Magic Almost-Instant Sourdough

On a side note, the Kindle edition of my latest book is now out: UK, US, DE, FR, IT, ES, JP

This sourdough starter still takes a few days, but not nearly as long as other recipes, which typically call for feeding the sourdough for a week and throwing out a lot of the dough along the way.  This is a waste-free sourdough that’s ready to use in 3 1/2 days.


Some tricks that make this sourdough extra fast:
Sourdough likes oxygen.  For best results stir the mixture in between feeds to allow air into it, this will make it grow more quickly.
Rye flour.  I’ve made sourdough with wheat in the past and had unpredictable and frustrating results.  Rye has some special quality that makes it ideally suited for making sourdough.
I think that untreated water makes a difference.  In the past I’ve used city water and the results haven’t been nearly as good.  The chemicals that are dumped into mass water supplies probably aren’t great for growing wild yeast.  For best results, use pure rain water or chlorine-free bottled water to establish the sourdough.
A bowl of warm water.  I’ve never lived in a house that has that mythical warm rising place that most baking books seem to expect so I place the jar of starter inside a bowl, filling the bowl up with warm water to around the same level as the starter in the jar.

I use a 1.5 litre (1.5 quart) wide mouthed jar for my starter.  The lid always remains unsealed, so that gasses can escape and the jar doesn’t explode.  As you can see from the photo below, the starter has bubbled up and overflowed a few times after feeds – to prevent this happening, check it whenever you’re nearby and give it a stir if it looks like it’s near the top of the jar.


Day 1:
1 cup rye flour
3/4 cup cold water

Combine these ingredients in a jar or bowl.  Place something over the top but do not seal, then place the jar in a bowl of warm water (not too hot, test it on your wrist to check that it’s a comfortable temperature).

Day 2 (around 24 hours later), add:
1 cup rye flour
3/4 cup cold water

Add this to the day 1 starter, and place the jar in a bowl of warm water.

Day 3, add:
2 cups rye flour
1 1/2 cups cold water

Add this to the previous days starter, then place the jar in a bowl of warm water.

In just 12 hours after day 3, the starter is ready to use.

This sourdough is really low maintenance once established.  After removing 1 1/2 cups to make a batch of bread, just add 2 cups of rye flour and 1 1/2 cups of water to the starter and leave it on the kitchen counter for 24 hours to ferment.  Once established it doesn’t need the bowl of warm water, and after it’s finished the 24 hours on the counter it can be kept in the fridge until the next time you bake.  The trick to having a low maintenance sourdough is to just make bread with it at least once a week, that way feeding the starter can easily be done at the same time as mixing dough, and it doesn’t become an extra chore or involve any waste.

A Sourdough Bread Recipe for Baking in Loaf Pans

(suitable for Romertopf pans, and other similar-sized ones for 750g (1.65lb) loaves)
Kitchen time 5-10 minutes
Rising time around 24 hours
Baking time 1 hour
Makes 2 large loaves

I will admit that the taste of this isn’t as good as a hand shaped loaf baked on a preheated pizza stone, but lately I have been enjoying baking with ceramic loaf pans – it means I can make 2 large loaves at the same time, rather than if I hand-shaped this amount of dough it would mean having to bake the loaves separately.  Hand shaped loaves baked on a preheated pizza stone will take less time to bake, just flip the loaf over after around 40 minutes, knock on the base and if it sounds hollow then it’s ready – for the best results with hand shaping, use wheat flour in stage one instead of rye flour.

If using a ceramic loaf pan, allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan.  To remove the bread I slide a bread knife in completely around the loaf, pressing the loaf away from the pan as I go.  I then use the bread knife as a lever to lift the loaf out of the pan.  To easily clean ceramic baking pans, leave them to soak in hot water for a while.

Stage 1:
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 cups rye flour

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl of around 7 litre (7.39 quart) capacity.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature for around 12 hours.

Stage 2:
4 1/2 cups cold water (use only 4 cups if using spelt flour)
3-4 teaspoons salt
9 cups wholemeal wheat or wholemeal spelt flour

Mix the water and salt into the starter dough from stage 1.  Thoroughly mix through the flour.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature for around 12 hours.

Stage 3:
Preheat the oven to around 220c (430f).

While the oven is heating up, sprinkle the base of two large loaf pans with cornmeal or flour.  Punch the dough down, knead for a few seconds, and divide into two pieces.  Each piece can be completely coated in sesame seeds (or other seeds) if you wish, by covering a dinner plate in seeds, stretching the dough out into a flat circle to fit in the plate, folding the sides over into the middle, and placing this seam side down in each tin.  Alternatively, just plonk the dough into the pans and sprinkle with seeds if you wish.

If your pans will fit in the sink, fill the sink partly up with warm water – the water should reach up most of the sides of the pans, but not flow into them.  Leave the loaves to sit in the sink for around 20-40 minutes, until the oven has heated to 220c (430f).

Slash the top of the loaves with a knife and bake for around an hour.

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Posted on November 26, 2012, in cooking, recipes, self-sufficiency and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Pure rainwater? I hope you mean rainwater that’s been collected and filtered, because one of the functions of precipitation is to act as a sort of air scrubber. To form, a raindrop requires some sort of aerosol (I mean any particle that is floating in the air, i.e. dust, pollen, soot, smoke, silver nitrate, etc.) for water vapor to condense and collect around. Not pure!

  2. But I am totally doing this thing!

  3. Almost instant? I am sold! Now I just have to try to bake something other than vinegar bricks like I did with Herman (who is at present dehydrated in a vacuum seal bag on my pantry shelf thinking about what he DIDN’T do!)…

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