To avoid being what seemed at the time like the last person on Twitter to not know how to make sourdough bread, I embarked on a bit of a journey. I wanted to start and take care of a sourdough culture (what some have called a new — but very, very old — Tamagotchi) and bake some tasty bread with it. What you see above is the first of several failed attempts at sourdough baking. A dense inedible brick of water and flour. I was gutted and frustrated by my results. In hindsight, I know exactly what I did wrong: I rushed the starter (it wasn’t ready), I rushed the kneading (stretch and folds did not produce enough gluten development), I added more flour since ‘something must be wrong the dough shouldn’t be this wet’, I rushed the pre-heat, and I failed to cover the loaf. And all the while I was painfully aware that I was rushing through all of these steps. And then I did it all over again.

The second loaf was slightly more appealing but just as disgusting. The crust (if you can call it that) petrified immediately, effectively stopping any heat from penetrating the rest of the dough. Delicious. At this point there were two things that gave me comfort: dozens of Reddit threads featuring sourdough aberrations; and, more importantly, acknowledging that I’d done everything wrong up until that point. I purchased a mature starter from Etsy, simply followed instructions, and embraced the innately sluggish pace of fermentation and sourdough breadmaking.

Simply slowing down resulted in beautiful loaves of delicious bread. To quote Patrick Ryan from the video above, “Too many things in our lives we’re in a hurry for. If you can, give your bread as much time as you can.” I recognize that, much like with sourdough, I approach learning opportunities with a high level of enthusiasm, only to be derailed by mistakes or limited progress as a result of skipped steps or rushing through fundamentals (learning a new language, for instance, or my ongoing battle with programming). Going forward, I want to be a little more deliberate with how I learn.

Recipe for one loaf

300g of unbleached AP
100g of Whole Wheat flour
272ml of water
100g of active stiff-ish starter
10g of salt

Day 1 (Friday)

At around 11PM, incorporate active starter into water. Add salt. Add liquids to dry ingredients. Bring together into a wet dough. Continue kneading until the dough no longer sticks to surfaces. This can take about 15 minutes. The windowpane test is useful to judge the dough’s elasticity. When ready, place the dough in a proofing container, cover with clingwrap, and leave out on your counter until the next morning. It should double in size.

Day 2

Have a coffee. Have another coffee.

Plop your dough onto a surface and de-gas it by pressing down on it gently. Form into a rough rectangle and fold the sides of the dough inwards several times. Shape the dough into a ball and place seam-side up into a floured proofing basket. Cover with a tea towel and leave it out to prove at room temperature for 2 hours (if you want additional tang, leave it out for longer.)

Preheat oven and baking sheet/cover to 500 degrees. When ready, plop your shaped dough onto your baking sheet, score, and cover. Spritz the inside of your oven with some water for added humidity. Bake with cover for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes, spritzing the oven with water once again. Remove from oven and let rest until cool.