Sourdough Starter, Sourdough Bread and More

Sourdough Bread

We have what I like to call a little "suburban farm."  It includes 5 chickens, a french angora rabbit, and LOTS of garden...right smack dab in the middle of your typical suburban, cul-de-sac neighborhood.  It embarrasses my teenagers.  Their friends love to tease them about "the farm."  

The thing is...I LOVE natural and making things from scratch.  (When I was a kid, I used to pretend the tall grass in the overgrown field next to my house was wheat.  I would pick it and grind it in the concrete rain gutter splash block.  Then, I would go inside and throw a frozen chimichanga into the microwave and pretend it was homegrown. 😂 I am currently living the legacy of my childhood imaginations.  Well...kind of...

I have long since realized I can NOT do everything from scratch AND live in modern civilization.  I grew up in a small, rural town.  After about nineteen years of feeling constantly lonely and excessively bored, I realized I needed to be a little closer to action.  (Not too close, of course, but clos-ER.)  I have found the suburbs to be just right.  I can sit out front and have a constant stream of people walking and willing to chat...or I can sit on the back deck with my husband's jungle "privacy screen" and be alone (when I'm all peopled out).  Perfect balance.

Plus, we found a large corner lot that fits apple trees, cherry trees, a mulberry bush, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, and a veggie garden along with the chickens, the rabbit and a compost newly added rain barrel. 💕

All this without the isolation!  Which brings me to...where was I???...oh yes.  We were going to talk about sourdough starter and bread.

So...when Co-Vid 19 interrupted our regularly scheduled programming, and I found myself unable to buy yeast along with toilet paper, I decided I needed to prepare for the apocalypse and ensure myself that I could provide for this big, little family of 6, in case of emergency.  I (apparently, along with about a million other people) began my novice attempt at harvesting wild yeast and making my own sourdough starter and sourdough bread. (I told myself, if it came down to it, I could always find acorns and make my own flour. #KristenShanna  🤷‍♀️😂)

After researching a multitude of sites, I found this really helpful, detailed blog about making your own sourdough starter, and the same site had a blog specific to making sourdough bread.  I compared a multitude of recipes online (most of them very similar or the same), and I believe this one truly covers it all.  I highly recommend reading all of the detailed info.  It gives you a better understanding of the purpose and process of making sourdough bread.  That said...I needed to simplify.  #KristenShanna has got WAY too much going on over here to think so much about bread.  I got things narrowed down to a much easier, less brain-cell consuming process.'s my Kristen Shanna Sourdough Starter and Bread info:

Before I the sourdough starter link above if you don't already have one.  You will only need a few minutes a day for about 5 days.  You will mix small parts of water and flour together and loosely cover it overnight. (And PLEASE feel free to skip the weighing if you, like me are informal and novice...because I really don't think it matters that much.  I do, however, use unbleached flour in my sourdough starter.) You will capture wild, naturally occurring yeast, and it will be unique in flavor according to your location.  Pretty cool, right?!!  Also, it will develop flavor over time.  The older it is, the better.  Now, once you have a bubbling brew, you are ready to begin.

Step one: Pick a day you are home.  It won't require all day - only little bits here and there - but you will need to be present at specific times to run in and fulfill a step.  Don't freak out if you are a few minutes off.  And that said, I have found I don't need to freak out about feeding my starter at exactly one week.  I leave mine in the refrigerator until a day within a 5-10 day period that I have time to focus on it.  Like the rest of my life, I go by intuition and feeling, and so far (for about 4 months in my sourdough starter's life) everything has worked out just fine.

Step two: Split your new starter in half.  If your starter is old and refrigerated, set it out the night before.  Split in half.

Step three: Use half of the starter in a recipe.  (We will talk more in a bit.)  Feed the other half with 1/2 cup unbleached flour and 1/3 cup water.  (For the starter only, I use distilled, bottled water.)  The fed bit is your continued sourdough starter.  Leave it loosely covered over night, and then seal it up and put it in the refrigerator for a week-ish...AND repeat.  (I have stored my stater in everything from a glass jar to a food storage container to a cleaned out yogurt container.)

Let's summarize and simplify, so far:

Day one: Set out sourdough starter.  
Day two: Split. Use half; feed half (1/3 c water; 1/2 cup flour). Loosely cover feeder half overnight.
Day three: Refrigerate feeder half for 5-10 days.
Day five-ten-ish: Repeat.

Easy, peasy, right?  Now, let's USE the sourdough starter:

Sourdough Bread Recipe Simplified

1. Add 1/3 c water and 1/2 cup to the "use" side of the sourdough starter split.  Loosely cover and set out over night.
2.  (Next Day...unless you forget, and I think it will be fine day 3...) Dissolve 1 tbs salt in 1/4 c water.
3.  Add 2 c water to fed sourdough starter "discard." 
4.  Slowly mix in 4-5 c flour.  (At this point, I am often using tap water and bleached flour.  Whatever is easy.) Rest 30 min(ish).
5.  Add salt mixture.  Pinch and gently squeeze it into the dough.  When it is saturated, pick up the dough and let it stretch like your cat.  Then, let the bottom down and fold the top over like a sandwich.  Gently press.  Turn bowl 15 minutes clockwise (1/4 turn; N to E...whatever makes sense to you).  Repeat stretch and fold.  Complete the turn the bowl, stretch and fold the dough 4 times.
6. Repeat stretch, fold, turn x4 five more times every 1/2 hour (ish).  Rest.
7.  Divide in half.  Shape into 2 balls.  (Please just look up on youtube for the shaping and the stretch/fold if you are confused.  I had to break down and do that, too.)
8.  Rest 30 minutes.
9.  Set in small bowls draped with floured cloth napkins.
10.  (This is your chance to REALLY get something done...even leave the house, if needed.)  You can let it rise 3-4 hours and bake (if you started early)...or you can put those babies in the refrigerator and cook them in the morning, because whew...I am ready for a break.
11.  (Whichever you choose to do, next...) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  (I am afraid of 500 degrees. 🤷‍♀️)  
12. Flip the dough (top is now bottom) into very greased oven safe dish.  (The best I have is a little vintage corning ware dish with lid.)  
13. Slit the tops with a sharp knife.  (I prefer a simple X marks the spot.)  Bake covered (with foil, if needed) for 30 minutes.  
14. Remove cover and bake 15 min more until crust is a lovely golden to dark brown.
15.  Remove from dish and cool on a wire rack (at least 30 minutes if you can keep the kids and hub away that long!)

Now...when two loaves a week gets to be a bit much, and you hate to waste that discard half of your sourdough starter, but you need something easier, look up "sourdough discard recipes" on your browser of choice.  I haven't found a bad one, yet.  Here are the ones I've tried:

I will add links as I try new sourdough starter discard recipes!  Enjoy.  :)