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What I Wish I Knew Before My First Sourdough: 7 Tips from 7 Experts - The Soul & Science of Sourdough

What I Wish I Knew Before My First Sourdough: 7 Tips from 7 Experts - The Soul & Science of Sourdough
From The Kitchn - November 13, 2017

I am still quite a novice when it comes to baking sourdough bread, but fortunately I have lots of friends and books to consult. Community goes hand and hand with bakingfrom the neighborhood ovens of our past and present to the wide world of home bakers the internet has brought together.

One of the best ways to learn about bread is to talk about it. So in that spirit, we went to the people who had something to say about baking their first loaf.Here's what seven pros wish they knew when they were just getting started.

Peter Reinhart, Author of Bread Revolution and Baking Instructor at Johnson & Wales University

There are dozens of ways to make a sourdough starter, even though many of the sources make it seem as if there is only one correct way. There are a lot of myths about the importance of grape skins, potato skins, onions, dairy, and such.

All of these actually work, but none of them are actually necessary. Flour and water is all you neednature and its wild organisms take care of the rest if you follow the steps.

See how: Learn how to make a sourdough starter from scratch

Rose Lawrence, Pastry Chef & Baker, Red Bread and Manuela DTLA

Here's what I tell my students at the beginning of each class: Sourdough wants to happen! Your imaginary friends are real. They are a beautiful ecology of bacteria that make delicious food. All you have to do is create the conditions for life: water, salt, grain, and enthusiasm. If you are sticky and covered in flour, you are doing everything right.

Sarah Owens, author, The Sourdough Cookbook and Toast and Jam

If you have never made a fermented culture before, the magic and mystery of the process can seem a little esoteric. Likewise, if you have never baked a loaf of bread, the chemistry and specific measurements can make it seem like there is little room for error. Although it is important to follow instructions for a recipe initially to master the craft of baking, there is an equal amount of intuition required to really hone your baking skills.

Sourdough allows a great amount of flexibility as long as you understand the fundamentals of fermentation and what it takes to keep a starter happy and active. This is where baking bread can really become playful and a direct representation of what works for you and your lifestyle.

Maurizio Leo, The Perfect Loaf

Looking back, the foremost thing I wish I had known before making my first sourdough is to be observant. Our sourdough starters (and later the dough itself) are essentially living, dynamic systems, and we should step back for a moment at each step of the process to assess things. How does the dough feel? How does it smell? Is the kitchen overly warm or cool?

We have an opportunity to adjust the process to what the dough requires that day. Baking bread can rarely be done exactly as outlined in a recipe. As home bakers we need to be observant of our sourdough starter and the dough to adjust the baking timetable and process to suit.

Richard Miscovich, Author of From the Wood Fired Oven and Baking Instructor at Johnson & Wales University

Andrew Whitley, Author of Bread Matters

Sharon Burns Leader, Co-Owner & Founder, Bread Alone Bakery

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