For those that have been on this page before I have re-done this page to try and make it more simple.
Paying attention to what we eat is becoming so important now for so many reasons. I have less trust in the food we buy now and feel that the more food we make from scratch the safer the food.
Many years ago my Mother gave me a sourdough starter. I did not bake as much then as I do now and somewhere along the years I tossed out the starter. I did not realize that starting a new starter would be a challenge but once I figured it out I had a nice bubbly starter that I named Pascal.
So to make what I call old fashioned "True" Sourdough bread without yeast it all starts with a good starter. One that rises and falls and has bubbles throughout the starter. This way the bread will rise without yeast.
If you want to make bread now, you will need to get some from a friend or purchase it online. If you want to make a starter yourself then it will take a few weeks to a month before you can make bread with your starter and it may take many tries to get a good starter going.
If you are going to purchase a starter online there are several websites. I read that King Arthur makes a good starter but be careful with theirs if anyone in your family has food allergies because at the time I am posting this, on their website it says; Note: This fresh sourdough starter is processed in a facility that also packages products containing eggs, milk, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.
Another great site and also sells what I understand is great starter is breadtopia.com. You should check out their website too. Just search the internet for starters. If I were to order one I would get a live starter and not dried because you would have to rehydrate the dried and could take awhile to get it going again. However I have rehydrated some sourdough that I dried and got it going again in 4 days.
With a new starter that you have made yourself, at first it may not give you the lift that you are looking for but as your starter matures and you figure out how to feed it correctly it should give you the bread you are looking for.
While your starter is maturing, maybe a few months old and you don't feel you are getting the rise you want one option is to add yeast to your bread recipe (not to your starter, your bread dough). Many of the sourdough breads in the stores are made with yeast. I made some here to show you.
Getting just about right to put in the oven
Like I said it is a very good recipe using the extra active dry yeast with my starter but was still not true sourdough bread.
This is what a young starter might look like. It is on the thinner side and more frothy bubbles. Notice the rubber band. I always keep a rubber band on my jar so I can see the original amount. This is a starter I converted from bread flour to all purpose flour but I froze this starter because one starter is enough for me to keep up with. The actual starter was the height of the rubber band. Anything above the rubber band is what has risen.
The starter I use to bake all my bread is called "Pascal". It is an older starter and I keep him thicker than a new starter. He can rise very fast and double in just a few hours. When I was making starters and Pascal was born, my house looked like a lab experiment. I had so many starters going at the same time because I found that it was a bit complicated. I made some with bread flour, wheat flour, rye flour, all purpose flour. I was determined to not use fruit, I don't know why, I just wanted a flour and water starter. I had jars lined up on a shelf with little notes. I dumped some, kept feeding some and changed some from wheat to bread flour and rye to plain. I don't even know how Pascal became such a great stater but right off it looked and smelled different. So that was how Pascal was born.
I am going to make bread so I need to remove a cup of starter and feed it because the starter is hungry. This is about one cup of hungry Pascal. Never use all your starter, keep some back. I took this from my jar of starter that had a little over two cups in it.
1 cup plus 1/4 cup bread flour
About 1/2 to 3/4 cup spring water
Stir well. Since I have an older starter I keep mine thicker, like a loose dough. This amount of fed starter I will be using to make bread for this post.
So I can explain in detail I will show you this, just keep following along here.
This is a jar of my starter, Pascal. he has already risen and is on the fall. When I fed him and poured him in this jar the amount of starter in the jar was at the level you see at the rubberband. Then as he ate the flour and water he rose to where my finger is. Now he is falling because he has eaten most of the food.
If you push it down the air will go out, I ususally let him fall a bit more before feeding him again but I am showing you this so you can see how the starter works.
So I stirred him down and scraped the sides and this is the amount I am left with. If I had let him fall all the way back down he will have eaten all the food and possible made a liquid film on top. But he obviously had some food left because it did not return back to the rubber band.
I removed the starter from the jar and placed the starter in a bowl. If I am not be baking anymore and I have too much starter I remove some and I throw excess in the trash, not the drain, it will stop up your drain. I don't like to throw away starter but if you keep too much you have to waste flour to feed it.
I washed the jar because you always want to put the fed starter in a clean jar.
