minutes per mile blog

my sad sourdough story

Remember a week or so ago when I talked about making my own sourdough? Well, I made it through the five-day sourdough starter recipe and the 25-step, two-day sourdough bread recipe! That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it was a total FAIL. My sourdough came out like a rock! Seriously one of the worst bread loaves I’ve ever made. I don’t even think we can call it a loaf. It was more like a brick.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0007

Poor me! This was a sourdough slap to the face. Although I’m bummed that my bread was inedible, I can at least say that the whole process was a great learning experience. Now I know all about wild yeast and the great lengths our ancestors went to in order to create a single loaf of bread. It’s very obvious to me why people thought bread was a magical, holy, sacred thing back in the day. After spending seven days nurturing a ball of dough, I grew pretty emotionally attached to it too. Needless to say, my soul is in a very dark place these days after seeing my dough ball die such a tragic and flat death.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0508

So, to go into every detail of the sourdough-making process would make this post about a million words long (and those words wouldn’t even be helpful since I clearly screwed up at one stage of the 30-step process) but I ** think** I can sum up my experience in a few steps if any of you are ever looking to make sourdough yourself or wondering what the heck I’ve been doing with my life for the past week.

You start by making your starter! Just flour and water. The mixture catches the WILD yeast that naturally occur in the air and are all around us! No store-bought, manufactured yeast required. That’s the special thing about truly authentic sourdough.

homemade_sourdough_starter_DSC0457

My starter looked pretty solid for the first couple days! I carefully weighed out equal parts of flour/water to “feed” the starter every night, and left the starter in a humid closet so that it was nice and cozy. It grew and grew! A successful starter is thick and bubbly, and smells like sour beer.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0408

But then on day four things got a little weird. My starter was all watery!

homemade_sourdough_DSC0437

In a panic, I quickly looked at The Kitchen’s sourdough starter troubleshooting section — and was relieved to find out that all you have to do is pour the excess liquid off the starter for things to return to normal. So that’s what I did.

And I thought that my sourdough and I would be okay. But clearly we were not.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0478

Even though I was adding the correct water/flour ratios, my starter never seemed to return to its thick, bubbly self. And as I worked the starter into the dough, things still seemed a bit thin and goopy to me. But since this was my first attempt at sourdough-ing, I just kept chugging along in hopes that the wild yeast would work their wonders once I put the dough in the oven.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0494

When I started shaping the dough (remember, this is SEVEN days after the whole process began, so my dough determination levels were at an all time high), things still felt way to watery. I started adding in extra flour — maybe half a cup for two loaves’ worth of dough — to at least give the dough enough strength to hold its shape.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0508

Then I covered the dough in tea towels and set it outside to rise in the warm, humid air. (Summer is great for bread making because dough LOVES humidity)

homemade_sourdough_DSC0515

But I guess mine didn’t :( . I let my dough sit and sit and sit outside for at least five hours , and it didn’t rise. I knew at that point that my chances of achieving sourdough success were slim, but I at least had to try baking my dough! I’d come all this way — it’d be a shame not to let my dough see the light of the oven, at least.

So I baked my sad little dough ball at 400 degrees for 45 minutes as a hail Mary attempt. I watched my dough turn a beautiful  golden brown. Unfortunately he had the density of a hockey puck and was entirely inedible.

THE END.

homemade_sourdough_DSC0009

So, should I attempt sourdough again? I’m not sure if I’m emotionally prepared to take on this ultimate bread-making challenge again — but at the same time, I’m having a hard time letting go of my dough defeat. If you have any sourdough advice for me, let me know in the comments section. And please don’t let my sourdough sob story stop you from trying to make this magical bread yourself one day.

8 thoughts on “my sad sourdough story

    • i heard that if you keep extra starter in your fridge and re-feed it for a couple days, it comes back to life!

    • now THIS is fascinating. whereas The Kitchn called for equal parts water & flour as your feeder & starter base, KA is calling for 2:1 flour:water. i thought The Kitchn method seemed watery the whole time but maybe i should have put my trust in KA! they are the gods of wheat, as you know! maybe i’ll try this recipe next :)

  1. Oy! Bad luck! I’ve been playing with my starter for a year now. It can be finicky. I follow the method Kelly linked to. My vote is to start with a less ambitious recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/rustic-sourdough-bread-recipe. This one is pretty close to the old method you’re already used to. It’s fairly reliable. It doesn’t taste particularly sour, but it does at least let you know you’re on the right track.

    • what?! this looks so much easier than the insane recipe i tried. going to tackle it this weekend. i think i can resurrect my starter. wish me luck :)

  2. I had good luck with The Kitchn starter but I made it in the winter, and it’s not very humid here. I also used some extra yeast to help things rise for the bread which really helped. I think the starter really shined in homemade sourdough pretzels.