by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
Once you get your sourdough starter off and running, the next step is to make a bread. In order to do so, you’ll want to feed your starter to ensure two things: 1. The starter is active, 2. You don’t use all your starter, and you’ll have some left.
Increasing the amount of starter is simple. The usual feeding rations are 113 grams of each (starter, water and flour), and discard the rest; simply increase the ratio until you have as much starter as needed, but have enough left over to keep. To see if your starter is active, you can do a “float test.” Use the tip of a spoon to scoop a small portion of the starter, and drop the starter into a small bowl of water. If it floats, it’s active enough; if it sinks, give it a little while longer to germinate and bubble.
Once you have enough active starter, it’s a fairly simple process.
Still need help? Check out our videos on troubleshooting the hardest steps of the process.
- 2 cups (454 g) active starter
- 5 cups (602 g) unbleached AP flour
- 1/4 cup (85 g) whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cups (397 g) room temperature water
- 5 teaspoons kosher salt
- In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix together starter, flours and water. Make sure there are no dry flour spots. Cover, and let rest on the counter for 20 minutes.
- Add the salt, and while keeping the dough in the bowl, mix together by hand. Do this by pinching the dough with your whole hand about 10 times, and then try to pull-shake-stretch the dough up, throw it back onto itself, and repeat multiple times. This should take about 10 minutes, and the dough will stretch easier and smoother than in the beginning. Cover, and let rest on the counter for an hour.
- Start by wetting your hands to avoid sticking. Lift the dough up out of the bowl, and fold it onto itself, put back in the bowl; turn 90 degrees, and repeat about four times. Cover, and let rest on the counter for an hour.*
- On a lightly floured surface (less than 1/4 cup AP flour), gently turn out the dough. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut it into two equal parts. Be very careful throughout this process, as you want to control how much flour gets on the majority of the dough.
- Next, shape the dough mounds. Do this by bringing the wet (didn’t touch the flour) edges up, onto itself, and repeat with all edges of the dough –– this will be the side with the seams. Gently turn over the dough, so that the seams are on the counter. Using the edges of the palm, pinky and ring fingers to cup the bottom (seam) side of the dough, slide it over the surface to help ball it up. Repeat with the other dough. Cover, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Prepare bowls or bread baskets by covering with a very well-floured towel.
- Carefully place the dough into the bowls or baskets, seam-side up. Cover and let rise for two hours.
- One hour through the rising process, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When doing this, place a cast iron skillet on the lowest rack.
- When the dough has risen, gently turn both onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bring two cups of water to a boil.
- Score the bread (using a lame or very sharp knife) however you’d like. The scores should be very deep.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven, and very carefully pour the boiling water into the cast iron skillet, and immediately close the oven door.
- Bake undisturbed for 40-45 minutes. The crust should be a deep golden. A good indication if it’s done: when removed, tap on the bottom of a loaf and make sure it sounds hollow.
* If you would prefer to break up the bread making into two days, after turning and folding your dough, refrigerate overnight. Take it out and let it sit on the counter for an hour to an hour and a half before continuing on with the next step.