Monday, March 10, 2008

Follow the Sourdough - Day 5: The Sponge

Finally! We are ready to make sourdough bread! All right, as you'll hear me say in the clip, you don't want to do this step, until you've seen the last couple videos. Because your times will vary, you should see the last few steps so you can decide when is the best time to make the sponge. If you starter is ready, simply refrigerate it and wait until the timing is right.

Here's what you'll see in the last episodes, and what you'll need to plan for:


You take your starter and make what's called a "sponge" (that's today's video). This sponge must sit out for between 4 and 10 hours to ferment and become very bubbly (pictured here after 30 minutes).


Then, we use part of the sponge to make our dough. This needs to rise and double in size. The sourdough rises much slower than regular yeast bread, so I let it rise overnight.


After the dough has risen, we punch it down, and form a loaf. This loaf of sourdough must then be allowed to double in size before being baked (usually 3 to 6 hours).


Once you've seen the last episodes, you should be able to plan the final bread making. Don’t worry, the starter is fine in the fridge, so don't rush things! You're patience will be rewarded! Enjoy.


49 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "onimous sounding intro" is making more sense now. I forgot to feed my starter yesterday. Am I sunk or is there still hope for me?
April (the gal who will likely be baking at 3 a.m.)

Chef John said...

No problem, it should be fine. Is there something happening yet?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I had little bubbles forming after only one day, it was pretty exciting. I did feed it earlier today, and I just stirred it and little bubbles are breaking the surface right away so I think I'll be okay!
Thanks, April

hkfreak said...

"You're patience will be rewarded!"

Mr. Patience Will, you have been awarded $500 and a loaf of wild yeast in the air.

hkfreak said...

And I don't go to self-investing seminars or whatever, so you will have to explain the intro.

Chef John said...

ah, the good old cryptic hkfreak comment(s). What are you needing explained about the intro?

hkfreak said...

I know there's some event (seminar) that happened. The intro sounds familiar, but who did it and the other question is: Are you doing it just for the similarities in title?

Chef John said...

No idea about a seminar, its a free sound clip from iMovie

Rooney said...

Playing catchup as I just found this wonderful site...
What is the difference between the starter and the sponge if they both only contain flour, water, and time?
THANKS!

Chef John said...

sponge is the finished starter with another cup of flour and water, which is then used to make the dough after a day. The terms are often used interchangably.

Anonymous said...

Hi, great site.

My starter was doing great (and much like your video/pics) until the "sponge" step. After 10 hours of fermenting, instead of becoming pancake-bubbley and spongey, it just looked like my watery/frothy starter. Either way, I proceeded and the dough never rose. Out of curiosity, I baked it anyway. The flavor was spectacular, but without rising at all, how much can you enjoy a tasty rock? What do you think went wrong?

Chef John said...

next time add a little more flour to the sponge and leave it overnight. If it doesn't seem to be working add a tsp of yeast. You'll still have the flavor developed. Also remember the dough can take a long time to rise, especially if it's not in a warm spot.

Anonymous said...

If I already have a starter, how much should i put in to create the sponge?

Chef John said...

I usually use one cup starter, one cup flour, one cup water. But, if left out the starter will grow, so if you don't have a cup just add more flour and water.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your sourdough starter vidoe clips. It is really helping me. I just have one more question though.
After you make the sponge + 4-10hours fermentaion, how do you make dough from it? Could you tell me the dough recipe as well?

Thank you again!

Chef John said...

check this video I did for About. has the whole process http://video.about.com/breadbaking/Sourdough-Bread.htm

MiaRae said...

I made ALOT more starter then called for so... how much of it do i use for my starter?

Chef John said...

try 1 1/2 cups

Alex said...

Hello chef,
I attempted this recipe to a T and at the time of making the sponge i noticed it wasnt as frothy as yours was in the video. I live in hawaii and assume it is warmer so my process might've quickened. I let the sponge sit for a while (even longer than you said) and I believe it never got bubbly. Did i miss my window of opportunity? I think i did because on the fourth day it looked like yours did on your 5th day. Any suggestions, i think i am going to toss it... Thanks for the great site, been reading it for years.

Chef John said...

location is the biggest factor, you're wild yeast may not have what it takes! so hard to say though

Jason said...

What do you do if the starter becomes runny like pancake batter, as if there was no gluten formation?

