Date: Mon, 27 Nov 1995 20:36:28 -0800
From: Barb Beck (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recipes and Beginners Guide to Sourdough Bread
Sourdough starter was used to make bread centuries before the advent
of packaged yeast. The starter is a mixture of yeast and lactobacilli
which live together, each protecting the other and keeping other
invading organisms out of their "home". My family much prefers the
flavor of bread made with a sourdough starter to that made with
commercial yeast. Some add commercial yeast to their sourdough bread,
I find the flavor is not nearly as good as when only the sourdough
culture is used. It is easy to get the hang of working with the
culture. Once you do, you will see no need to add yeast. Making this
bread is really simple. I spend about 2 minutes the night before
baking setting up the sponge and about 10 minutes the next day with my
Kitchenaid mixer to get 4 loves ready for baking.
Here are some simple instructions to help you get started making
To make sourdough bread you need four things:
1. A good starter
2. A good way to knead the bread
3. A simple way to start
4. A little practice and patience
1. A good starter:
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good starter. You can
gather one from the air (I admit that is fun) but the chances of
getting a stable starter (one which is not easily invaded by foreign
critters) and one which rises the bread well and has a fantastic
flavor are slim. Even when all bread was baked with sourdough
starters people protected and shared good ones. If you are a beginner
get yourself a good starter. When you gain confidence making sourdough
bread try and collect one yourself if you wish.
There are good commercial sourdough starters out there and Carl
Griffith has a very good one his family brought across the US on the
Oregon Trail in 1847 which he gives away. I have had excellent luck
with the commercial starters available from Sourdough
International. My experience with the Goldrush starter has not been
good. (See "Review of Sourdough Starters" ) Each starter I have used
has its own personality and produces bread with its own unique
flavor. (I currently have 9 starters)
The sourdough starters I would recommend to a beginner are the Russian
and Bahrainian from Sourdough International and Carl Griffith's. The
Russian is a particularly easy one to start with because it is so very
fast and has a marvelous flavor. The Bahranian from Sourdough
International makes the sourest bread. These starters can be obtained
Sourdough International: Phone (800)888-9567, FAX 208 382 3129 or
write to P.O. Box 670, Cascade, Idaho 83611. They are $10.50 Each
including shipping and well worth every penny. Delivery is prompt.
Carl Griffith: Carl makes his fabulous family heirloom available for
the price of a self addressed stamped envelope. Send a SASE ( a
business size envelope) to Carl Griffith, 322 Ravens Ridge Road,
Sequim, WA 98382. Delivery is prompt. Carl offers to make his starter
available to the readers of rec.food.sourdough and has given me
permission to publish his offer in this list.
I feed my starters only bottled water (I drink the city water myself)
and unbleached white flour. I keep a jar of the culture in the
refrigerator for backup and to use when I want to make a mildly sour
bread or a whole grain bread. I keep the starter I usually use in a
closed plastic container at room temperature. It gets fed 1/2 to 1 cup
of water a day and about the same amount of flour. The day before
baking I give it two feedings. If I want to use a refrigerated
culture, the day before baking I remove it from the refrigerator and
feed it. Every month or so I get the refrigerated cultures out, warm
them up and give them a good feeding and a clean container if they
have not been used. Remember when using the refrigerated culture to
store a cup of it back in the refrigerator with a good feeding before
proceeding with your recipe (You do not want to cook all your
2. Kneading the bread
If you have the time, energy and inclination to knead the bread by
hand by all means do so. I am too lazy for that. I use the biggest
Kitchen Aid Mixer and love it. Others have very good luck with the
Braun Kitchen Machine which I have not been fortunate enough to use.
