Did you know right now with the COVID19 pandemic, baking is on the rise? Everyone suddenly wants to know how to make bread! While you read & watch these resources, you may want to pre-buy your flour because it could be a wait for restock. Also, check out my previous post about the why you should start making sourdough bread. Up next, see my failed loaves!
So you want to bake sourdough bread… but then you did what we all do, and looked it up and found about 50 different contradicting methods and people obsessing over the minutia of temperatures and flour percentages and caring for a starter like a newborn baby. I have good news: It’s not like that. There is a lot to learn, that’s true. In essence, making bread is very simple. It’s just flour, water, salt, yeast – like the book titled!
I think this is everyone’s go-to book. I couldn’t find it in the library or the book store, so I personally passed. However, I checked out this book which is far more advance but super interesting! I’m raised by the internet, so I used my google-fu to get all the information I need. In my opinion, all the information you need can be found through the following (mostly for “free” – please disable your AdBlock for these guys) :
Elaine is a super sweet and kind woman. Even though she has thousands of followers, she will answer a question thoroughly and thoughtfully. Her website gives you a very detailed, step-by-step process with pictures. Her method is simple and refined to the bare essence. I prefer her website and recipe because it is not confusing and she clearly knows what she is doing, unlike some recipes I found that have major flaws (the flaws become obvious when you get better at sourdough). She is also releasing a book!
There’s also a wealth of information from the helpful communities found on Facebook, such as Perfect Sourdough created by Teresa L Greenway who teaches bread baking on Udemy (you can check out the group for links and special promos on her classes – she also did not pay me to say this). I tried her Sourdough Pizza recipes and I’m a fan.
Jack is a Youtuber and baking teacher with a great personality, concise videos, experiments, and lots and lots of information in only a few minutes. Most of his videos are about regular bread, but many of the techniques used are universal and apply to all breads including sourdough bread. It’s essential to know the kneading for wet dough, window pane and shaping technique (which can also be used for gentle kneading).
You use these depending on the wetness of your dough to build gluten, which is the stringy stuff that makes your bread into a tall, round loaf instead of a dense doorstop. The drier the dough, the easier it is to just knead. The wetter – it’s wiser to use this technique.
Shaping is essential for getting a beautiful loaf shape instead of a random, shaggy brick of bread. You must learn this.
No, I’m not being paid to put all these links – I genuinely think he’s a great resource on YouTube after watching so many convoluted videos with no professional or scientific basis (basically lots of “this seems right so I do it this way” videos that don’t question their methods). Okay, enough of Jack.
Tools for Sourdough Baking
When you look around the internet, you will see plenty of home bakers have fancy tools for making sourdough bread. I’m frugal and I’m a minimalist when it comes to stuff, so I rather not buy more kitchen gadgets if I can. Yes, it’s nice to have the perfect mixing bowls, bannetons, all sorts of baking cloths, thermometers, ect. Honestly, I think that’s too big of a commitment, too, when you first start out.
Here’s what I think it necessary to be successful:
- A kitchen scale. All recipes are by weight or baking percentages, and instead of arguing about – it’s just easier & more accurate to use grams than messing around with measuring cups.
- A flexible dough scraper. Whether big or small, it’s the easiest way to control your dough and scrap the bowl & counter top. It’s also useful for all sorts of baking, especially when you get flour stuck to the counter top – just put water on it, wait a minute, scrap.
That’s really it. Everything else is extra and nice-to-have. Where’s the banneton? I just use a lint-free cloth & bowl. At the end of the day, it still shapes my bread. I also just wrap my bowls in 10-cent grocery bags – no money wasted on showercaps or weird lids. I use my wrist as a thermometer for water temperature.
Lastly, it’s worth reading this if you are in the mountains even though it applies to yeasted dough and not sourdough. I’m putting this link because it’s a common excuse that “the air is not right” for making bread. Climate, season, altitude, even the particular strain of yeast that is local to your wheat will effect the way your bread turns out. This is a stressful thought, but think how fascinating that is! Your loaf is going to be unique every time you make it, and individual from any loaf on earth. It’s just important to be mindful that you can’t expect your loaf to be like another you might see in a flashy Instagram pic. In fact, lots of those sexy loaves on Instagram could very well be in an actual bakery, which has a completely different atmosphere from the air in your kitchen. Bakery kitchens tend to be much hotter and possibly more humid.
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I started saving videos to a playlist about how to make sourdough bread, so make sure to save this playlist as I add more useful videos. Please leave comments and questions below so I can add videos or books or websites that will help you further!
Now I know this is a lot of information to digest and it can be overwhelming. You will probably not succeed the first few times. In the next post, I will show you my failed loaves and tips from my learning curve.