In this exclusive Hungry History video, host Ian Knauer explores the rich history of sourdough bread, from its ancient origins to its rise in popularity during the California Gold Rush. He also explains why it was probably discovered by accident. Ian then demonstrates how to make a homemade sourdough starter and bake a delicious, crusty loaf.
2 cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
2 cups warm water
Find a plastic, ceramic or glass container with a loose-fitting lid and able to hold 4 cups. Do not use a metal container. Sterilize container and lid by soaking in 1 tablespoon of bleach and 1 gallon of water for 30 minutes, then rinse well.
Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water to the container and mix vigorously. The water should be around 100 degrees. Cover the container and let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water to the container and mix vigorously. The vigorous mixing should incorporate air into the mixture, which will help the yeast take hold. Replace the cover and let it sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water to the container, then mix as before. The batter should smell sour and have small bubbles. If not, your yeast culture might be a slow breeder, so give it more time. Replace the cover and let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
At this point, you should have 2 cups of starter. You need to feed your starter every day or two if left at room temperature and once a week if stored in the fridge. To feed the starter, remove 1 cup of starter from the container and add 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour.
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the flour, starter, water and salt in a large bowl, and knead until it no longer sticks to the sides or bottom.
Shape dough into a ball and place it back in bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead gently, removing any large air bubbles. Knead into a small circle, then shape into a tight ball, pinching the seams together underneath.
Place on a well-floured board or baking peel, seam side down. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut across the dough ball from edge to edge.
Dust with flour and bake until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, about 30 minutes. Sourdough should have a darker crust than other breads, so leave in the oven for 5 minutes after you think it is done.
About the Host: After spending close to a decade in the test kitchens of Gourmet Magazine, where he developed recipes and co-hosted “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” and “Adventures with Ruth,” Ian poured his love of food back into his family’s Pennsylvania farm. There, he grows his own vegetables and cooks everything from scratch. He recently released his first cookbook, “The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food.” He also writes for several publications and contributes to Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats.”