Some use bread machines to knead the dough (then bake it in the oven),
and from the discussions recently some use a Cuisinart food processor
but there appear to be problems with the dough blade. I very rarely
made bread until I got my Kitchenaid. Now I make all our bread. If you
are going to make lots of bread it is important that you have a means
of kneading the dough which fits your lifestyle. Some use a
breadmachine for making the sourdough but it seems that it is
difficult to get all of the timings worked out right. Ed Wood (who
wrote the book about making sourdough with a bread machine with Donna
German) even says that being successful with a bread machine is more
challenging than doing it the old fashion way
3. A Simple way to start:
a. A Simple White Bread
There are as many ways to make sourdough bread as there are bread
recipes. The sourdough FAQ has jillions.
Here is one I use to get you started. I like to prepare the sponge
the night before because it gives the bread more flavor.
The night before you wish to bake make a sponge of 2 cups of active
starter, 2 cups water and 2 cups flour (for 2 loaves). Do not worry if
it is lumpy.
The next morning add 1 tablespoon of salt and enough flour to make the
dough. (The dough will be a little stickier than that from regular
yeast bread. Do not add too much flour or your bread will be dry. If
you are making very sour bread the dough will not be as elastic as
regular bread dough.
Form immediately into loaves. I would suggest that you start using
bread pans and not try to form free loaves right away. The idea is to
keep it simple at the start. When I use pans I use nonstick pans
which need no grease.
Let the bread rise until is has doubled or tripled in volume in a warm
place ( try to find someplace between 85 - 95 degrees F if you can).
Some people use a microwave with jars of hot water to proof, some use
a box with a light bulb or ice chest with light bulb. Others just
have a warm spot in their house.
Slash the tops carefully, brush twice with water, and bake at 375 -
400 degrees for 40 to 55 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before
slicing. If you like a darker crust try the higher temperature.
b. A Simple Whole grain bread.
I get the Russian starter out of the refrigerator the night before and
feed it a cup of unbleached flour and a cup of water. The next
morning put one cup of the starter into a bowel with 3 cups of water
and 3 cups of whole grain flour. I let this sit in a warm place until
it is very bubbly (an hour or so) then add salt, sometimes sweetener,
and enough whole grain flour to make the dough. I then proceed as
above. I do not feed the original culture whole grain flour because I
do not like a very sour whole grain bread and somehow the whole grain
flours tend to make the culture extra sour. I have tried the desem
from Laural's Bread Book and find bread made with the refrigerated
Russian starter far superior.
4. Patience and Practice.
While the Russian starter (when it is very lively) rises the bread in
a couple hours, do not be surprised if it takes 6 or more hours for
your bread to rise. Starters which have been refrigerated tend to
have very active yeast, the bread rises very well but is not very
sour. You may want to use the refrigerated starter until you get the
hang of making the bread.
When a starter is left out the lactobacilli tend to gain
strength. This gives the bread a flavor but slows down the rising. If
you want to make extra sour bread you may want to leave your starter
out. It will change in character as the weeks go by and your bread
will become more flavorful. I find it usually requires about three or
four weeks for the full flavor to appear. If it is not fed enough and
allowed to get too sour the yeast has difficulty rising the bread.
Each starter is a little different. You must learn your starter's
characteristics. I suggest starting with bread pans particularly when
you are working with a very sour starter because the free standing
loaves can become very soft and fragile while rising. Once you get to
know your starter and the characteristics of the dough by all means
start making beautiful free loaves.
For gobs of recipes and other information on sourdough see the FAQs
from rec.food.sourdough. Darrell Greenwood has a pointer to the FAQ
A good source of info is in the books by Ed Wood. His original book
is out of print but he and Donna German have written "Worldwide
Sourdoughs From Your Bread Machine". He is the person who collected
the starters and started Sourdough International. The book can be
obtained from Sourdough International or from your local bookstore (It
is one of those little "Nitty Gritty Cookbooks"). His information
about starters and sourdough in this book is excellent and there are a
lot of recipes which can be adapted for "old fashion" bread making
including some for the ancient grains kamut and spelt. The newsgroup
rec.food.sourdough has discussions about the making of sourdough bread
and people who are willing to give you help, advice, and support
should you need it.
