SCS 21| Sourdough Starters And Preferments

Sourdouh Starters and Pre-Ferments

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If you're a serious bread baker and want to take your game to the next level, this is the podcast for you. In this episode, we discuss how to create complex tasting breads by utilizing a sourdough starters and pre-ferments.

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Pancetta-Parsley Sourdough Boule - Recipe

Pancetta and parsley are a great, classic flavor pairing, and when combined with our standard sourdough boule recipe, yields a special, delicious bread. Use this bread to accompany soup, make a grilled cheese or just eat as is.


Pancetta-Parsley Sourdough Bread | Video Recipe

This video takes our Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe and adds parsley and pancetta. It's great served lightly grilled with a little olive oil, topped with piece of sliced tomato and basil or for grilled cheese.

For a scalable recipe with instructions, click here.

Further Information

Tools Used

This post is part of our ongoing Bread Baking Video Series, which teaches a wide array of baking techniques and recipes. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.


Eastern European Style Sourdough Brown Bread | Video Recipe

For a scalable recipe, please visit our Sourdough Brown Bread Recipe Page.

In this video we’ll be making one of my new favorite breads, an Eastern European style brown bread. This bread has a unique, complex flavor that comes from the addition of coffee, molasses, fennel seed, caraway and balsamic vinegar, just to name a few (oh yeah, did I mention the cocoa powder?).

This is one of those breads that really benefits from the use of a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast because of how natural yeast responds acid. Commercial yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, doesn’t like super acidic environments. In fact, it’s most comfortable between a PH of 4-5. Its natural cousin (Saccharomyces exiggus) thrives in acidic environments, which is why sourdough bread (in the sense that it tastes sour) is actually possible.

So in this video, we’re not only using the natural sourdough starter to add depth of flavor to the brown bread recipe, but it is also better suited for the task of leavening, as compared to its commercial counterpart, because of the added acidity derived from the coffee, balsamic vinegar and molasses.

Methods and Terminology

If you are unfamiliar with the methods and terminology used in this recipe, please review the following audio lectures and videos tutorials before attempting. Once you understand the core curriculum linked below, this bread recipe and future ones will be much more achievable.

Alternatives To Using A Poolish Starter

This recipe benefits from the use of a sourdough starter because the natural yeast is much more resilient to acidic bread doughs (created in this recipe by the addition of vinegar, molasses and coffee). If you really don't want to use a poolish starter, mix the sponge ingredients together the night before as instructed in step one above, but add an extra 50g of bread flour and 50g of water along with 4g of instant or active dry yeast. Allow to ferment overnight and continue recipe as instructed.

Recommended Tools For This Recipe

This post is part of our ongoing Bread Baking Video Series, which teaches a wide array of baking techniques and recipes. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.



70% Hydration Sourdough Boule

Basic Sourdough Bread Loaf
This is a scalable recipe designed to yield one large sourdough boule. This is the exact recipe used in our "How To Make A Basic Loaf of Sourdough Bread Video." Please see video and show notes for further information. Also, if you have a smaller dutch oven (this recipe calls for a 7qt), try halving the recipe by clicking on the appropriate button in the yield box to the right.


Sourdough Brown Bread

Eastern European Style Brown Bread
This European style brown bread is hearty, complex of flavor, and most importantly, delicious. If you need a mid day "pick me up," this bread will give you a surprising boost of energy and sustain you between meals. If you decide to make it a meal in itself, this "brown bread" is great plain, served with gravlax (cured salmon), toasted and spread with honey butter, and was used to make the most delicious egg salad sandwich I have ever eaten. This recipe calls for a poolish sourdough starter for added flavor and to stand up to the acidity of the other ingredients that give this bread recipe a unique flavor. Please see the "notes" section at the end of this recipe for further information and alternatives to using a sourdough starter.


So I was shooting a video on how to make sourodugh waffles today and I think things may have gotten a little out of hand...


How To Make A Basic Loaf Of Sourdough Bread | Video Recipe

In a previous Stella Bread Video, I demonstrated how to make a sourdough starter that could later be used to naturally levin any type of bread you desire. In this video, we take that starter and bake our first sourdough loaf, a 70% hydration boule that uses a large percentage of poolish starter for a quick rise, a small amount or whole wheat for a complex flavor, and a cast iron dutch oven to replicate a traditional hearth.

