Have you been pressured into making your own bread during a global yeast crisis and decided that social distancing with sourdough in Houston is going to be your new quarantine hobby?
Same. Well, actually
I’ve my boyfriend has been making fresh sourdough in Houston since December. Through trial and error, we’ve he’s learned a few tricks to get fresh, fluffy sourdough every time. Kyle is the master bread maker in our relationship. He’s a stickler to following recipes and weighing things properly. I contribute by harvesting herbs, pulling bread out of the oven when he falls asleep on the couch, and taste testing loaves (to my boyfriend’s dismay) before the crumb fully sets (more on that later).
Since bread baking of all kinds is everyone’s new skill to learn, I thought I’d weigh in on the trend and provide some tips on how to get started with sourdough in Houston!
Where to Find Sourdough Starter in Houston
When I polled people on Instagram about what questions they had about sourdough, most of them were “how do you start a starter?” Making a sourdough starter isn’t actually that hard, it’s a bit of water, flour and time. You can follow this recipe by Joshua Weissman here to get started and check out his starter feeding schedule.
That being said, the older the starter is the more sour and flavorful it is since it’s been aged for so long. We got our starter from a friend, who got his from a cooking instructor, who had theirs for gosh knows how long. Sometimes people struggle to get enough fermentation in their starters so the bread turns out flat.
Here’s an article debunking sourdough starter myths.
Houston Bakeries with Sourdough Starter
Most local bakeries will give you a few tablespoons of starter to bring home if you ask nicely. Here’s a list of Houston bakeries that make sourdough. I’ve noted whether they’ve confirmed with me if they’re willing to share their starter with you. When in doubt, give them a call or send them an email to coordinate a pickup.
- Common Bond (Heights, Montrose) – Confirmed yes!
- Weight + Measures (Midtown) – Confirmed yes!
- Angela’s Oven (Heights)
- Artisana Bread (Northside)
- Stone Mill (Upper Kirby)
Three Brothers Bakery is not giving out starter.
How to Activate Your Starter
Most of the time our starter is chilling in a mason jar in our fridge. Kyle “feeds” it once a week when not using it to keep it alive. We usually make a batch of sourdough every other week so this is important to keep it fresh. Here’s how to feed your starter (this is NOT how to create a starter, but how to feed one that’s already mature):
- Equal parts (by mass) of starter, water, and all-purpose flour
- Mix together well (should be “thick”)
- Let sit on the counter for 8-12 hours
- Test its readiness with the “Float Test”
Having a food scale is helpful to get the ratios of everything correct. Kyle really likes this Oxo Food Scale. He uses it weekly to bake sourdough and daily to prepare his morning coffee. Save this for when you need a birthday present for your favorite engineer or food nerd.
The Float Test
You’ll know your sourdough starter is ready to be baked when it passes the float test. Here’s how to do it:
- Drop a small piece of starter into a bowl of water, if it floats it’s ready. Woot woot! You’re ready to bake some bread.
- If it doesn’t float, wait another hour; if it STILL doesn’t float, divide in half and start again at Step 1 with the starter
You can make a quick sourdough pancake if you have a bunch of extra starter. We like to have 50-75 grams of starter in the fridge at all times. Kyle likes to activate it twice before baking bringing it to about 200 grams. Sometimes, it’ll fail the float test, so he has to activate it again and we get “throwaway starter” that can be turned into into a pancake. We like to fry ours with olive oil, a pinch of salt and fresh herbs from my garden. Za’atar is a really nice topping as well.
Making the Sourdough
Our Sourdough Recipe
We use an old recipe that’s been photocopied several times, has questionable directions, and some typos. It’s been passed down through so many people it’s truly magical and hasn’t failed us yet. Click here if you want to check it out.
If you’re looking for a sourdough recipe that’s a bit more robust, Kyle swears by these cooking resources:
- Basics with Babish: Sourdough Bread
- Brad Leone: Sourdough Bread – It’s Alive (he’s got a great channel on fermentation if you’re a food nerd!)
- Joshua Wiessmann: The Ultimate Homemade Sourdough Bread
We’ve done a lot of experimentation with the sourdough recipe in Houston and mix it up by adding in things like whole wheat flour and rosemary.
Baking Supplies to Get Started
Pulling fresh, fragrant bread out of the oven is so rewarding. Especially when it’s sourdough and has taken you 2+ days to get to this point. Below are some of the helpful kitchen tools that we (Kyle) uses in the sourdough baking processes.
- Plastic Dough Scraper – wet flour is the most annoying thing to clean off your counters, this makes a huge difference; also helpful for shaping your bread
- Bread Banneton Proofing Basket – allows the dough to rest, and allows for easy release from bowl when you want to cook
- Oxo 11lb Food Scale – measures ingredients properly
- Lodge Cast Iron Combo Cooker — cast iron can take the 500 degree heat of the oven and give a nice crispy crust to the bread
- Cooling rack — let the dough cool and rest for 30 minutes before cutting in!
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I wish I could say we are responsible folks that don’t fall asleep while bread is baking and leave in the oven for 4+ hours until it becomes a shrunken black ball. However, we are mercifully human and have learned our fair share of lessons while making sourdough in Houston. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way that might help you on your bread baking endeavors:
- Don’t punch air bubbles or dough at any time — this is what makes the dough light and fluffy with an excellent “crumb” (aka insides) and flavor
- Dough can over ferment at high room temperatures, and won’t rise — keep your room temperatures below 80 degrees
- Score the dough with a knife to create cool patterns and help the dough rise
- We get good results when we bake for 30 minutes for 500 degrees with the lid on and 15 minutes with the lid off.
- To tell if your bread is done, look at the crust and listen to it cool. The crust should be “shattery” which means it cracks as it cools
- You can thump the bottom of a loaf and it’ll give off a good thunk (kind of like a watermelon!)
- Sourdough gets soft in airtight container or plastic bag
- Sourdough is best stored with the cut side down to protect the crumb (the insides)