Kitchen Lab Series – Sourdough

I typically attend workshops on my own, but given that hubby has an interest in bread making, I signed us both up for a sourdough bread making workshop hosted by West End Food Co-op. It costs $60 for non-members, or $55 for members. The $5 membership is a one-time fee, and it allows you to shop in their co-op grocery store, located at Queen W. & Dufferin.

Join our Co-op Kitchen Team, including our experienced sourdough aficionados, for this basic course in Sourdough bread-baking! Our team will lead you through a tested recipe and an in-depth discussion about Sourdough starters, their care and maintenance, and how to use your starter to make delicious sourdough bread! This will be a great way to learn new bread making skills or brush up old ones. We will be making Sourdough Loaves, using flour from one of our local producers and the well-loved “Parkdale” sourdough strain. You will learn about the history, theory, and practice of sourdough, gain hands-on experience working with the starter and bread making, and leave with some freshly-baked sourdough bread, dough to bake at home & your very own starter.

Sourdough is a great addition to our lifestyle given we enjoy making (and eating!) bread, and I love fermenting. Sourdough requires a starter, sometimes known as a sponge. It’s basically a combination of water, flour, sugar, and wild yeast – the key to the starter. Wild yeast sounds so primitive. Where do you get it from? It lives all around you, in the air, on surfaces in your house, everywhere. This also means that the wild yeast created in my house will differ from what is created in your house. 

Other types of bread that we’ve made, like baguettes, do not require wild yeast because the recipes call for commercial yeast. This makes bread making easier, both in the process and the time requirements because wild yeast is alive and needs to be maintained, and from my short experience, it has a much longer proofing time. But the time and care you put into creating this starter and making sourdough is worth it, if you appreciate bread with more dimension. 

So back to the workshop. It was led by WEFC’s kitchen coordinator, Sonya Gammal. It was held in their small commercial kitchen, so the class size was a manageable 10-ish people.

Because the process of making the bread takes so long, the workshop was not full hands-on from start to completion, but Sonya did have dough in the different stages for us to see. We were each given our own jar of starter and were taught how to feed it through a hands-on demonstration. We also had the opportunity to knead and shape the dough, and everyone was given a 440 gram ball of dough to bake up at home. 

Sonya had some pre-shaped dough ready to be slashed and baked, and gave us some tips on how best to store the dough when it is proofing to help it retain its shape.

The loaves she was baking up for us was a rosemary garlic sourdough, which smelled absolutely divine as it was baking up. The final item we got to take home was a baked up loaf of sourdough. Since both of us attended the workshop, we were leaving with a lot of bread!

The next morning, our starters had definitely doubled in size!

But it was not enough to make more sourdough while saving some starter, so we had to feed it some more. We decided to consolidate and transfer to a larger jar. Don’t forget to take into consideration the size doubling, otherwise you’ll end up with starter all over your counter!

Sourdough does take an afternoon to make, so it makes sense to make a few loaves and freeze them. But the issue was that we had baked loaves from the workshop, and we baked up the unbaked loaves the next day, so we had at least three loaves in the freezer already. The recipe makes four loaves. We decided to make half of that, since we were simply experimenting. The next morning, we used the starter and we made our own sourdough!

We made a loaf for hubby’s parents, because his mom likes bread. The timing was so tight – we basically took it out of the oven and left to meet them. The bread was still warm when we put it in their hands. Ideally we would have let the dough rest in the fridge overnight before baking, because we found that it produces a more sour/complex flavour, but given we only had half a day to make this happen…

There are many recipes online, for both making the bread and the starter. One of the most famous sourdoughs is the San Francisco Sourdough. I was almost going to buy a kit from The Big Carrot to make SF sourdough bread, but they did not have this specific starter in stock. I’m glad they didn’t. I’m much happier that we attended the workshop. Hopefully we will perfect the process and technique and be able to create our own unique starter from the Parkdale starter we were given.

If you are interested in this workshop, please visit https://westendfood.coop/community-workshops. They have another session scheduled for May 16th. I highly recommend it for anyone that loves baking or bread making. You leave with lots of information and their tried and true recipe, a starter, a baked loaf, and a loaf that is ready to be baked.

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