Sourdough is King


Sourdough and Tiger King got us through March 2020. It wasn’t that long ago that grocery stores were suddenly out of yeast.  Lack of yeast and an abundance of time at home resulted in a sourdough bread trend. This was the first-ever trend that I was ahead of. I had been baking sourdough for over a year at that point. Let’s rekindle the sourdough trend.

Sourdough bread doesn’t require many ingredients: flour, salt, water. A few key tools are required as well: food thermometer, dough scraper, kitchen scale, woven basket, and a dutch oven.

Now for the secret ingredient and tool: time and patience. Once you master these two aspects, your bread baking journey will flourish.

The scary part of sourdough is the starter or “mother.” The starter is a mix of flour and water. Yeast from the flour, your hands, and some from the surrounding air is naturally added. Active dry yeast is never added. To keep the yeast alive and healthy, it needs daily feeding. Yes, you have just added a pet to your kitchen. The tricky thing is that it doesn’t whimper at your feet as a reminder if you miss a feeding. A game-changer for me was feeding my starter every morning as I made coffee. 

Don’t worry though, the starter can be stashed in the fridge if bread baking isn’t in the near future.

Sourdough recipes over time can be adjusted to fit your schedule. I have discovered how to start bread baking on Friday night and end Sunday evening. This took time and patience to figure out. And as the weather warms up, I will need more time and patience to make necessary adjustments to my bread baking schedule. A key understanding of bread baking: the bread is in charge, not you. The baker must listen to the bread for ques for superb results.

Most recipes make two loaves. The beauty of sourdough is the lactobacillus that is created in the starter helps to preserve sourdough bread longer. Two loaves can easily stretch a week while still tasting fresh. I rarely keep both loaves though.  Sunday morning I am texting a family member, friend, or neighbor asking if they want a loaf of bread. The joy of sharing homemade bread is part of the sourdough experience for me.

Sunday evenings I pull the bread from the hot oven. It crackles quietly like a fire while it rests for an hour. I patiently count down the minutes before grabbing a bread knife.  Bread crumbs fly everywhere. Softened butter is smeared and a pinch of salt and pepper is added.  I bite into a crispy edge and a custardy soft inside.  Without fail, every week I proclaim to my husband that “Wow!  It’s so good!” in a surprised tone of excitement.

-Molly Sleger, Registered Dietitian, SwedishAmerican