Vegetarian Concoctions

February 13, 2007

Sourdough bread

Filed under: All-Purpose flour, Baking, Breads — Hema @ 11:00 am

It was a cold, lazy weekend afternoon early last year. The little one was happily tucked away into her blanket for a nap and dear hubby was watching football. I was flipping through one of the baking books I had bought recently and a recipe caught my attention – Sourdough bread. We both love this bread and always bought it from the store. Can it be made at home? Then, began an extensive research for methods and ingredients on the internet.

What I found was quite fascinating. You mix all-purpose flour and water and leave it in a warm open place for a few days with frequent monitoring. The batter picks up yeast and bacteria from the environment, starts bubbling and turns sour. This would be the starter. The quality of a starter would depend on where you live and whether the batter picks up the right guys. San-Francisco starters are supposed to be the best. Also, once someone has a starter going, it is fed periodically and kept alive for a long, long time – for generations sometimes.

I tried. The first time, nothing happened. February was a cold month (Yeah! sometimes, even in Florida) and so, I decided to wait for the spring. I gave it another shot in March. This time it looked like things were happening and I saw some bubbles on day 3. It was exciting! I added half a cup of all-purpose flour and warm water everyday, for the next 4 days. It got bubblier. It was time to try out my very own bread….or so I thought! I mixed more flour, sugar, salt and waited for it to rise to twice its size. I waited, waited and waited even more! It rose but not to the extent described in the cookbooks and internet sites. With a heavy heart I punched it back in for the second rise. Waited for 3 more hours for the rise and baked it. What came out was a shame. The crust was too thick, the inside was no-where close to being called soft and the taste…I had…ahem…added a little too much salt.

Totally frustrated with my first attempt, I put off the thought of baking bread for a while. I still kept the starter alive for a few more months. It was not before June, that I made my second unsuccessful attempt and dumped my starter in disgust and decided not to venture into the bread making business anymore.

Then, in September,  THIS happened! I read through the post at least 3 times before I left a comment. Few days later, she baked her first biscuits. Now, this was exciting. I left another comment and she replied ‘Thanks, Hema! If you want to give it a shot, I’m more than happy to pass along some starter anytime’. Really? I wrote back to her with my mailing address and sure enough received this package with some dried starter and a lovely little note with instructions. She actually took time and dried some starter for me. Yes, she is our very own ‘Out of the wor…garden – Linda!’.


Thanks Linda! You are awesome!
I stored the dry starter in the refrigerator for over two months before I got a chance to get working with it. I followed Linda’s instructions and pretty soon the starter was bubbling with activity.


A day before I decided to take the plunge, I added a cup of flour and half a cup of warm water to the starter. Next morning, I took a cup of starter for the bread and stored the rest in the refrigerator. With it went in ½ tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Then, I cheated (blush). Well, you see I have had horrible sourdough experiences in the past and really wanted soft bread this time. So, I added some commercial yeast…just a pinch, actually (blush, blush). Dissolved it in a tbsp of warm water and added it to the dough after 5 minutes. Then I added flour(about 1 cup), one spoon at a time till the consistency felt right – soft and workable, but not sticking to your hands. I brushed some olive oil on it and let it rise in a warm place (oven with lights on).


It rose to twice its size in about 2 hours! YAY! I punched it back in and this time put it into my loaf pan for the second rise. 2 hours later, I made a slash on the top and popped it into the 425 F preheated oven for 8 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 375 F and baked it further for another 20 minutes till the crust turned golden brown.


Out came my precious bread, with my home smelling like a bakery:) I let it cool and gave hubby the honour of cutting my first bread and taking this picture.


It was soft and tasted almost like what we get at stores..a little less sour, but that maybe because of the extra yeast I added. Now, I can proudly say baking bread is not a big deal’. Thanks Linda. Could’nt have done it without your help.



  1. Gorgeous looking Bread, soft and what a nice gesture from Linda!!Enjoy the bread and the V’day Hema!:))

    Comment by asha — February 13, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

  2. That looks absolutely delicious! Soft inside, perfect for soaking up all those winter soups!

    Comment by Monisha — February 13, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  3. That’s perfect bread..that’s a nice thing to do by linda.Enjoy your V-day hema…

    Comment by maheswari — February 13, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  4. interesting story hema… and ur bread looks perfect:)

    Comment by sia — February 13, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  5. Wow perfect bread hema… But didn’t get the starter thing. So now how do you get the starter ?

    Comment by Sandeepa — February 13, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  6. Oh Hema!! Your sourdough bread looks absolutely *awesome*!!! And you photographed the bubbling starter beautifully. That yeast was a great idea — I’m going to try a loaf baked the way you did. Thanks for all your kind words — I’m so happy to know that it worked out for you :):)


    Comment by outofthegarden — February 13, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

  7. Looks wonderful! I love the smell of fresh bread baking!

    Comment by Twisted Cinderella — February 13, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

  8. What beautiful bread! I found you because I’m discouraged…after starting my first batch of starter this week I have, after 4 days, something that looks just right but smells so wrong! I can’t tell if it smells somehow the way it’s supposed to…but my boyfriend is convinced it’s a contaminated batch. If anyone has any thoughts, please help!

