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Simple SOURDOUGH: Here's a beginner's guide to delicious homemade bread with minimal kneading.

Creating a starter from scratch is simple, and ultimately marks the beginning of an ongoing relationship. It's also the most intimidating part of the sourdough baking process, because it's often misunderstood. Here, you'll get step-by-step instructions for making a starter, as well as a couple of recipes in which to use it.

Start Your Starter

Sourdough starters can be made a few different ways, with methods that include fruit juices, grapes, honey, and even potatoes to boost natural fermentation. In my experience, all you need are two simple ingredients: flour and water. Once combined, the culture will begin to ferment, developing the wild yeasts and bacteria needed to make your bread rise.

When creating a sourdough starter, it's vital to begin with whole-grain flour to jump-start the fermentation process. Whole-wheat, rye, and spelt flour are great choices. Temperature and location also play important roles, so for best results, find a warm spot for your starter to thrive. My starter lives in a cozy cabinet next to the fridge.

The overall process will take about seven days from start to finish. My best advice is to be flexible with timing, because developing yeast can be unpredictable. Your starter is ready when it has doubled in size and has produced plenty of bubbles on the surface and throughout the culture.

* DAY 1: Add 1/2 cup (60 grams) of whole-wheat flour and 1/4 cup (60 grams) of water to a large jar. Mix with a fork to combine; the consistency will be thick and pasty. If measuring by volume (cups), not by weight (grams), add more water to thin out the texture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a small cloth, and let rest in a warm spot for 24 hours.

* DAY 2: Check to see whether any bubbles, which may look like small black dots, have appeared on the surface. Bubbles indicate fermentation. It's OK if you don't see anything, as the bubbles might have appeared and dissolved overnight. Rest the starter for another 24 hours.

* DAY 3: Whether bubbles are visible or not, it's time to start the feeding process. To begin, remove and discard approximately half of your starter from the jar. The texture will be very stretchy. Add 1/2 cup (60 grams) of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup (60 grams) of water. Mix with a fork until smooth. The texture should resemble thick batter or plain yogurt at this point, so add more water as needed. Cover loosely, and let rest for another 24 hours.

* DAYS 4, 5, AND 6: Repeat the feeding process outlined on Day 3. As the yeast begins to develop, your starter will rise, and bubbles will form on the surface and throughout the culture. When the starter falls, it's time to feed it again.

Tip: Place a rubber band or a piece of masking tape around the jar to measure the starter's growth as it rises.

* DAY 7: By now, you should see plenty of bubbles, both large and small. The texture will be spongy and puffy, similar to roasted marshmallows. Take in the aroma. It should smell pleasant, not astringent. If these conditions are met, your starter is now active and ready to use.

Tip: If your starter isn't ready at this point, which is quite common, continue the feeding process for another week or two, or until it smells pleasant.

The last step is to transfer your starter to a nice, clean jar. In keeping with tradition, you can also name it, if desired. My starter is called Dillon, after my oldest boy.
Yields 1 loaf.
Anytime you add whole-wheat flour to bread, you run the risk of the
loaf becoming dry and dense. Want to know my secret to a whole-wheat
loaf that's both soft and delicious? Plenty of sourdough starter for
strength, milk to soften the crumb, and just a touch of honey for
sweetness. The best part is the melted butter brushed over the top when
finished. Work this loaf into your baking routine, and bake several to
freeze for the week. For lighter bread, let the dough rest for a full
hour before the bulk rise. This will jump-start gluten development
without kneading, adding great texture and height to the finished loaf.
I also recommend using a stand mixer if you have one, for added air.
This loaf can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature, but it's
best consumed within a day or two of baking.

3/4    cup (150 grams) bubbly, active starter
1      cup plus 2 tablespoons (270 grams) warm milk, whole or 2
2      tablespoons (30 grams) warm water
2      tablespoons (40 grams) honey
2      tablespoons (30 grams) oil
1      cup (120 grams) whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat
       flour (*)
3      cups (360 grams) bread flour
1 1/2  teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
1      tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted

1. A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active.
Store at room temperature until ready to use.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the starter, milk, water, honey, and oil
together with a fork. Add the flours and salt, and mix to combine.
Using your hands, continue mixing until a rough dough forms. Cover with
a damp towel and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and set it aside,
storing it according to your preference.
4. After the dough has rested, gently work it into a somewhat smooth
ball; this should only take about 15 to 20 seconds. The dough will feel
supple and smooth when it comes together.
5. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature
(70 degrees Fahrenheit) until doubled in size, about 6 to 8 hours. The
dough will look nice and domed when ready.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently
dimple the surface with your fingertips to release any large air
bubbles. Roll the dough into a log, tucking the ends underneath. Let
rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Lightly coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a little additional oil.
8. With floured hands, cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten
its shape. Gently pick it up and place it, seam side down, in the
prepared loaf pan. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and let rest
until it has risen about 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan, about 1
1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature.
9. Preheat oven to 375 F.
10. Bake on the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes.
11. Remove bread from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool in
pan for 10 minutes, then transfer bread to a wire rack to cool
completely before slicing.
(*) White whole-wheat flour is one of my favorite flours to work with.
It's milled from a wheat variety that's lighter in color and more mild
in taste than traditional whole-wheat flour--it's not bleached wheat

Story by Emilie Raffa

Feeding Indicator

During the creation process, and even after your starter has been established, you may notice a dark residual liquid on the surface or throughout the culture. It has a very distinctive smell, similar to rubbing alcohol or gym socks. This liquid is called "hooch," and it's an indication that your starter needs to be fed. Whenever I see this liquid, I remove it, if possible, along with any discolored starter present. Some bakers choose to stir it back into their starter, which can add a more sour flavor to the dough. However, in my opinion, hooch is wasted energy and isn't always ideal to use.
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Author:Raffa, Emilie
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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