Chef John said...

starter isnt think, the sponge is. if the sponge is watery, somethings wrong. try again, or your area doesnt have enough yeast

Anonymous said...

can you leave your sponge out to ferment for longer than 10 hours? i'm just wondering how much sleep i'm gonna get tonight...

Chef John said...

yes! leave it out

Juan Blanco said...

How long is too long for leaving out the sponge?

I've been following your recipe and, for the most part, have made some excellent bread. I haven't been doing this long enough to get a handle on the time required. Sometimes I end up baking at mid-day, some times as late as 10 pm!!!

Chef John said...

it's not an exact science! You can leave the sponge til the next without a problem I think.

Anonymous said...

HI John,

great video series. The leftover sponge.

How long can i store the sponge in the fridge?
Do i need to keep it in an air tight container?

saro

Chef John said...

Should last forever if you continue to use and refeed

Anonymous said...

there are days missing; 3 & 6?

Mike said...

If as you say, use all of the starter to make the sponge there isn't any starter left for the next batch.

How do I make the next loaf without starter?

Mike said...

If as you say, use all the starter to make the sponge there is no starter remaining to make the next loaf.

How do I retain the original starter yeast/bacillus to make more bread?

Mike said...

I have some Lactobacillus Sanfranciscensis starter that I want to maintain.

If, as you say, 'use all of the starter to make the sponge' then how can I retain the original yeast/starter to make the next loaf?

Chef John said...

The final bread recipe only uses a few cups of sponge, so the letdover becomes the starter for the next time.

Anonymous said...

Hi chef John..if I want to make extra loaves do I simply double the recipe quantities?

Mela said...

Hi John, I will have to put my starter in the fridge before I make my sponge because of timing, do I let it come bake at room temp before I make the sponge? Also I want to make two loaves, so after the sponge is ready do I use 4 cups of it and double the rest of the ingredients to make the bread dough.

Chef John said...

no you can use it cold. yes, just double. enjoy!

Mela said...

Hi John,
Finally I have shaped my bread into a loaf and put it onto a baking tin, waiting for it to double in size, but after 4 hours instead of it looking like a loaf it is looking more like a Ciabatta bread shape, can you think of what I did wronge so that next time I will get a better result.
Thanks

Chef John said...

sorry, but no way I can tell you that from here, without seeing and feeling what you did. Don't worry what it looks like, see what it tastes like.

Mela said...

Hi Hohn...thankyou for your quick replay, even though the bread did look like a ciabatta, it did taste great and the family loved it.I will be doing it again today, so I will keep you posted. One question though...when the loaf is shaped and resting, in one clip you grease glad wrap and put it on the top and in another clip you don't, which is the better way?
Bye for now.

Chef John said...

both! prob better cover lightly. There is no rhyme or reason for some things i do.

Mela said...

Hi John..I made two loaves, one was put into the cold oven and the other had to go into a hot oven because I could not fir them both in at the same time. the one that went in the hot oven had a better crust on the bottom....but either way I was very happy with them.
Thank you so much. Do you have instruction on how to make pizza using some of the starter???

Jenn said...

Hi Chef John! So i'm a little confused, the "sponge" is just another feeding without throwing away half the starter right?
And like a feeding you wait 8-12 hours until you use it, or do you need to put it in the fridge before you use it?

Chef John said...

Yes, the sponge is the beginning of the dough. You leave it out and then finish the last step.

Shandley said...

Hi Chef John!

How much (approximately) of the starter is put into the bowl (you say "all of it").

I have a whole bunch of starter so to make the sponge, it would be good to know.

Thanks! Great videos!

Chef John said...

Sorry, didn't measure, but looks like about 1 1/2 cups?

Unknown said...

Hi John, Love this series and I'm starting my starter today. I have watched all the videos and I'm a little confused about how to continue with the starter after I have removed what I need for my loaf. Do I leave it out and continue to add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water while removing half imperpetuity?

Chef John said...

They say you keep extra starter in fridge and just feed once in a while, but mine died, so you better check with a real baker. ;)

matpic said...

I live near San Antonio Texas. I have been trying to make starter since Saturday. I've been feeding the starter and throwing half out every day. So far, every day it's been thick like the sponge, no watery froth at all. It does however have lots of large and tiny bubbles forming and it almost doubles in size every night and have to knock it down before I throw away half. Am I doing something wrong? or is there a reason I'm not getting the watery froth.

Chef John said...

If its bubbling, you're done! That's a live starter. Make some bread! :)