Plus simple, weekly sourdough bread process.
Are you fed up with having to remember to feed your sourdough cultures? Have you run out of ideas on what to do with sourdough discard? Unless you run a bakery or a micro-bakery, there is a high chance you bake your bread once, maybe twice a week.
Today I will share with you my process for whenever I want to take a break from constant feeds but in the same time want to have that fresh, crusty, home baked sourdough bread during the weak. This process is hands off, does not produce discard and yields good oven spring and decent crumb.
You will use starter straight from the fridge, there is no need to build levain in this process. There is no discard. Starter is replenished and after short rest is placed back in the fridge. The rest of the starter is used in weekly bread baking process.
Starter - this process will work if you have already established sourdough cultures. How do you know that your cultures are established? There are few clear signs that your starter is ready for this process. Your sourdough starter is doubling or tripling in volume, in predictable time (i.e. you know that if fed 1:2:2 it will take 5 hours to peak, or if fed 1:5:5 it will take 8-10 hours to peak). Passes sensory checks - It’s bubbly, lively, with strong viscous and web-like texture, smells sour/sweet and not acetic. You were also able to bake successfully sourdough bread with your established cultures, with nice open crumb. To cut it short - you need strong and established sourdough cultures and a fairly good understanding of sourdough process. If you are at the beginning of your sourdough journey - you can check this step by step process on how to establish strong sourdough cultures from scratch. How long will it take from starting cultures to being able to try this no discard starter process? It all depends on your cultures. Usually, it takes anything from 3 months up to 1 year to establish healthy cultures. If you don’t have time or patience to wait that long - you can always ask your local bakery for established sourdough cultures or purchase sourdough cultures online. If you opt to do that - give your starter some TLC at your home environment for 2 or 3 weeks to establish how lively it is (feed 1:5:5, twice a day and keep at room temperature) and then try no discard starter and process.
No levain - in this baking process there is no need to build levain. You will be using starter straight from the fridge.
Weekly process - the below process will assume you are going to bake bread once a week and refresh starter once a week. If you opt not to bake during the week - keep the feeding process as advised. Feed your starter as outlined, leave for 3hrs at room temperature and refrigerate until ready to bake the following week. What if you want to bake twice a week? Follow the same process, leave fed starter at room temperature for 5 hrs before refrigerating. If you opt not to bake or feed weekly and plan to store starter refrigerated for longer - you may opt to create stiff starter (70-90% hydration), give a number of micro feeds at room temperature when ready to bake (to revitalise cultures) or you may opt to dry some portion of starter (in case your starter won’t respond well to longer refrigeration without feeds). Some bakers had success leaving starter unfed for weeks - I try to feed mine (when refrigerated) weekly, and definitely not skipping feeds for longer than two weeks.
Leave your starter after feeding for about 3 hours at room temperature (21-23C) - this will allow cultures to start blooming. The starter will then slowly mature when refrigerated. Cultures are temperature sensitive. If the temperature is higher than 21-23C adjust that time accordingly (2hrs or less - depending on temperature). This is not a rocket science and should be a fairly quick and hands off process - just check if the starter has increased slightly (we are talking - 20-30%) and when ready - refrigerate. The quantities suggested for the feed will leave you with small residue - adjust quantity to fit your needs (I always like to know I will have just about enough for bread baking and starter replenishment after cleaning the jar).
Clean jar - I like to sterilise jar weekly to ensure it stays fresh and mould-free. I also use rubber seal (airtight) to prevent other bacterias from contaminating sourdough cultures. I would advise you to do the same - clean the jar every week and use airtight seal.
Refrigerating and temperature check - cultures bloom quicker at higher temperatures and slow down in colder environments. When refrigerating the starter at 3-4C the maturation process is very slow. This is the key. If your fridge works at higher temperature - cultures will bloom fast/er and your sourdough cultures will become weaker. You will also experience issues when trying to retard loaves. This process relies on long and slow maturation. Ensure your fridge works at indicated 3-4C. How do you know this is the case? The easiest way to find out is to cold proof shaped loaf overnight. If it hasn’t risen more than 20-30% - your fridge probably works at indicated temperature. If it looks over-proofed and baked bread looks ok-ish or over-proofed, then the fridge might have been working at higher temperature than indicated. Simple fix to this - you may opt to buy fridge thermometer to check the real working temperature of your fridge. If you haven’t had issues - then no need to check.