I also washed the cloth that I use to cover the lid
I fed him and then I put him back in the wide mouth jar
I adjusted the rubber band to how much is in the jar. Remember this is fed starter.
I put the washed cloth back on the top and secure it with a rubber band.
Just a little thing here, I flip up the sides of the cloth and press down so I can see the entire jar since it can rise to the very top. I then left it out on the counter because I was baking more this week. If I am not going to use it for several days or a week or so I put it in the refrigerator because if I don't, Pascal eats in the morning and then before bed. In the refrigerator he eats once a week.
Now about making bread
This is all of the ingredients in a loaf of true sourdough bread. This is a two loaf recipe.
2 and 1/2 cups fed sourdough starter. That was fed one to two hours prior to making the bread. My Pascal rises pretty quickly so you have to be the judge of your starter.
3/4 Tablespoon Sea salt
1 and 1/2 cups of spring water. If you keep a thinner starter you may only want to use one to one and quarter cups of spring water.
And Start with 3 and 1/2 cups of Bread flour. The amount of flour all depends on how thick or thin your starter is when you use it. You may only use 3 and 1/2 cups flour or you may use five cups more or less of flour. You can make sourdough bread with all purpose flour if that is what you have but I like to use bread flour. You also can add some wheat flour but I don't use more than one cup of wheat flour to the mixture because we like a softer sandwich bread.
Put the flour, salt and water into the starter and stir.
As it gets stiffer I use my spatula to pull in the dough. If it is still loose and easy to stir add more flour until it is too thick to use the spatula.
Then dump it onto a floured surface
You will be working in more flour now until the dough is not sticky and easy to knead. The dough should be kneaded for 20 minutes. You can rest off and on if you are not a strong person. I am use to kneading dough so I can knead for 20 minutes. At first when it is real sticky I pull the flour in with a open hand.
When the dough is less sticky start pushing the dough with your hand and pulling on the dough. Make quarter turns as you do this. Push, lift, pull, quarter turn slap it back down, Push, lift, pull, quarter turn slap it back down.
I am taking a picture with my right hand but if I were not I would be holding this dough with both hands pulling it then folding it over and slapping it back to the board. I keep dusting the board with flour.
Flip it over
Then press again, just keep doing this over and over, using flour as you need it until it is not sticky.
I forgot to take pictures of me dividing the dough in half and shaping the dough. Here is where I do mine a little different than others. I kneaded this dough for 20 minutes then cut it in half and shaped each piece and lay it on a very lightly oiled pan. I am not going to bake it on this.
I turned the light on in the oven, placed a pan of water on the bottom rack and placed this dough in the oven for 2 hours. Then I removed the dough from the pan, reshaped and refolded it to fit into a bread pan.
I slit it down the top then put the bread, now in pans, back in the oven that still has a pan of water and the light is still on.
I let it sit in the oven for another two hours until it was this size. Then I carefully removed it from the oven to preheat my oven to 400 degrees.
The oven is preheating here. If you can see the timer at the top of the oven, it says one hour and thirty minutes. This is when I was going to take it out but it rose very fast today. The last time I baked bread it took two hours longer. It all has to do with weather, temperature and many factors. There is no set real time for sourdough. Here is the best way I can explain this. The jar in the middle of this picture is Pascal. I fed him, took some of the fed starter out to make this bread and put it in a large bowl. I placed the remaining starter in the clean jar and adjusted the rubberband to show where it started before rising. While I was making the bread, kneading it, then shaping it and letting it rise for two hours then re-shaping it and putting it in these pans, then letting it rise again. The starter in the jar was also rising. So it was getting close to the top of the jar, I knew that it was about to reach it's peak. The bread was rising fast too so judging how the starter in the jar was doing I decided it was getting close to time to bake the bread and that my oven takes ten minutes to pre-heat to 400 degrees.
So what I am saying here is there is no for sure time to give to make sourdough bread. You have to learn this, learn you starter and learn how to knead it and learn what to look for when it is time to bake it. I have made regular yeast bread from scratch by hand for a long time. Making sourdough bread is different. The time could vary by many hours. Some people say it takes them twelve to 18 hours. Mine has never taken that