My Adventures in Sourdough: Wranglin’ that Wild Yeast for the First Time!

By Tess Jacobson, Phase II Fellow

During Phase I, I would watch in awe from afar as some of the other Fellows undertook the long process of making sourdough bread, coming out with these gorgeous loaves on the other side. Back then, I was always too nervous about getting in the way to ever ask any of them to help teach me their ways! But the time had finally come, I wanted to learn to make sourdough bread!

It happened on a whim, a Thursday, at night. My housemate and fellow Fellow Kaila was talking about baking sourdough that upcoming Sunday, when she looked over and saw the eagerness on my face.

“You wanna bake sourdough this weekend?” Kaila smiled at me, not realizing what she was getting herself into.

And that is how it started! Kaila held my hand along the way to help teach me all about baking sourdough.

Before I truly begin in my explanation of how I baked my first sourdough bread, I just want it to be stated that Kaila and I followed the Tartine method. Now, here’s what we did:

The first step was to make myself a sourdough starter.

My Starter:

1 spoonful of Kaila’s starter

1/3 cup of All-Purpose Flour

1/3 cup of Whole-Wheat Flour

An unknown amount of warm water (enough to get to the consistency of a thick batter without lumps)

After mixing all of these together in a wide-mouthed mason jar, I put a paper towel and ring over the top of it and placed it on top of our refrigerator (you could put it in another warm non-drafty place, that’s just what worked for us).

On Friday, I did not touch my starter, although I did keep my eye on it and saw that it was workin’ hard; air bubbles seemed to be everywhere, and it had a beautiful consistency!

On Saturday morning, I fed my starter, so it could be prepared for the next day. I scooped out about 70% of my starter and composted it, before adding the same ratio of flours and water that I did for the original starter.

Feeding my starter.

On Saturday night, I made the leaven. Using a scale to measure, I combined 100 g of bread flour, 100 g of warm water, and 1 T of my starter. Then, I returned my leaven to the top of our fridge.

My gorgeous looking leaven!

On Sunday morning, we started the long but intriguing process of making sourdough!

First, we measured 700 g of warm water into a bowl.
Then, we added 200 g of the leaven to the warm water and squished it around.
After combining the leaven with the water, we added 1000 g of flour: 900 g of white bread flour and 100 g of whole-wheat flour.
What the dough looked like after mixing the water, leaven, and flour.

After combining, we left the dough to rest for about 40 minutes. I read that this rest can last between 25-40 minutes.

After the rest period, we added 20 g of salt to the dough.
Once the salt was added, we added 50 g of warm water.
Incorporating the salt and water into the dough.

Then, it was time for the bulk fermentation section of the sourdough making process!

During this process, I stretched my dough in its bowl every half hour for about 3 hours total. To stretch the dough, I first made sure my hand was wet (so the dough wouldn’t stick) and then I grabbed the underside of the dough while it was in the bowl, stretched the dough up, and then folded it over. I did this about four times in a clockwise rotation per session. The closer to the third-hour mark it became, the gentler I got with handling the dough.

Stretching the dough...