Time is On Your Side

Making a good loaf of sourdough bread takes about 24 hours. There’s no way to rush it, but the good news is most of the work happens by itself.

The ingredients couldn’t be simpler: flour, water, sourdough starter, and salt. You make it like this:

At about 8am, you feed your starter with 75g of flour and 75g of water. This takes about a minute, maybe two.

At noon, you mix together your flour (1kg) and water (770g) by hand. This might take five minutes.

An hour after that, you add starter (150g) and salt (30g) and mix again. Another 3-5 minutes.

Then, every half an hour for the next three hours, you stretch and fold the dough a few times. Call that two minutes each half hour plus an extra minute each time to wash your hands.

Then you let the dough rest for five hours (rest = do nothing), and then you shape the dough. Shaping takes 10 to 15 minutes assuming you want a clean counter at the end.

Finally, you put it in your refrigerator to proof overnight.

The next morning, at around 8am again, you bake the bread. This requires 10 total minutes of activity and a bit of hovering (500 degree oven preheating for 45 minutes, then 20 minutes baking covered and 25 more uncovered).

At the end, you have hot, delicious, fresh bread. I always make two loaves and the first one is gone, every time, within an hour.

The point, besides demystifying sourdough, is this.

So much of the important work we do with people involves a bit of effort and attention up front and then letting the things we’ve set in motion—ideas, suggestions, words of support, challenges—evolve over time. Our job is to remain present and available, but we don’t have to do all the work.

The two mistakes to avoid are:

  1. Putting off having that first, foundational conversation, because then we lose the power of time being on our side.
  2. Thinking that the entire problem needs to be solved, today, by us, right now. More often than not, for important things, we can’t force it. Ideas need to take on a life of their own. People need time to work through their reactions, emotions and fears. Important things take time to process. Plans have dependencies and interconnections.

Great outcomes happen when we set things in motion early, remain available and present when needed, and let things run their course (with a few adjustments, based on our care and our experience, by us when needed). Nature, and time, are on our side.

And, for those who are just here for the sourdough, all I did to learn how to make amazing bread was to follow every instruction in this one video, 15 Mistakes Most Beginner Sourdough Bakers Make, from Mike Greenfield at Pro Home Cooks.