In my not-so-distant dreams of being a prairie homesteader, I imagined making bread like this for many years. This year I happened to be given two starters, and so it began. The newer starter came from a neighbor who inspired the core of this recipe. Our 40 year old starter came from family friends who are not so inspired to make bread but sure love to eat it with us. Newer starters tend to be more sour and I really enjoy using that particular starter for breads. The older sourdough starters tend to be settled down a little bit and work great for hotcakes without adding extra flour! Did you know that the starch in flour transforms into protein once it’s been fed for 10 hours?
After reading several sourdough books and talking with anyone who was willing to talk sourdough, I began literally sinking my teeth into the loving process. When my neighbor shared his newer sourdough starter, he gave me a basic recipe and said 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 cup starter. “Basically, just keep dividing in half to remember.” From there I improvised and came up with a triple-rise sourdough bread. It takes a little over 24 hours when the house is warm or the rising dough is near the wood stove. Colder rising temperatures can be stretched out to about 48 hours. Some folks like to even put it in the fridge to really draw out the rise time.
Feeding Your Starter:
The night before making bread, or 10-12 hours before making bread, I feed my sourdough starter equal parts flour and water after pouring off a bit of discard. It is important to discard a small portion of your starter so that the new flour and water can successfully wake up and feed your rested starter. You do not want to exceed 12 hours from feeding your starter and beginning the mixing process. This will result in a no-rise bread, which can turn into excellent crackers with a bit of seasoning, but not much else. It is important to mention never to stir or touch anything to do with sourdough with metal… apparently this hinders the rising effects. I learned that the hard way.
For the dough on the right in the teal bowl, I added a small pinch of yeast because I could tell that my newer sourdough starter wasn’t fed quite enough flour and water the night before. I didn’t want to loose out on that entire loaf. The dough in the left glass bowl is a result of our 40 year old starter and definitely took an extra 12+ hours to rise fully. Either way, they are delicious, but one is definitely more traditional without using yeast. They surely didn’t keep yeast around the chuck wagon while trying to survive in the Yukon during the 1700-1800s.
I was able to cook the loaf with a pinch of yeast the same night that I started the bread, 16 hours later (pictured on the right).
Above: punched down for the first time with a little flour added on top and sides
Above: second rise takes about half as long as the first
Above: final rise in baking pan
Adding an egg wash after the third rise is an option. I’ve forgotten to add the wash a few times and the bread is equally as savory. However, the egg wash adds a beautiful glaze and actually helps to slice the bread once it cools.
Traditional Sourdough Bread Recipe
4 cups flour
2 cups water
1 cup sourdough starter
1 tbs sugar (to taste)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg (for the egg wash)
Feed sourdough starter 10-12 hours before starting bread. In a large bowl, add ingredients according the the order listed above. Mix and knead dough into a consistent ball of dough for about 5 -7 minutes, adding flour as needed. You will want your dough to have a little extra flour on the outside, because when it rises, it moistens. In a large bowl (can be the same as your mixing bowl), add oil to bottom and up the sides by spinning oil or spreading with a paper towel. Let the dough rise to double. Punch down, knead to a new ball of dough, let rise to double. Prepare cooking sheet or pan, depending on your desired shape outcome. Oil your pan and place dough in the center according to the pan’s shape. Make slits in your bread at this time, before the final rise. Let dough rise to double. When almost fully risen, turn oven to 375 degrees and prepare egg wash. Mix one egg well and brush on the surface of your risen dough carefully. Do not press too hard, as this will depress the air in your dough.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or once toothpick comes out clean. Once you take the bread out of the oven, flip your loaf upside down on a clean surface and check the bottom for thorough baking. If necessary, place loaf back in the oven upside down for a few minutes.
Slice and enjoy!
Let bread cool completely under a towel before storing. Place loaf in bag with a paper towel and keep in refrigerator. Expires in 1-2 weeks or until eaten.