur Flour. Feeding takes 1-2 minutes for a few days, and you ignore it in the fridge for the rest of the days. Making the bread itself only takes a few minutes of effort, the majority of the time is just letting the dough rise. And in the end, you get fresh bread as a reward for your efforts!
Hopefully this is helpful! Bread can be daunting and there are lots of complicated ways to make it, but this is manageable for me. Drop a comment below with any helpful tips or questions! Happy baking!