Hopes this info helps. We are Californians raised on extra sourdough
French bread. Each trip back we used to return to Canada loaded with
bread. I must be doing something right because the last time we went
to California my family complained about the bread in California and
we had to bring nothing back 8).
Wow is there interest in sourdough!! I tried to respond to most of the
questions but I think I sent two messages to some and none to others,
I apologize. We were having some machine problems and I kept getting
Anyway.. some common questions. What size container and how much
starter in the jug left out of the refrigerator. I use some of those
Rubbermaid freezer containers. The containers are between 8 and 16
cups. I have a variety of sizes. I like to get the container no more
than half full. There is usually between 1 and 6 cups of starter in
the pot (when I bake I usually use 4 cups of starter). The starter
usually gets fed 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of unbleached flour each
day except the day before baking when it gets two feedings. If the
starter pot starts to get more that 6 cups I tend to feed a little more.
It also gets extra food if I know I am going to need extra starter for
a big batch of baking.. ie my boys coming over for a bread raid.
If you want to make your own starter check out the sourdough FAQ. It
and other sourdough information can be obtained from:
Questions about bread machines are best posted to rec.food.sourdough.
I use the biggest Kitchenaid mixer (the one with the 5 l bowel). I have
no experience with other methods of kneading dough. Again your best
source of information about this is rec.food.sourdough. I chose to
buy the big mixer rather than a bread machine after discussions in that
news group. The favorite methods appeared to be the big Kitchenaid and
the Braun Kitchen Machine. The smaller Kitchenaids have a little trouble
apparently handeling a 2 loaf batch of sourdough. Bread machines seemed
to be a lot of work and it seems that most with bread machines do not
use them to bake the bread only to knead it.
Sourdough International shipped my order to Canada so I think they
should ship to other places outside the US. Carl Griffith accepted
some US cash to cover the postage (and stamp licking) from me and sent
my self addressed envelope promptly back with his starter and
recipes. I am sure he would do that for the rest of you who live out
of the country.
The following is a review of the starters I have used. It was posted
in rec.food.sourdough. Was going to tack it onto the post with the
beginners guide and forgot. Sorry this repeats some things said earlier.
REVIEW Sourdough Starters (Previously Posted to rec.food.sourdough)
I have collected a refrigerator full of sourdough starters, made lots
of bread and enjoyed lots of bread. Most are from Sourdough
International, One is Goldrush (definately not recommended) and the
other is the 1847 Oregon Trail started generously provided by Carl
I would highly recommend that anyone starting into sourdough baking
invest in a good starter. You can collect your own and it is fun to
try but chances are slim that you will end up with what you want and
that it will be stable. There is a good reason that good starters
were protected and shared and that ones like the Oregon Trail starter
have survived, they are not easily developed. Fortunately Carl shares
his with the rest of the sourdough newsgroup and Ed Wood has made his
marvelous collection available through Sourdough International.
What follows are my own opinions and refelct the tastes of my family.
I am a Californian who was raised on extra sour SF french bread.
Started making sourdough bread to try to recreate the really sour
stuff.I have listed the starters I have in three catagories.... MY
FAVORITES, VERY VERY GOOD, and OK but Not Recommended. I enjoy and
often make bread from refrigerated cultures activated the day before
use. I highly recommend that anyone starting out master this method
first. For whole grain bread (which I do not like very sour) I always
use the method with the refrigerated starter. The bread we enjoy the
most, however, is the full flavored sourdough from sourdough cultures
that have been at room temperature(fed daily) for a week, preferably
more. Much like aged cheese the marvelous sourdough flavor develops
with aging. All of these starters live on unbleached flour and
bottled water. (I drink the tap water but the yeasties and beasties
get the bottled stuff)
************ MY FAVORITES - THE BEST
RUSSIAN Starter from Sourdough International: Best all round except
only mildly sour. This thing is a monster. Rises well. It could
probably do a fine job with mud pies. Easy starter to work with.
