Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sourdough Class

A couple of months ago I took a sourdough bread class at the Ploughshare Institute over at Homestead Heritage. It was a small class of 8 held in a kitchen classroom and taught by a lady named Grace. She was very knowledgeable and explained things clearly. Her family owns a nearby bakery that uses the same sourdough technique she taught us. We learned how to make pita bread, hearth bread, cinnamon raisin, and pizza. I came home with lots of baked breads and my own jar of sourdough starter.

Since then, I’ve been making bread once a week and trying to practice the things I learned. The sourdough starter needs to be ‘fed’ for 24 hours before you start to make bread. Feeding involves adding equal parts of yeast, water and flour every 4-5 hours to encourage the yeast to grow. I start this process Monday morning, so by Tuesday morning I’m ready to start making a batch of bread. I’ve learned that if I keep my starter small (by only using 1/4 cup starter and tossing the excess) until the last feed, I end up with less waste of the starter on baking day. Once the starter is ready to use, I set aside 1/4 cup in my jar to use the following week. As long as I keep it in the fridge and use it regularly, the starter will last indefinitely.

I’ve learned that the proper tools make things much easier. The three things I’ve most appreciated are the instant-read thermometer, the dough cutter/scraper, and the baking stone.


In class the ingredients were laid out for us.

We used the shelf under the table to let the dough rise.

Pita bread is easy to make. The secret is a really hot oven (500 degrees).

Hearth bread has few ingredients and uses a proofing basket to make the circles.

The recipe for cinnamon raisin bread makes two loaves.

We each made our own pizza using fresh ingredients.

The sourdough starter is slightly bubbly.

The water needs to be room temperature between 75-80 degrees.

Feeding the starter requires adding equal parts starter, water, and flour.

Cover the starter and let it sit at room temperature for 4-5 hours between feeding.

To make bread, add enough flour to make it manageable to hold.

When kneading by hand, add plenty of flour and the dough won't stick to your hands.

Cover and let it rise.

For cinnamon bread, roll out and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Here's what my last loaf of cinnamon bread looked like on the inside.

I store each loaf in a paper lunch bag. The loaf we are eating is stored inside my bread bin. I freeze the rest.

The instant-read thermometer and the dough scraper are very useful.

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