April 25, 2020
COVID-19 Sourdough Baking
As I was talking to a friend, I told her that it took COVID-19 to finally begin “domesticating” me. We chuckled. I started baking sourdough bread, making my own yogurt, and started gardening–well, started pulling out weeds. 🙂
So, what is it about COVID-19 that got me started in baking sourdough?
Before COVID-19, I never once considered learning or trying to bake sourdough bread, even as I enjoyed munching on delicious sourdough bread one of our friends would bake and bring to our gatherings!
Well, a neighbor asked me if I wanted some sourdough starter around the time when bread was hard to find. I had whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour in the cupboard since I hardly bake, so I thought, “Why not?” I’m on spring break from school, so I’ve got time.
Lo and behold, we’re into our fifth week of stay at home order (I think it’s fifth week…honestly, I’ve lost track of how many weeks it has been), and I am hooked.
I love everything about it–from the beginning to the end.
Let’s not jump to the idea that I love baking in general. I still don’t. But, I love sourdough bread baking.
Here are the reasons why:
First, you only need three ingredients: flour, salt, and water. If you don’t have a starter, you can make one using water and flour. That’s it. I don’t have to go out looking for ingredients, spend a lot of money on something that I might use once and never touch again.
Secondly, You are in charge of your time. I love that I can make it to work with my schedule. I don’t have to devote a whole chunk of 2 hours to baking. The whole process is broken into steps that require different levels of commitment in time, so you can plan it out the way it will work for you.
Now that I am back in class for my graduate studies, and crisis schooling three kids at home, I bake once a week. I have started baking four loaves–generally so that I can give away two loaves, and keep two for ourselves.
My starter feeding starts Thursday night. I feed twice Friday, and once early Saturday morning. Then, I begin the whole process, ending with baking them early Sunday morning. But, you can make it work so that it works with your schedule.
Thirdly, you see progress. I love seeing my starter rise after it gets its feeding. For those of you who enjoy seeing results to your labor, get those starters fed, and see them working! It’s so satisfying!
Fourthly, you get to experiment with the regimen. For me, sourdough baking is more like a marathon and not a sprint. I learned while training for the marathon that you have to eventually figure out what your body needs for replenishment, and how your body responds to the long-distance running. You are in charge of your training in many ways; you figure out what regimen works best for your body, your schedule, and your personality.
Similarly, unlike regular baking (maybe seasoned bakers would disagree with me!), I feel as though sourdough baking leaves room to figure out what works without being so precise. I have enjoyed playing around with the ratios and trying out the timing to see if I can notice any differences in the final product. Some baking requires following exactly as prescribed….not my style. I have found something within baking that works with my personality.
Fifthly, it is very forgiving. Many sourdough bakers use a kitchen scale. I didn’t want to invest in one until I was certain that I would really love it, so I have been using measuring cups instead. This method is more laborious and not as precise as using a kitchen scale. (Now, I have one thanks to a friend who surprised me with one!) Even though I am still quite new on this journey, I am finding that it is quite forgiving overall as I figure it out.
Lastly, my family scarfs down the sourdough bread!! They love it, and it is so much healthier than store-bought bread!
Enjoy the process rather than focusing on the appearance of the bread; you will get there.
If you’re the type who expects to have a beautiful looking loaf from the get-go, just use these pictures to encourage you. They do not look like beautiful artisan sourdough bread! I’m sure yours will have a chance to look better than mine! We are in it together.
I encourage you to enjoy the process, and see it as a marathon, learning and making it your own. You might come to love it! Who would have thought COVID-19 would surprise me with a love for sourdough baking!
If you want to give it a try, here are a few online resources:
- 15 Mistakes Most Beginner Sourdough Bakers Make
- Cultures for Health–How to Feed A Sourdough Starter
- King Arthur Bread–Sourdough Baking
I just put four loaves in the fridge for the final process of proofing (which I chose to do overnight so that I can bake first thing in the morning when it’s cooler). It was my first time using a kitchen scale and tried some other ratios recommended by a friend, so I will see how they turn out tomorrow morning!
If you have any favorite sourdough bread sites, please share! I’d love to compare notes.