Great with whole grain breads because of its mild characterists and
its great ability to rise bread makes it fantastic for rye. Left out
and fed each day it develops a truly outstanding flavor, not extremely
sour, but a great tasting bread. The Russian bread is so popular
around here that a pot of this starter stays out all the time and is
used approximatesl twice a week. The is a very stable starter.
BAHRANIAN Starter from Sourdough International: Best for extra sour
sourdough breat. Rises very well. When left out develops a marvelous
taste and is quite sour. Keep it well fed when left out or it tends
to produce bread which is too sour for my tastes after a couple
weeks. This is a very stable starter
1847 OREGON TRAIL Starter from Carl Griffith: This one rised well has
a nice flavor and is moderately sour. I have not had this starter
long enough to be completely familiar with it but so far has been very
stable and makes excellent bread.
************VERY, VERY, VERY GOOD - EXCELLENT STARTERS - WONDERFUL FLAVOR
SAN FRANCISCO Starter from Sourdough International: This is the
starter I have had the longest. Great flavor but must really be
pushed to give extra sour bread. Does not rise quite as well as
RUSSIAN or BAHRANIAN. To make extra sour frenchbread I have started
using two cultures. One in a pot which is out for weeks on end and
the other which is activated the night before baking from a
refrigerated culture. Very stable.
AUSTRIAN Starter from Sourdough International: Great bread, nice
flavor, very stable.
FRENCH Starter from Sourdough International: Real French French Bread
taste. Nice starter, rises well, very stable.
SAUDI ARABIAN Starter from Sourdough International: Excellent bread. Nice
flavor, very stable.
************************** OK BUT NOT RECOMMENDED
GOLDRUSH Starter.. Rises well, flavor is acceptable. Quite unstable.
Makes bread better than what you get in Safeway, but with so many
other truely fine starters available I would not wast my time with
this one. This is the only culture that does not take to being mildly
neglected when left out. Molds quickly invade and it has happened
several times. I would blame the conditions I used when activating
the culture except I got a second packet and it behaves the same as
the first. The second packet was activated the same time I got Carl
Griffiths culture and his is going great guns. It is fragil and must
be constantly checked for contamination. When not in use I would not
store this one more than a couple weeks without refeeding. Those from
SDI take all sorts of abuse. I frequently go months without paying
attention to my refrigerator cultures. If it had a truly unique great
taste I would overlook the instability of the culture, however it does
not. This is one which I do not think will be in my collection much
Sourdough International Phone (800)888-9567 or write to P.O. Box 670,
Cascade, Idaho 83611. They are 10.50 Each including shipping and well
worth every penny. Add up what you would be spending on yeast and
these things make fantastic bread and are cheap at the price. I only
have 6 of their nine cultures so far. Will probably forget my stuffed
frig and order the others one of these days in a moment of weakness.
Carl Griffith: Carl makes his family heirloom available for the price of
a self addressed stamped envelope. Send him a SASE (0.32 and a
business size envelope) Carl Griffith, 322 Ravens : Ridge Road,
Sequim, WA 98382.
Goldrush: Sorry I do not have the address of this one. I bought both of
mine on trips to California.
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Sourdough International. I
am just a very happy customer who is very happy that Ed Wood has seen
fit to share with us these cultures he collected as a hobby while
traveling the world.
Thanks to these great starters my sourdough breadmaking has become
very successful. When family was in California this summer they
COMPLAINED about the bread. 8) First time we have not had to travel
back loaded with bread.
If I had to go through life with just one starter it would be the
RUSSIAN and BAHRANIAN starters... Yes I know I said one but don't
think I could choose between these two. The one thing that is very
bad about this pair is that some truely fine starters are getting
ignored because we like this pair so much.
I would enjoy hearing from others who have starters to compare.