Frequently Asked Questions
We love answering questions about sourdough from people who love eating it. If there’s something you want to know that isn’t covered here, please reach out and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.
What is sourdough bread?
All bread is made with four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Yeast is a microscopic organism that plays a part in making many of the world’s favorite foods from wine to beer and kimchi through the process of fermentation. What makes a bread a sourdough bread is that the yeast used in the fermentation of the dough is wildyeast rather than commercially available yeast known as “baker’s yeast.”
There’s nothing inherently better or worse about using wild yeast or commercial yeast—some of the best breads in the world use a mixture of both! But natural, wild yeast brings an exciting range of flavor, experimentation, and health benefits that are typically not found in breads made with only commercial yeast.
The fascinating transformation the dough goes through under the influence of wild yeast gives the bread better keeping qualities due to the unique environment wild yeast creates, and the diversity of healthy bacteria present in the fermentation makes the bread much easier to digest than other breads and contributes to healthy digestion overall.
Diverse, wild yeast also provides a huge range of flavor possibilities not present in commercial yeast fermentation. A common misconception is that sourdough must taste sour! Sourdough often tastes sour, but it doesn’t have to—it can taste anywhere on a range from sweet, floral, and creamy, to bright, sharp, and sour. The skill of the sourdough baker is in managing the fermentation to balance these flavors to get exactly the flavor profile and texture desired.
How should I store the bread?
Store the bread in a paper or cotton bag, or in a breathable plastic bag at room temperature. If the bread is cut, store it cut side down in the bag to keep the interior from drying out. Do not store the bread in the refrigerator! The refrigerator is a dry environment that will make the bread dry out quickly.
Store the bread in a sealable plastic bag at room temperature. If the bread is cut, store it cut side down in the bag. The crust will lose some crispness, but will stay moist longer and not dry out in the sealed environment. The bread can be crisped up again in the oven or toasted to regain crispiness! Do not store the bread in the refrigerator! The refrigerator is a dry environment that will make the bread dry out quickly.
Long term storage
Sourdough bread freezes very well. To freeze, slice the bread or leave loaf whole, then wrap tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place in heavy-duty freezer bag and freeze. Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for about 3 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
How is sourdough bread made?
There are many ways to make sourdough—its versatility and variation are part of the thrill of making sourdough (besides eating it)! Our sourdough takes anywhere from 18-24 hours from start to finish, and typically follows a process like this one:
Preparing the starter
There's more to say about sourdough starters than we have room for here, but essentially the starter is the source of wild yeast that is mixed into all of the dough. A sourdough starter (or leaven) is a mixture of flour, water, and wild yeast. To prepare for a bake day, we feed the starter with fresh flour and water to cultivate and strengthen it and mix enough for the number of loaves we're going to make.
Mixing the dough
After 4-6 hours, the starter is ready and we mix the full batch of dough with flour, water, salt, the starter, and any other ingredients we may be using in our menu (walnuts, herbs, raisins, maple syrup, etc.)! There are many ways to mix the dough—currently we mix all our doughs by hand.
Stretch and fold
After mixing, we do a series of stretches and folds to the dough to build tension and strength in the mixture. This is similar to kneading the dough, but its spread out over several hours to allow time to do most of the work for us! The stretches are alternated with resting periods where the dough relaxes and forms a cohesive whole. Both working the dough and proper rest are essential for building dough strength (just like working out at the gym!).
After the stretches and folds, the dough is allowed to rest for a longer period to fully ferment. At this point, the bakers typically take a break for dinner and let the dough do the work! By the time we get back, 6-7 hours after the initial mixing, the dough has doubled in size all on its own.
Dividing and shaping
When the dough has fermented, we divide the full dough into individual loaves which are then shaped to build tension and structure in each loaf.
After shaping, we place the loaves in cold storage overnight to slow down the fermentation. This not only creates a convenient baking schedule, but also deepens the flavor over a long twelve hour slow fermentation.
Scoring and baking
Twelve hours later, we heat up the ovens, roll out the loaves, score them with a blade (draw the fancy patterns on top) and bake them at a blistering 500°F for 45 minutes.
Baking sourdough is a fascinating skill with endless variations to explore. Let us know if you have any more detailed questions, and we'll be happy to talk about it for hours!