Isolation Sourdough With Rusty

April 02, 2020 5 min read

Rusty Ockenden has been making his own sourdough bread for 3 years and he's become quite the expert at it. With the majority of places practicing social distancing and resorts closed for the season, there's no better time than now to share his talents outside of snowboarding with you.

Check it out below and give it a go yourself - tag us on Instagram @endeavorsnow and show us your own homemade bread.


I have been making breads for over 3 years now. All kinds of sourdoughs. Fat ones, flat ones, burned ones, cranberry ones, cheese ones (two cheese, three cheese, even four cheese ones!), roasted garlic ones, charcoal powder ones, walnut ones, ones that you talk to, ones that you yell at. Every one has it’s own unique flavour and that’s what will keep you busy with this until the day that you eventually perish (But your sourdough starter will continue to live on... hopefully).


Our top 3 Sourdough uses

TOAST

Who doesn't love a slice of fresh bread generously coated in butter? The next best thing to buttering on your snowboard.

GRILLED CHEESE

The comfort food to end all comfort food. Goes with anything and you can fill it with whatever you want. Gooey, warming, great for the soul!

TRADING

Trade bread with your crazy neighbours for a wild boar, slippery salmon or a years supply of peanut butter...


Step 1: Understanding Your Starter

Your starter, or Mother as Rusty likes to call it, is your yeast colony. Typically living in a large mason jar, this is your new best friend (especially  during social distancing). You must feed your starter in equal parts flour and water (1:1 ratio) to activate it. Natural yeasts will start to develop in the jar and consume the sugars in the flour which causes them to off-gas (think yeast farts). These yeast farts create small bubbles in the jar causing your starter to expand in a process that can take about a day. Then it's time to strike....

Of course if this bit sounds like too much hard work you can always pinch a piece of a friends starter! Rusty got his from a friend who'd had it for 27 years. Add the time Rusty's been baking with it and it's celebrating its 30th birthday! He's even divided his starter up to make more mother's for the snowboard community - MFR, Austen Sweetin, Chris Rasman, Shin Campos, Rube Goldberg... He's really just started a pyramid scheme of sourdough.

Feeding the starter

Step 2: Making the dough

Take some (but not all!) of your starter - around 180g is a good amount - and put it into a separate mixing bowl. Unlike regular bread where you have to add yeast, your sourdough starter has already done the work for you. Add 750g of flour and 500g of water to the bowl and mix it all thoroughly. At this point your arms are likely to be feeling a little tired from wrestling with the dough so take a small break, drink a glass of water (or a beer, there's no rules in social isolation) and add 15g of salt to the mix then get back in and mix it some more.

Round 2 - The dough is starting to treat you like Mike Tyson treats a sparring partner. It's tough and it isn't giving up. Rusty normally lasts about 30 seconds here... but if you can make it to 5 minutes of mixing you're doing well. Next, cover the bowl with a plastic bag (check your local ocean if you're having trouble finding one) and leave the yeast to do its thing.

Dividing the starter
Simple ingredients

Step 3: It's all about the timing

"This is the part that takes a lot of time to perfect. I've been up at 4am putting bread in the oven. I've had to leave the backcountry early to rush home and bake bread. This is going to be the deciding factor of your breads complexity and if you're going to be eating a nice airy sourdough or a tough European flatbread..."

Try to leave the dough for 10-14 hours. After this the dough is going to be full of air and will have risen quite a bit. You're now ready to shape your loaf. Sprinkle a light coating of flour onto your counter (not too much) and place your loaf onto it. At this point it helps if you've got a bench knife or multi-scraper. Starting at the top, fold the dough over to the middle of the loaf and repeat all the way round. Flip the loaf over so the smooth side is now up and use your hands to shape the loaf into a round. If you need help with this step YouTube is your friend!

Transfer your loaf to a banneton... Oh who are we kidding you're not going to have one of those... Ok so transfer the loaf to a bowl lined with a flour covered towel and cover it to do its final rise - around 3 hours.

Preparing the loaf
Looks like bread

Step 4: Baking time

If you've made it this far you're doing well. But let's face it what else would you be doing in social isolation? Especially now you've run out of Netflix shows to marathon through.

Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C and get ready for the best smell ever. Rusty uses a Dutch oven for the bake (sidenote: he has Dutch heritage) but you can use a regular baking tray if you like (you'll get the best results with a Dutch oven though.) Gently transfer the loaf from your banneton or bowl into Dutch Oven or tray and make a 2-3 inch slash across the top of the loaf. This lets the steam escape, helping the dough to expand. Put it in the over for 30 minutes with the lid on and 20 minutes with the lid off (if using a Dutch oven). When the bake is finished, remove it from the oven and prop it up (a wire rack works best) so it can cool from all directions.

Fresh isolation sourdough

"Why 30 minutes with the lid on and 20 off you ask? We leave the lid on to trap the moisture in the pot. Remember those yeast farts? Well those are now heating up and expanding (check it out, it's science) helping the loaf to rise. If the lid is off then the top will crust over and the yeast farts won't be able to expand the dough any more."

Step 5: Enjoy


Rusty's top tips

TIMING

Try feeding the starter at 9am, mixing the loaf at 7pm, fold and shape at 10am the next day and bake at 1pm. You may need to tweak depending on how warm your house is but it's a good start.

STICKY

Bread sticking the the banneton or bowl. A hugely deflating experience when you've poured hours into a loaf. Flour it well and my advice - try using brown rice flour.

BURN

Forgetting to set a timer. A killer for any loaf. This is the only thing I ever use "Hey Siri" for.

Making sourdough is really enjoyable. Some people get it right away and some people are like me and f*#k it up a lot while learning. I recommend checking out some YouTube videos for more help. It's also a bottomless pit of things to learn and nerd out on (read: science) if that's the kind of person you are.

Rusty Ockenden

We'd love to see your isolation sourdough pics so make sure to tag us on Instagram @endeavorsnow.

Not into baking? Show us what else you've been doing to fill your days and enrich (get it? It's a bread joke!) your life during this difficult time.



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