Light and Fluffy Sourdough Bread

Sourdough is amazing.  Every time I work with it I am in awe of its ability to leaven baked goods with such ease despite the absence of those little yeast packets from the grocery store.  I do find though that many people get frustrated when working with sourdough–perhaps the most common complaint is that loaves of bread turn out small and dense rather than light and fluffy.  But you can make light and fluffy bread!  Here are three important techniques to get you there:

Be sure your yeast is fully active before baking. If your sourdough starter has been stored in the fridge, it has been living in a dormant state.  Plan to feed the culture at least three times 8-12 hours apart prior to baking. By the third feeding you should have light, bubbly starter that’s doubled in size within 2-8 hours of being fed.  Proper ratios are helpful here so check out this article on feeding your sourdough starter.

Knead your dough well to activate the gluten. It is very important to allow the gluten to fully develop so thoroughly kneading the dough is a critical step.  If you are kneading by hand, plan for a minimum of 20 minutes (you can take breaks–such as kneading for 5-10 minutes at a time).  If you are using a mixer to knead, check the dough often to ensure it’s not overheating (which can damage the yeast) and stop the process once the gluten is well developed.  While there isn’t any danger of over-kneading when kneading by hand, mixers can abuse the dough if not watched.  To determine if the gluten is adequately developed, perform the “window pane test”.  Take a piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers.  If the gluten is sufficiently developed, the dough should stretch thin–so you can see light through it–without the dough breaking.  If it breaks before it can be stretched thin, keep kneading.

Plan for a long proofing (rise) period. As a natural yeast, sourdough tends to take significantly longer to rise than bread made with commercial yeast.  Timing is dependent on the specific starter and conditions in your home so until you have determined the best rise period for your particular starter, plan for a 4-12 hour rise period (if you desire more sour bread, plan for 12-24 hours).

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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What’s New at CFH for January 8, 2011

It’s been an exciting and eventful week here at CFH.  The new year rush is in full swing as people begin looking for ways to support their New Year’s Resolutions including Eating Real Food (and could there be a better resolution?).

We added some new cheese making products this week including two new starter kits (Blue Cheese and Camembert), a new lower-priced but still wonderful cheese press, some new cheese cultures, cheese wax and cheese shaping molds.

This week Eric and I have been working on three sourdough how-to videos including:

*Activating your sourdough starter
*Feeding and caring for your sourdough starter
*Making a basic loaf of sourdough bread (with lots of techniques that can be applied to any sourdough bread recipe)

With any luck the videos should be available early next week.

We’re also getting ready to launch an affiliate program in the next few days and our inaugural newsletter within the next week or so.  If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter mailing list yet, you can do so here and get a great Kefir Recipe eBook.  Never fear, we never sell or otherwise share your info and our newsletter is primarily educational with tips, tricks, recipes and some CFH news and the occasional coupon code.  We’re confident you’ll like it (and if you don’t, you can unsubscribe at any time).

Stay tuned–more fun things are coming soon!

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Kefir Grains vs. Kefir Starter Culture

Kefir is a very popular probiotic-rich beverage and one that is particularly easy to make at home.  With more and more people looking to save money by making their own kefir, we are seeing an increasing number of questions about the differences between the various starter cultures we offer.

There are two types of starter cultures that can be used to make kefir: Kefir Grains and Powdered Kefir Starter Culture (several brands available).  Here are the primary differences:

Origin: Powdered kefir starter is created in a laboratory and is similar to a direct-set style yogurt starter.  Kefir grains are a naturally occurring culture that has existed for thousands of years and is self-perpetuating (note: kefir grains do not contain any actual grain such as wheat, spelt, rye, etc. but rather are referred to as grains due to their appearance).

Reusability:
Powdered kefir starter can generally be recultured a handful of time (taking a little from the batch to inoculate the next batch).  With proper care, kefir grains don’t have a set lifespan–most people will have theirs for several years.  Kefir grains are placed in milk or sugar water, juice, etc. and after the liquid has cultured (18-48 hours), they are removed and placed in new milk, sugar water, etc. to make the next batch.  This process is repeated indefinitely.

Number of Strains of Beneficial Yeast and Bacteria: The powdered kefir starters generally contain 7-9 strains; kefir grains contain close to 30 strains.

Care: Kefir grains require care the powdered starter does not.  They’re kind of like a pet (a highly productive one though!).  They need to be switched to fresh liquid every 18-48 hours and if you go out of town, you’ll need to put them in fresh liquid in the fridge.  But if you care for them well, they will generally return the favor.

Cost: Powdered kefir starter is less expensive initially but kefir grains are a far more economical option in the long run.

Summary: Kefir Grains vs. Powdered Kefir Starter Culture
If you are looking to make kefir long-term, want the highest number of beneficial yeast and bacteria strains and desire the most cost effective method, kefir grains are the best option.

If you are looking for more of a short-term solution (such as when you’re out of town) or want to make kefir infrequently, powdered kefir starter may be a better option.

Ready to Get Started Making Kefir at Home?
Click here to check out our full selection of starter cultures for making Kefir including Kefir Grains and several brands of Powdered Kefir Starter Culture.

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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