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BBA Challenge #30: Basic Sourdough Bread

I can’t believe I have finally made it to the Sourdough portion of the book. To tell you the truth, I was a little apprehensive, since I don’t have the best track record when it comes to sourdough.

I did not make my starter from scratch, since I already have a starter. I purchased some of the King Arthur Flour sourdough starter, and even the official KAF sourdough crock, many moons ago. But I did not get in the habit of baking with it regularly…or even feeding it regularly. Some time later, I got Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book The Bread Bible, and in it she describes how to turn a liquid starter to a stiff starter (and back again). I had been keeping my starter as a liquid starter, but the advantage of a stiff starter is that you don’t need to feed it as often. So I followed her directions and made my liquid starter a stiff starter.

And then I mostly forgot about it. But it continued to live on in the back of my refrigerator. Those people who say it is tough to spoil or kill a sourdough starter aren’t kidding.

Now, the Bread Baker’s Apprentice uses a liquid starter for the sourdough recipes, so I planned to turn my starter back to a liquid.

Here’s my stiff starter:

Old Stiff Starter

It doesn’t look too bad, right? Trust me, it has looked a lot worse.

I added flour and extra water to feed it and to get it to a liquid state, meaning approximately equal weights of flour and water.

Transition to Liquid Starter

Liquid Starter

I fed it a few times during the week, to help it get its strength back. Soon it was nice and bubbly.

Bubbly

Then I needed to use the liquid starter to make a stiff starter that would become my sourdough bread. So I took a stiff starter, made it a liquid starter…and then made that a stiff starter again. Does that make sense?

Mixing

New Stiff Starter

I accidentally left the stiff starter out way too long, and it got seriously puffy.

Risen Stiff Starter

The stiff starter then gets refrigerated overnight, and the next day, flour, water, and salt are added. That’s it.

Ready to Rise

I let the dough rise until it had doubled.

Risen

Then divided and shaped. I decided to make boules. One boule got the banneton and the couche.

Shaped

The other one had to make do with the dish towel and Pyrex bowl.

Shaped & Risen

These rose well, too. I don’t remember how long they took to rise at each of the stages (because, surprise, surprise, I baked them a few weeks ago), but I feel like they were at the high end of PR’s estimates. For this whole sourdough section, I have been taking the schedule easy and waiting to make sure the dough gets doubled, since I am depending on my wild yeast. I haven’t really been experimenting with the whole no-knead bread phenomenon, but the one thing I have learned from reading about it is that time can do the work for you. So I am trying to be patient and let my wild yeast do its work.

Shaped & Risen

I baked them with all the “hearth baking” rules observed. They turned out really tall and almost completely spherical, which I wasn’t expecting.

Sliced

Look at that slash! I am proud.

Slash

These loaves were delicious. I love sourdough bread. I don’t know if it’s the recipe in particular, or just that my sourdough has been dormant for so long, but they had a really nice tangy, sour flavor without it being too overpowering. The texture was good, too. If you have a starter already, the recipe really wasn’t that complicated. It certainly is a long way away from my earlier, sad attempt. I’m going to give these 4.5 stars.

4 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #30: Basic Sourdough Bread

  1. Your loaves are beautiful! I especially like the look of your dough right after you shaped your boules. This is such a great recipe, too. Simple, almost foolproof, and absolutely delicious.

  2. I love the idea of having a firm starter….and not having to babysit it that often ~ I’ll keep this post in mind when I’m ready to jump into the sourdough section!

  3. I had read about firm and liquid starters and did not realize you could convert one to the other and what the benefits of each were. I want to convert my liquid barm into a stiff starter so I can feed it less often. I will have to look into those instructions. Thanks.

    Wow, you really got oven spring. That boule is really quite a sphere! Wonderful.

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