Sourdough is an epic and daunting undertaking and one that makes you think “hm, it’s really sour.” Yes, the sour part refers to the process of fermentation that gives the finished product its distinct taste. In order to make sourdough you have to build a starter from flour and water and allow it to sit for several days to develop taste and aroma. The recipe I found (here) doesn’t use any yeast, though some do, but instead relies on microbes in the air to combine with the dough and multiply. This means that the bread will taste different depending on the location and air quality where it’s made, an interesting manifestation of local food, I think. Here’s a play-by-play of my first (second if you count the lost starter I made about 6 months ago) go at sourdough bread-making.
Day 1, 10pm: Making the starter is as simple as kneading a ball of dough (1 handful of flour and ~2 tablespoons of cold water) until the ball is elastic and smooth. The whole thing will be about the size of a golf ball and probably the most adorable bread dough you’ll ever make. Next you have to cover this with a damp cloth and allow it to sit for a few days. Apparently patience is key with this stuff.
I’ll post pictures when I have them, the ones I took of the starter ball didn’t turn out great but I’m on it.
Day 2, 2:45am: I’ve had a few drinks tonight but everything looks the same. I think this is okay because the real change doesn’t happen until I add more flour and water later in the process (aka “feed” the starter). I hope for the best.
Day 3, 9:30am: Something’s happening. The ball is flatter and I can see some bubbles forming on the bottom. Stage two later today.
Day 8(?): It seems like epic fail on the sourdough front, I’ve been adding flour and water at seemingly random times per the recipe I started with. The starter looks kind of dead but there are a few bubbles of hope forming on the surface so I mixed it and hope for the best. If all works out well I’ll bake some later today or tomorrow and see what happens. (this article gave me a little hope http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233)