Klondike Letters Project

Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.

Sourdough

The last few months I’ve been working hard on getting the Kickstarter rewards out to all people supporting the 2017 season! One of my favorite rewards for backers is passing on our sourdough starter. During the various gold rushes in the 1800s, sourdough was a staple for prospectors. With just flour, water, salt, and a bit of starter you could have a hearty loaf of bread to fill your belly. In the cold northern winters, stampeders kept their starter in a pouch around their neck to keep it warm and alive (though actually, freezing starter only makes it go dormant and it can be revived!). Prospectors who made it through an entire winter season was dubbed a “sourdoughs” because they had managed to keep their starter (and themselves) alive.

Sourdough baking is sort of like a long-term scientific experiment. When we first started making bread, our loaves came out dense, kind of flat and a bit… well, under-baked in the center. But we kept trying, testing different water to flour ratios. We read blog posts and books on kneading vs autolysing, gluten development, steam bathing etc. etc. etc.

Now, several years in, we have a pretty consistent loaf coming out of our oven. So we decided to document the process, which is by no means perfect, but hopefully will give you a head start into the sourdough experiment. Below is the recipe and some tips:

No-knead sourdough

1000g (7.5 cups) flour

650g (3 cups) water

20g (1 Tb) salt

100g (1/3 cup) sourdough starter

Mix flour and water together and let sit for at least 30 min and up to 3 hours. This autolyses the flour and lets the glutens start developing early.

Add salt and sourdough. Incorporate fully. Then let rest in a warm spot until doubled in size and bubbles develop on the surface (this can take 8-24 hours depending on how active your starter is and how warm it is. Our dough rises much faster int he summer than in winter.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you are baking in a Dutch oven, preheat the pot thoroughly as well (we let ours sit in there for a good 45 minutes). In the meantime, turn out risen dough onto a floured board and gently stretch and fold over into a loaf shape, trying to preserve as many of the bubbles as possible. Let rest while the oven is heating

Sprinkle sesame seeds or rolled oat on the bottom of pot (optional) then slide in the loaf. With a sharp knife, make 3 cuts on the top of the loaf. Cover, and place in oven.

Bake at 500 for 15 min, then turn oven down to 400 and bake an additional hour.

Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool as long as possible! It is still cooking inside and will steam out. A good plan is to bake before you go to bed and let cool overnight. then you will have fresh crusty bread in the morning!

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