Making Sourdough: 2022 Plans

Making Sourdough: 2022 Plans - Alabama Sawyer

January 15, 2022

Ok, so I might have gone a little over board last weekend.

After a little obsession and much procrastination, my generous (and bread-loving) family bought me @artisanbryan’s book New World Sourdough for Christmas. I always tell my daughter to read all the directions before you start a recipe. Advice I mostly follow. Not that I have never figured out well into a recipe that it requires and overnight soak or a tool I do not own. I tend to improvise, but while baking can be flexible, it is also science. I read and I studied. You do have to get into the sourdough thing to be prepared and even get to your first attempts. 

I bought a food scale… and some rye flour, but I figured I cook and bake enough to pull something off without a major shopping (or shipping) event.

Sourdough Starter

I started my starter on New Years Day 2022. I followed the directions for five days, feeding my little friend with rye flour and water, and throwing away the extra. I smelled the smells and watched the movement. I used a rubber band to mark the height. I labeled each jar with blue tape, so I wouldn’t get mixed up. The weather was everything from how to freezing this week, so it took an extra day to get the expected results.

I prepared to start baking on the weekend, which turned out to be good timing. The weather was terrible and, two weeks after Christmas, we (meaning the human population) seem to have returned to a semi-COVID lockdown. Let’s call it looking at the glass half full. Or just ignoring the negative and bullishly (naively?) charging forward, which can be my thing.

Sourdough Starter Levain Dough

I needed to build familiarity with the steps and the techniques, the mental and physical aspects of a skill. As a working person, I can’t babysit my starter all day or follow the timing of the recipes by the letter, if I do them during the week. It actually took a bit of my project management skills from the wood shop to plan out the 36 hours it would take me to complete everything. I also ran out to buy better flour. Note to self, whole wheat pastry four is NOT the same as whole wheat flour, and bread flour is different from all purpose flour.

No worries. I also grabbed a bottle of wine.

Bryan explains everything in his book, from making the starter, to building a “levain” to the final mix, that then ferments, and proofs and THEN bakes. There are special ways to mix, and knead and proof, as well as different tools to proof and bake in… I am not going to explain that. Honestly, buy the book. It’s beautiful to look at, even if you never bake a thing. I am not an Amazon affiliate. This is just a genuine recommendation.

Rustic Bread

I did a basic rustic bread, a whole wheat bread and a ciabatta. While none were perfect, each one was better as my hands got more comfortable. Getting your hands in there is really fun and you do feel the yeast and gluten working. And, I adjusted my tools. I remembered to score the top and add a water source for steam. The loaf pan worked better than the sheet pan. My ciabatta maker was perfect for the ciabatta. Go figure.

Ciabatta Maker

Lastly, I made a “quick” breakfast treat with a “starter discard” recipe for Johnny Cakes. These took only two hours, used all my starter discard for the previous two days and included chocolate, so we eaten rabidly by everyone present. This came from his blog, not the book.

I love that there are starter discard recipes, since who wants to throw away food on a daily basis. 

Sourdough Discard Johnny Cake

I will likely switch to a weekly feeding schedule and plan out more weekend baking, but for a few more days, I intend to feed daily. You know, get to know my starter better. 

I was also thrilled to discover that starter discard is COMPOSTABLE.

A full Alabama Sawyer kitchen set up could include a bread box for bread storage, a cutting board for presentation, a magnetic knife holder for tools and a Noaway Compost Bin for your discards.

I still need to name my starter. Any suggestions?