- Author: Sara Arana
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Sarah Arana UCCE Master Food Preserver
I want to make homemade sourdough bread for the holidays, but it's so intimidating. How hard is it to make a sourdough starter? Evelyn B. San Luis Obispo
Think you can't bake sourdough at home? Think again! Sourdough bread is unique because it does not require commercial yeast to rise. It's made with a live fermented culture developed using flour and water, known as a starter. Sourdough is known for its characteristic flavor ranging from mild to strong, chewy texture, and a crisp crust. Nothing beats fresh bread right out of your oven. This might seem like an overwhelmingly detailed process. With practice, you may have enough confidence to experiment on your own. Try using different flours. Work a little less or a little more water into the dough. Let the dough sit a little longer, try fewer or more stretch and folds. Each adjustment will give you a slight variation in your bread. There is no good or bad here, just a beautiful loaf of homemade sourdough waiting for you.
NPR's Kitchen Window contributor, Sharon Vail, writes “Early settlers in the West, especially those adventurers who traveled north to Alaska, relied on sourdough to leaven bread before commercial baking powder and yeast were readily available. 'Sourdough' even became the nickname for California Klondike miners at the turn of the last century because they carried starter in their backpacks to make bread without having to find a town, let alone yeast. Vermont's King Arthur Flour offers a history of sourdough, including notes from the son of an Alaskan miner. The son writes that every miner's cabin had a ‘tin full of fermented dough, used in place of yeast in making bread, biscuits and flapjacks' hanging over the hot stove.” (www.npr.org) It seems sourdough starter has been a part of the American West's history and continues to be influential through to today!
It's important you have a starter established and fed before you make sourdough bread. Starter takes at least 48 hours but has better flavor the longer it develops. You can get complete instructions with a demonstration, tastings and recipes by attending our Simply Sourdough class to be held on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10am-12pm at the UCCE Auditorium, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Class fee is $15. Pre-registration is required. Register: http://ucanr.edu/sourdough