Micro-feeds - you will rely in this process on cultures which are maturing slowly during long refrigeration. At some point, your sourdough cultures will require extra boost. When and how to boost cultures? When - simple answer would be - whenever you see a semi-standard bake. I have not had issues with this process for a number of weeks BUT after 8 weeks I have opted to give my sourdough starter a set of micro-feeds to boost it. Simply, choose 2 days (weekend or whatever time suits you) and feed starter every 8 hours, keeping it at cozy room temperature (1:2:2, 50g starter mixed with 100g water at room temperature and 100g flour, I use 80g wheat and 20g wholemeal rye). In 2 days you will do a set of 6 micro-feeds (no need to clean the jar during that time). At the end, feed the starter (1:5:5 as outlined in the process), transfer to clean and airtight jar and refrigerate. This will ensure your cultures are well nourished but also will reintroduce some of the lactic acid (coming from maturation at higher temperatures). Use some wholemeal rye flour (20-30%) during micro-feeds to give your starter further boost (you can read more on rye cultures and why do we use wholemeal rye here).
Freezing bread - if you opt to bake once a week you may as well bake a bigger batch (2 or 4 loaves) and freeze bread to have it fresh and ready throughout the week. There are various ways in which you may freeze and thaw bread. I bake the batch, wait for it to cool down and for crumb to set fully (4-5 hours), then cut loaves in halves and place in the freezer. When ready to bake - no need to thaw, no need to preheat the oven. Place frozen bread in the oven, set at 180C (160C fan forced) and bake for about 35 minutes. You may opt to place large tray with water at the bottom of the oven or wrap bread in aluminium foil to prevent the initial slice from drying out. The bread will be like freshly baked.
Flex - this is one of the ways of flexing sourdough bakes. The crumb is good or very good - I would call it - a decent crumb! It’s not as beautiful as when the starter is micro-fed daily but it does produce beautiful and flavourful loaf which can cater for your weekly bread needs with low effort, hands off process and minimum waste.
No Discard Starter and simple, weekly sourdough bread process
Yield: 2 loaves
Bulk temp: 22-23C
Bulk time: 5hr 30min (counting from the time starter is incorporated)
Bench rest and shaping: 30min
Time: (flex start/end to fit your schedule)
10am - mix water/starter/flour leave to rest for 30min
10.30am - add salt and knead until plump dough is formed
10.30am-3.30pm (bulk at 22-23C, 5hrs) - stretch and fold 3-5 times during bulk, leave untouched in the last 1hr30min
3.30-4pm - pre-shape and bench rest, then shape and straight to the fridge
4pm (Day 1) - 8am/11am (Day 2) - cold retard at 3C (16-19hrs), in the morning preheat the oven for 1hr before baking and bake straight from the fridge (no proof on the counter).
720g water (26-28C) + 25-50g
200g starter (straight from the fridge)
850g strong white bread flour (12g protein or more)
100g wholemeal wheat flour
50g wholemeal rye flour
26g coarse sea salt
Mix: Pour water (720g at 26-28C - slightly warmer temperature than usually) into your main mixing bowl, add starter and leave to sit for 1-2 minutes. Then add flours and mix until shaggy dough is formed and no dry bits remain. There is no need to build dough strength at this point (no need to knead). Cover and let rest at room temperature (22-23C) for 30 minutes.
Feed/replenish starter: Pour 150g water (room temp) into small mixing bowl, add 30g leftover starter, 150g flour (I use 120g strong white flour and 30g wholemeal rye flour) and mix briefly until no dry bits remain. Transfer fed starter into clean and airtight jar. Keep at room temperature (21-23C) for 3-4 hours then transfer to fridge (3C) and store refrigerated until ready to bake the following week (or when ready to feed the following week).
Back to bread. Mix in salt: When ready, sprinkle coarse salt evenly on top of the dough, make few dimples to relax the dough, add 25-50g water (if your dough can absorb it, if it looks loose - don’t add more water) and knead until plump dough is formed. This should take 5-8 minutes. When the dough is formed, clean and dry the bowl (or transfer the dough to the new dish for bulk proofing). Cover the dough and bulk proof for 5 hours at ambient room temperature (21-23C).
Bulk: During bulk, stretch and fold the dough 3-5 times (depending on dough strength). Choose your favourite way of extending the dough (simple s&f, coil folds or you may opt to do 1 lamination during 1st hour of bulk). Leave the dough untouched in the last 1hr30min of bulk.
Pre-shape and bench rest: When ready, gently/slowly release bulk onto your work surface. Using dough scraper divide into two, pre-shape and leave to rest for 20-30min.
Shape: When ready - shape, place in proofing baskets (use mix of rice flour/bread flour to avoid sticking) and place straight into the fridge.
Final proof (retard): Refrigerate for 16-19 hours (at 3C).
Bake: One hour before baking preheat the oven to 245C (225C fan forced) with Dutch Oven (if using). Bake covered for 25 minutes with steam on at 245C (225C fan forced, you may opt to place one ice cube into DO), and then uncovered for 20 minutes at 230C (210C fan forced). When baked - if you can resist - let the crumb set for 4-5 hours before serving (better flavour).