Many guests of The Cedar House and Stella ask how we make our sourdough bread that has become a signature part of our dinner service. This is the recipe and method that we use, the only difference being that our finished, formed loaves are baked in our wood fire oven instead of a cast iron dutch oven. The heat retaining capabilities of the dutch oven allow for a superior heat transfer and oven spring which is one of the major advantages to baking bread in a hearth oven. Enclosing the dutch oven with a lid during the early stages of baking introduces steam which is absolutely imperative for a strong oven spring and a crackly crust.

If I blindfolded my staff and had them do a blind tasting between this bread and the bread we serve at Stella, they would not be able to tell the difference. However, the straightforward simplicity of this method makes it a great introductory loaf of sourdough for the uninitiated, and a great base recipe to which you can add different flavored flours, herbs, spices, nuts, etc., to make your own unique sourdough loaf at home.

This video assumes that you have a strong sourdough starter and understand basic bread baking concepts as discussed in The Stella Culinary School Podcast.

The Recipe

  • 275g Warm Water

  • 500g Poolish Sourdough Starter

  • 400g Bread Flour (Unbleached)

  • 100g Whole Wheat Flour

  • 20g Salt 15g Salt (2%)

For a scalable recipe and written instructions, please visit our 70% Hydration Sourdough Boule Recipe page.

Notes About This Recipe

For more ideas on how to make different floured breads by varying the ingredients and method demonstrated in this video, please visit out recipe page.

Further Resources

Tools Used In This Video

This post is part of our ongoing Bread Baking Video Series, which teaches a wide array of baking techniques and recipes. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.



How To Make A Sourdough Starter | Video Recipe

In this video I use an extremely simple method that calls for mixing flour with warm water, allowing it to sit for 48-72 hours until yeast activity begins, and then refresh/feed at set intervals for about five days, or until the starter is strong enough to levin a loaf of bread. If you've been around since the Free Culinary School Podcast days, you'll remember that in our sourdough series I recommended using fruit peels (apples/grapes) to inoculate your water and flour mixture with natural yeast.

After multiple tests, I've found that there is sufficient local yeast available on your hands, in your kitchen and in your flour, to get a strong sourdough starter going, and in a lot of cases, is much more forgiving then using fruit peels or skins. The reason being, unless your fruit skins come from a hyper local source (like an apple tree in your back yard or a neighbor's garden), then you are still technically importing and using a foreign yeast to inoculate your sourdough starter. At some point, the yeast that is naturally occurring in your kitchen environment will have to do battle with this "foreign yeast" which can kill your sourdough starter outright or give it off flavors (caused by dead or unhealthy yeast).

Tips For Making A Sourdough Starter
  • Always use filtered water, especially if your tap water contains chlorine and/or flouride, both of which can kill the yeast in your starter, especially at the early stages of development.

  • Start by making a 100% hydration starter (1:1 ratio water/flour), AKA a poolish. This is the type of starter that I prefer and will be using in upcoming demonstration videos for sourdough bread. Also, a high hydration rate (like 100%) allows the yeast to propagate faster as compared to a lower hydration starter such as a biga (usually around 60% hydration by the baker's percentage).

  • Once yeast activity begins, remove half of your starter and feed the remainder with the same amount of flour and water removed. So if you took out 400 grams of the starter, you would add back 200 grams of flour and 200 grams of water to the remaining starter.

  • Continue to feed your starter at the same time every day, until it becomes extremely active.

  • Once your starter can pass the "float test" 12 hours after feeding, it is strong enough to bake with. At this point, you can either bake your first loaf of sourdough bread or retard in your refrigerator, remembering to feed your new starter at least once a week.

Remember, this is the first step in your journey towards making great sourdough bread. We will be diving into different techniques and recipes in the coming weeks and months.

Further Information

This post is part of our ongoing Bread Baking Video Series, which teaches a wide array of baking techniques and recipes. For more information, you can also view our How To Cook Video Index.
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