I'm one of the COVID sourdough folks that finally used the time at home to give it a try. That included creating my own sourdough starter from scratch (which I still use today) and then venturing into the deep and complex world of creating an epic sourdough loaf.
It has now been over two years and I've been baking on average about one loaf a week so that is over 100 loaves now. Pretty crazy how time passes like that. Each week I've tried to perfect the ingredient ratios, my technique, and all the other factors that go into great sourdough bread making. There have been several resources that have helped me on my journey that I want to provide to others on a similar journey.
These taught me (1) the importance of the various phases in developing structure (autolyse, bulk fermentation, folding/shaping, and cold fermentation), (2) ingredient ratios with a target of an 80% hydration dough, and (3) baking techniques like temperature, cookware, proofing and scoring tools, dusting with rice flour, and how to get that critical oven spring.
Be sure to give these a watch as each one adds something new that you may pick up on. My Best Sourdough Bread recipe and technique is a mashup of many of these resources all in an effort to make a better bread with simple ingredients and steps.
- NY Times Sourdough Bread Recipe and accompanying YouTube Video with Claire Saffitz - two great introductory resources to sourdough making. Claire especially has a great personality and temperament to demystify the process and make it very approachable. I found some of the steps and baking instructions to be a bit off (like baking in too hot an oven for too long) but definitely worth a watch.
- Pantry Mama Blog - another great walkthrough of the process step-by-step. However, I've found that many people fuss with their dough too much during the rise. Both Pantry Mama and NYT teach this which I've found does not work especially given the time and effort involved.
- The Bread Code Oven Temperature - neat experiment that shows oven cooking temp at 445-450 degrees is critical for a perfect sourdough oven spring.
- Apollonia Poilane Master Class - the Poilane family bakery story is really neat, and Apollonia now runs the company and shares what she's learned in this Master Class. I didn't follow her recipe because she added things like yeast to make it easier for home bakers. But she did provide the a-ha moment for me on mixing, kneading, and shaping. I had an incredible result when I switched to her methods. The best part is it is simpler and less time intensive than the techniques from others. I've incorporated those into my own Best Sourdough Bread recipe.