    Comment by Maggie — February 13, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

  9. Wow thats so sweet of Linda. Linda, you are a sweetheart.

    Hema, Congratulations for finally baking the your own soudough looks so soft and perfect


    Comment by Sushma — February 14, 2007 @ 1:31 am

  10. What a wonderful bloom that was!!!!! Lovely pics Hema. 🙂

    LINDA!!!!! Where are you???!!!! I am staying in sangapore by the way!!!! 😉

    Comment by Coffee — February 14, 2007 @ 7:39 am

  11. Wow Hema, what a lovely post and what delicious lookign bread. We love sourdough bread at home too,but I dare say that I have this much patience as you do!
    And you’re right Linda is the absolute best!

    Comment by Latha — February 14, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  12. That sure looks good hema. It was really nice of Linda to help you.

    Comment by prema — February 14, 2007 @ 9:57 am

  13. Hi Hema, This was something I had never heard of. The bread has a good texture. That means if the atta dough which by mistake is left outside , rises up the next day has caught on to good bacteria (yeast)? I have been throwing it. Same thing can be tried with maida.Here in the Indian warm climate I think we can get starters overnight:)) I will try doing this once it becomes warm here .Thanx for sharing this recipe. We cannot get dry starters here but I will give it a try the traditional way 🙂

    Comment by archana — February 14, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  14. Thanks for the comment, Hema, and the visit! Sadly, I think you may be right…I think I’ll have to toss it out and start over. Maybe I can ask Linda for some of her starter too??? Anyway, thanks for the help! I love your blog BTW, adding it to my list of favorites so I remember to check it out more often. 🙂

    Comment by Maggie — February 14, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  15. How Nice of Linda to send you the starter! Your bread looks grand….!
    Where in FL. are you? I used to live in the Tampa area couple of years ago.
    Happy V day!

    Comment by Trupti — February 14, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  16. @ Maggie,
    I could send you some, if you want. I may need some lessons from Linda on drying the starter before that:)

    Comment by Hema — February 14, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  17. @ Linda
    Adding yeast did boost up my overall confidence. Thanks again! *HUGS*

    @ Asha, Monisha, Mahesh, sia, Latha, Prema, Coffee, Cinderella
    Thanks gals! yup, Linda’s toooo good.

    @ Trupti
    Jax, FL. Love it here!

    @ Sandeepa
    From Linda:) just kidding…Starter is the yeasty dough that will help your bread rise. For normal bread you can use commercial yeast, but for sourdough bread, you need some sourdough starter. Different ways to get a starter – make it yourself or get it from someone who alrady has some. I tried both ways and the latter worked.

    @ Archana
    The starter is a lot less viscous, not like the roti dough you make with atta. I guess it should work well in Indian weather conditions too. My mom once mentioned that she had tried baking bread by keeping coconut water out for a couple days till it turned sour and then mixed it with maida, and it was quite a success. This is just because traditionally we don’t eat yeast unless it is naturally grown.

    Comment by Hema — February 14, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  18. Hi Hema, You mentioned about the coconut water used for fermentation. When were staying in Wellington near Ooty. It used to be cold there. So my maid told me to use coconut water to ferment the dosa batter.I added soon after the rice and dal were ground. It did work 🙂

    Comment by archana — February 15, 2007 @ 4:19 am

  19. Hema,

    That was a very good writeup and the bread looks so good…! Yum! And I had not got a chance to look at your blog for some time now and oh boy..I missed quite a lot…The gooseberries are calling me..I have a pack and I wanted to make those salt soaked ones, but didn’t know where to start…Same with Inji thuvayal too…And your meme was great…Trust me, I share your fear when it comes to snakes and driving in the night..! 🙂

    Comment by Chandrika — February 15, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  20. Hi Hema I have uploaded photos on my blog for the first time!!!:)

    Comment by archana — February 15, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  21. that’s simply beautiful. i love your pictures and the fact that they tell stories. i love making bread too. thanks for the recipe.

    Comment by Jacob — February 16, 2007 @ 4:27 am

  22. Hi Hema,
    The bread seems really nice! I liked the way you narrated your bread making saga! 🙂

    Comment by Jyothsna — February 16, 2007 @ 6:13 am

  23. Hi Hema, Thanks for visiting my blog. Sourdough bread is one of my fav’s. I will try it sometime. Also ur banana chaat sounds interesting 🙂

    Have a fun weekend.


    Comment by Mishmash! — February 16, 2007 @ 11:55 am

  24. Hi Hema,mummy of little Ananya!remember me?sorry for not having posted a comment until now..your bread looks gorgeous.I know what you mean when you say the kitchen smells like a bakery.When I was carrying my daughter,we used to frequent the grocery store and I loved smelling the fragrances of the bread aisle!still love the smell of fresh bread.

    Comment by Vini K — February 16, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  25. Hello
    Thanks for sharing this recipe of sourdough bread. Wonderful presentation of the bread. Here is an interesting thread about the sandwich filling that could be used in this sourbread.

    Comment by sanjana — February 19, 2007 @ 1:29 am

  26. Hi Hema,
    My family loves sourdough bread. Fresh baked bread smells so good!


    Comment by Kanchana — February 19, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

  27. I am going to try my hand at bread this time! You’ve inspired me!

    Comment by Kanchana — February 19, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  28. @ Archana,
    That is a great tip for somone living in cold climates. Thanks.

    @ Chandrika, Jacob, Jyothsna, mishmash, Sanjana

    @ Vini
    The smell is divine. Wish you could smell it from my kitchen.

    Thanks. Added you to my blogroll.

    Comment by Hema — February 20, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

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