Over the last year our family has gone through many changes. One of the most exciting is that I now have the unexpected gift of being able to spend more time at home with my family. That means that I’ve been focusing on making us all healthier and happier. First on my family makeover list was to do a better job of nourishing the family from the inside out. Somehow I came upon the idea to start baking my own sourdough bread. It turns out that I’ve become quite obsessed and I’m having so much fun experimenting with this style of baking! I’m going to share some tips and an easy recipe to get you started. Why not give it a try? Just a warning, it can become quite addicting to have fresh, baked bread in your house on a regular basis….
What is sourdough?
Sourdough is a bread made by long fermentation of dough using a naturally occurring bacteria and yeast combination, instead of cultivated baker’s yeast. These friendly bacteria are called lactobacilli and they take simple sugar and convert it to lactic acid, which is what gives rise to the slightly sour flavor.
Its history and use go back thousands of years and it’s the original way our ancestors made bread long before cultivated yeast was around. The mix of flour and water in which the lactobacilli and yeast grow and live is called the “sourdough starter.” This starter is maintained and used to flavor and leaven the bread.
Why would I want to make sourdough?
Besides the versatility and fun involved, it turns out that there are health benefits as well. You can read about the beneficial microflora in fermented foods like sourdough, and how they can help you stay healthy. If you’re looking for more than just bread, you should check out my pinterest board for all the fun things you can create from your sourdough starter.
Where do I start?
First, you’ll need a sourdough starter culture. When not in use, it will live in your fridge and you will have to “feed” it from time to time to keep it healthy (i.e. replace what you use with new flour, water and sugar.) You can see the frothy, foamy goodness in the picture of my fed starter above! You can get a starter with a pretty cool history for FREE from this nifty little organization: Carl’s Oregon Trail Starter. They have instructions on how to feed and maintain your starter and some great recipes as well.
Once your starter arrives, you’ll need to take care of your new bundle of yeast as if it’s your pet–because it is! You’ll need something to store your starter in. Glass is best (metal interferes with biochemistry of the yeast) and it needs a lid that doesn’t seal (gases that form during fermentation could rupture your jar.) You can find the one I use here.
While I normally mix, knead and bake my bread by hand, I do sometimes use a bread machine because, well, I’m human. My recipe today uses a bread machine since I figured it’s the gentlest way for first-timers to jump in. And if you’re interested in purchasing a bread machine, this is the one I use.
Sourdough needs a long rise time, so baking in a machine means you have to “cheat” a little and add a some commercial yeast for it to work. However, you still retain the characteristic sour flavor. So while I advocate making sourdough by hand and allowing it enough time to rise on its own, I know in real life that shortcuts can help a tired mama out. So without further ado, here is everything you need to do to crank out your first loaf of sourdough bread quickly and easily. This particular recipe is a kid favorite at our house.
Baking Sourdough in a Bread Machine
You can try out this recipe and omit the herbs if you’re looking for something more plain. This one is kid approved in my house, so I’m sharing it first. I hope to add some more recipes soon.
Sourdough Herb Bread Recipe adapted from the bread machine recipe in Carl’s brochure:
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baker’s yeast
- 2 cups Bread Flour
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 1/3 tablespoons Sugar
- 1 1/4 tablespoons Oil
- 6 tablespoons Milk
- 3/4 cup Starter
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil (less if dried)
- 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
- 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
- or you can use any combination/amount of herbs you desire
Add the wet ingredients and herbs first, then add the dry ingredients (protecting the yeast from the wet ingredients.) Place the yeast in last, and make sure to place it in a well in the middle. Bake on Basic with a medium crust.
So there it is–your quick start guide to producing a delicious sourdough bread. Let me know how it turns out!
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