The Sourdough Process – Day 2: Prep Day

by Heather

When baking sourdough, three days are required. “What?” I can hear you crying. “I thought you said this was easy?!” I promised you it is, and I stand by that. Keep reading!

Day 1 is Leaven Day.

Day 2 is Prep Day, which is the topic of today’s discussion.

Day 3 is Bake Day.

On Prep Day, the dough gets made and then ferments overnight in the fridge. Easy peasy!

Folding and Shaping Dough

Having your prep and bake days on separate days is important, because it makes the goal of baking sourdough every week much more attainable. I sure don’t want to spend an entire day in the kitchen covered in flour, and I doubt you do, either. So, here’s how I do it.

Each day, I’m usually up between 5:00 – 6:00am. Remember, I have a 1- and 2-year-old, so that’s not really by choice. I hit the ground running! Bottles, breakfast, diapers, brushing teeth, getting dressed, it’s all happening by 8:00am. My son takes his first nap around 8:30am, so this is when I start my dough. It takes less than ten minutes, and my daughter loves to watch. I measure my ingredients, mix them together, and cover the bowl with a towel.

Weighing Flour

Then I have 30 minutes to do whatever I want!

Usually this entails reading books or playing with my daughter. I find it’s this tiny space in the day when, because I can’t go far or get too distracted, she gets all my attention. She loves it, and I love it too.

30 minutes later I pop back into the kitchen to add the salt to the dough, then I’m free again for another 30 minutes. I might go get myself dressed at this point, or we’ll take the dogs in the backyard, or throw in some laundry.

Side note: laundry and sourdough prep are a match made in stay-at-home-mom heaven. Because I must be home, I wash everything in sight. Our clothes, kids’ clothes, towels, dog bedding, you name it.

After 30 minutes, we do our first fold. This literally takes 30 freakin’ seconds.

30 minutes later, we do our second fold.

30 minutes later, we do our third fold.

And – you guessed it – 30 minutes later, we do our fourth and final fold.

By now, it’s 11:00am and I have a hundred loads of laundry done, two exhausted doggies, and two kids who are over the moon to have so much of my attention. (And one happy husband who can smell the bread fermenting from his home office.)

Aerated sourdough dough

After the fourth fold, we cover the dough for the bulk fermentation, and we have 90 minutes wide open to do whatever we want.

The next step will happen at 1:00pm, which is coincidentally the time when both kids go for a nap. Once they’re down, I dump my light, fluffy and sweet-smelling dough onto the counter, divide it into two or three loaves, and do a quick and dirty north-south-east-west fold on each. Then they’re left on the counter, covered with a towel, for 30 minutes.

This is when I do the majority of my cleanup. The big mixing bowl is empty, and my leaven jar has had ample time to soak in hot soapy water. Plus, there are no little rugrats pulling at my legs.

Once the dishes are done and the kitchen is semi-tidied (I don’t go crazy because I’m not done dusting flour everywhere), it’s usually time for the final folds. I do a more precise fold on each loaf, then drop them into the proofing baskets.

And the work is done! All that needs to happen now is to allow the loaves to ferment at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then I tuck each one into a Target bag and put them in the fridge.

Voila, I now have prepared sourdough loaves just waiting to be baked.

Sourdough proofing

Now it is about 1:45pm, the kids are still sleeping, I wipe up the remaining flour and I’m done.

See? Super easy!!

Each step is less than 10 minutes. You’re free to do whatever you please for most of the day, you’re just leaving your dough alone to ferment, with the occasional check-in. At this point I will go sit down with a cup of coffee and have 15 minutes to myself before the kids wake up.

I always love the feeling of accomplishment I get once the loaves are tucked away in the fridge. And every time, without fail, I’m amazed at how easy it was. Baking bread using commercial yeast used to amaze and intimidate me, until I made sourdough and yeasted bread became child’s play. But what’s funny is that the sourdough process, although longer, is much simpler than baking anything else. Less time required of you to be in the kitchen. Less dishes. Less mess. And because sourdough is so forgiving, there’s less fear of failure.

So there you have it – a peek into my usual sourdough prep day! I hope this encourages and motivates you to try your hand at baking sourdough. Don’t let it scare you. You can absolutely do this, and I’m here to help! I would love to hear your comments, questions, or details about your own prep day in the comments below!

Next up… Bake Day!!!

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1 comment

Six Easy Ways to Bake Sourdough for Busy Mamas With Kids — Leavenly April 28, 2020 - 9:01 pm

[…] One – Make your leaven in the early morning + mix your dough in the late evening (active time = 30ish minutes; total time = 5+ […]


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