To continue my sourdough exploits, I’ve put my starter to good use with a variety of tasks. Sourdough starters, I learned, are supposed to be named. Because of my love for alliteration, I named mine: Stanley the Sourdough Starter.
Stanley has been busy. I’ve tried an abundance of different sourdough loaves, including traditional white, half-wheat, wheat and rye, jalapeno cheddar, kalamata olive, parmesan herb, rosemary roasted garlic, cinnamon pecan, and coffee walnut chocolate chip. I’ve also made pizza crust, pretzels, and pancakes. The pancakes were one of my favorites. My favorite loaves so far have been the jalapeno cheddar and rosemary roasted garlic.
What I’ve discovered about sourdough baking is that it can be quite time-consuming. The good thing about this is that it’s not active time. Most of the time involved is merely the dough working its magic on its own, either on the counter or in the fridge. I’ve also learned that this time can vary dramatically depending on which recipes or blogs you choose to follow.
I’m still very much a novice when it comes to this whole sourdough business, but the more I bake, the more I learn. I’ve even managed to purchase myself two proofing baskets and a lamer. (Now, you know I’m getting serious, right?)
So, today, I wanted to share a secret with you that I think can be helpful when it comes to saving time. For those of you not after “the perfect” loaf, I think the no-knead process of making sourdough bread works great, even for the flavored loaves. This process, which is explained here, calls for you to do two “stretch and folds” of your dough before letting it sit overnight at room temperature. Then, in the morning, you do a couple of quick coil folds before letting it proof for an hour and half. Then you bake.
If you think the above process sounds really time-consuming, you should try reading some sourdough blogs. The above is the quickest, easiest version of making sourdough bread that I’ve come across. Many recipes call for you to let the dough sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours on top of many other steps. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of it taking at least three days to make my bread. Because, don’t forget, you have to have an active starter.
If you keep your starter in the fridge, like I do, then you have to pull the starter out the day before you plan to use it, feed it, and let it grow and get “active,” so it’s ready to bake with. This is very easy, but you have to plan accordingly. For example: If I want a loaf for Sunday night dinner, I take Stanley out sometime Saturday morning and feed him. I leave him on the counter all day, so he’s nice and active when I make my dough on Saturday evening. The dough sits at room temperature all night and is ready for proofing Sunday morning. I bake my loaf after proofing, and my fresh sourdough is ready for dinner that night.
If I want to add a flavor to my dough, I do so after the second “stretch and fold.” So, once the 15 minutes is over following the second “stretch and fold,” I add the additional ingredients and “stretch and fold” them into the dough. Then I cover the dough and leave it overnight. This is also a faster way than most recipes call for, because I’m only doing three “stretch and folds” instead of 5-6. (That would take forever!) For flavored loaf ideas and recipes, try this site.
There are some speciality loaves (like the coffee chocolate chip walnut) that will require additional steps and time. However, I’ve found that most of my sourdough loaves can be made with the above process, and they turn out just fine.