My Sourdough Baking Journey

My Sourdough Baking Journey

I've always been intrigued by sourdough. Fascinated, but intimidated. I typically bake my cakes from a box, and precise measurements are not my strong suit. When sourdough started trending in 2020, I scrolled through video after video, but kept making my favorite paleo banana bread instead. Nothing to keep alive there!

When we created our April Fools Reel of a Sourdough Starter candle as a joke, I had no idea that this was a step towards starting my sourdough journey.

We became inundated with requests to make the candle a reality, so we thought we would give it a shot. We bought a loaf of sourdough from a local grocery store and brought it to Fontana HQ to replicate its aroma using our essential oils. 

Eric created a delightful yeasty, bread-like scent using carrot seed, anise, and buddha wood essential oils. Confident in our creation, we wanted to get validation from a true sourdough expert. We reached out to Courtney Moody of Acts of Sourdough who put our scent to the test.

Initially skeptical of candles because her child has asthma, Courtney was hesitant to introduce a candle into her home. We understand the hesitation, but were beyond thrilled when she reached out and said not only did she love the smell of the candle, but it did not irritate her child's breathing. Courtney also scheduled a trip out to meet us at Fontana HQ!

When Courtney visited she brought along her dehydrated sourdough starter kits, and I timidly agreed to give this sourdough thing a shot! 

In addition to the dehydrated starter, I also purchased a Starter Kit on Amazon which included a glass starter jar, 2 bread proofing baskets, a silicone scraper, and a bread trimming knife.

Courtney commented that I splurged on the expensive flour: the King Arthur Organic Unbleached Bread Flour. I quickly learned that any unbleached all-purpose flour will work.

It is also really helpful to have a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients.

Watch Courtney teach me how to rehydrate my starter here!

Following her instructions, we mixed the 25 g of dehydrated starter with 100 g of filtered water and 100 g of flour.

For the next 4 days, I timidly but faithfully fed my starter by separating 25g of starter (disposing the rest), with the 100 g of water and 100 g of flour.

I noticed slight bubbling, but by Day 3, I saw Courtney post a story showcasing a different starter brimming with bubbles and significantly risen. What was wrong with mine?!

I turned to the Starter Troubleshooting section in Courtney’s booklet, which comes with the starter kit. There, I discovered that my starter was likely "sluggish" due to the cold. Temperature is crucial for sourdough, and cooler conditions slow down fermentation. Despite the hot May weather, our home’s air conditioning was on full blast.

I decided to wrap my starter in a kitchen towel and waited to see the outcome. I hadn't named it yet, although Courtney mentioned popular names like Doughline and Jane Dough

By day 4 the change was noticeable, and my now comfortable starter had risen substantially and was full of bubbles. By day 5, I was ready to bake!

I also realized that I did not have anything to bake my sourdough in, so I went back over to Amazon and purchased a Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven. I also was ready to keep my discard, as Courtney has some amazing discard recipes, so I purchased this large 1.5 L jar to keep in the fridge. 

At first glance, the sourdough baking schedule was a little overwhelming, so I read through it a few times.

I started off by feeding my starter one last time and letting it rise. If you do this in the morning, you would begin to assemble your dough in the early evening.

I followed Courtney’s Beginner Sourdough Loaf recipe, adding filtered water, unbleached flour, and salt to my active starter.

This dough certainly is sticky!

I had to complete several stretches, folds, and coils. I admit, I had to go to Youtube to learn how to do each of these steps. 

After the fourth stretch and fold, my dough was ready to rest overnight.

The next morning, it was time to shape my dough. I had to consult YouTube for guidance, but surprisingly, Eric was quite adept at it too. Unfortunately, I couldn't bake immediately as I had to head to work. So, I placed the dough in the banneton and stored it in the fridge until the following evening.

Once I got home, I was ready to get baking, so I preheated the oven to 450 with the Dutch oven inside. 

After 23 minutes of baking, I removed the lid to the Dutch oven and took the first peek at my loaf of sourdough! It looked like bread, and it smelled so delicious. 

I set the timer for 23 more minutes and anxiously waited for it to turn a golden brown. 

The timer went off, and I had Eric pull it out of the oven - that Dutch oven is heavy!

I was shocked I actually did it. I kept my starter alive for 5 days AND I baked my first loaf of sourdough.

After it cooled, we each cut a slice to taste. It was delicious! Now, I'm eagerly counting down the days until I can bake another loaf. I think I might be hooked on this whole sourdough thing.

Will I ever master the art of those intricate loaf engravings? Maybe. But for now, I'm just proud to say I baked sourdough. If I can do it, you can too! If you're on the fence about trying sourdough, I hope this inspires you to give it a go.

Katie Roering, Co-Founder