Sourdough Success

My sourdough loaf bakes inside a dutch oven.

Happy Thanksgiving! I wish all of you a happy holiday and hope you are celebrating with those near and dear to your hearts! As I did last year on Thanksgiving, I’m going to post about food again this Turkey Day.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve dabbled in something new to me and wanted share my experience, as well as encourage any of you who’ve ever been tempted to try it. What is this food feature that’s caught my fancy? Sourdough bread!

I decided to order a starter online. The reason I did this, instead of making my own starter, was because I was told that our local yeast wasn’t the best quality or flavor. I wanted to make sure my sourdough tasted authentic. So, I ordered Breadtopia starter and have been quite pleased with it so far. 

I feed my starter several hours before using it to bake.

What I didn’t realize about sourdough is that you are supposed to bake it in a special dish inside the oven, a.k.a. a dutch oven. (Obviously, I hadn’t done my research.) I will admit that I’m totally a bread novice. I consider myself a kitchen veteran and have cooked and baked for many years. However, bread making hasn’t really made it to my resume; I’ve only baked it a couple of times in the past.   

Luckily, my husband had a dutch oven sitting in the garage that he (very rarely) uses for camping. I was pleased with this discovery, since it meant I could actually bake some sourdough bread with the starter I had already purchased and fed. (Again, I recommend doing research before a purchase. Don’t make my mistake!) I was also pleased to discover that I owned a bowl scraper (which I had never used). I did not, however, own a proofing basket or a lamer. If you do not know what those two items are, I just want to assure you that you are not alone. (I didn’t know either two weeks ago.) 

I like to use these cloth covers over my bowls when proofing.

It turns out that having a proofing basket and lamer aren’t really necessary, so I followed the directions as best I could for my first loaf of sourdough, proofed it in a glass bowl, baked it in the dutch oven, and voilà! I had my very own sourdough bread! It came out very well, I thought, for my first time. The flavor tasted great ― the outside was crusty and the inside chewy, just like I had enjoyed eating sourdough from bakeries. The one problem I had was that the bottom was a little black. My next two loaves were the same. A quick online search gave me a great solution to keep my bread bottoms from burning. I needed to put a baking sheet under my dutch oven. Once I did that, my next two loaves came out great, no more burned bottoms.

There are quite a few bloggers that write about sourdough baking. The one I like the best so far is “The Pantry Mama.” 

In my book, jalapeno and cheese is a winning combination for sourdough.

After making three plain loaves, I then made two jalapeno and cheese loaves. Flavored sourdough is SO good! I can’t wait to try some more flavor combinations. “The Pantry Mama” has some great recipes for flavored sourdough here

If you enjoy sourdough bread, I would definitely encourage you to try baking it for yourself. Feeding the starter is very easy; you just add flour and water. Breadtopia (and other sites) have lots of information to help you sourdough successfully. Also, according to Breadtopia, the starter is hardy and resilient, so don’t think you couldn’t keep it alive. Making the bread wasn’t difficult either. Timing is the key. Many things you make with sourdough take several hours to ferment or proof, but that’s not active labor on your part. I usually just leave my dough out overnight, so it can do all the work while I sleep. I wish more things worked that way!

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