Single Girl Sourdough

Realistic baking proportions for those sequestering solo.

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Just my size.

Recipes think we’re married. Plain and simple. The portions and quantities assigned to all recipes, apart from those specifically listed in “cooking for one” cookbooks which TBH I’ve always found kinda sad, are inflated to such volume that the average single woman currently quarantining alone has no hope of finishing the fruits of her labor before mold sets in and staleness reigns.

I’ve decided to remedy this injustice.

Baking bread is a coping skill in the best of times, and certainly now that the world has been shaken like a snow globe where the tiny flakes of glitter refuse to settle. We’re all floating, uncertain, and in need of firm ground. Personally, I bake mine. A neat consequence of learning to bake your own bread is that you become really wary of pre-baked bread on shelves in stores for the rest of your life. You start to wonder what else you don’t need someone to do for you. I make my own pickles and jam now, too.

Sourdough is my favorite of all the breads, but I’m not one to devote my life to the care and maintenance of a starter. The cat is quite enough to take care of, thank you. I also don’t trust the fluctuating temperature or internal pH of my Brooklyn apartment, so I’ve had to resort to other methods. The recipe below is my recipe for Single Girl Sourdough, but I do want to give credit to Half Baked Harvest for showing me how to use plain Greek yogurt and an overnight rest to achieve the flavor profile I’m looking for in my carbohydrates.

Here’s the thing about bread baking: It’s a skill you develop over time. You’ll learn by trial and error, you’ll experiment, and you’ll pick up new tips all the time. But really, your own bread instincts and preferences are what will be most important in baking your bread. All that matters is that you like it and want to eat it. Also bread is finicky as hell and sometimes you’ll think you’re doing everything exactly as you did it the last time you made perfect bread and you can still end up with something weird. It’s totally okay.

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This is a version of this recipe made with all white flour instead of the mixture listed below, it was baked for 45 minutes and I forgot to put its little X on. Still worked out great.

I don’t think single people should have to bake married people bread. Therefore, the recipe that follows is sized specifically for one single person to enjoy over the course of one week. Please feel free to substitute like crazy, especially during these days of panic when most grocery store flour shelves are nothing more than trace remnants of white powder. Use what you’ve got.

If you’re reading this and you’re in a couple, double everything. I’m not going to write those proportions out for you, because the halved proportions are never written out for me. If I had to get good at math, so do you.

Single Girl Sourdough

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Rise Time: 2 hours (you can get away with one hour, I just like a long rise)

2nd Rise Time: Overnight (in fridge)

Proof Time: 45 mins while you heat the oven

Bake Time: 45 minutes — ish (you might need an additional 5–10 minutes depending on your oven and the flour you’re using—when I use half whole wheat flour my bread has needed a little more time)

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups of flour (during quarantine, I’m using 1.5 cups of white flour from France that I typically buy on Amazon because it doesn’t hurt my tummy, but I’m almost out of that and freaking out so the remaining 1 cup is organic whole wheat flour I found at a store down the street)
  • 3/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 tsp or half a packet of yeast (don’t stress out about getting this perfect, just get some yeast in there)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (any fat content you want, I use fat free but honestly I don’t think it matters)

Instructions:

  • In the bowl of a mixer with dough hook attached (if you do not have a mixer, use a normal bowl with a big spoon + your hands, I did this for years) add all of the ingredients. You can slowly add in the water last as it’s spinning on a low speed but I don’t think that makes much of a difference.
  • Mix at a low speed until the dough has come together in a tight ball and there isn’t anything left in the bowl. You can scrape the sides down with a spatula when it’s first coming together if you need to. Let the dough knead itself for as long or as little as you want. I myself am a huge fan of kneaded dough over no-knead, I’ve had much better results with bread that’s had the hell beaten out of it first. I usually let mine kick around in there for two or three minutes.
  • Put dough in a bowl and lightly cover with a tea towel, plastic wrap, or beeswax wrap. Let rise for two hours. Watch a movie or something.
  • After two hours, punch into the middle of the dough, reform into a ball, place it back in the bowl with its covering and set it in the fridge overnight. I usually start making this bread around 4pm and set it in the fridge around dinnertime, and I start the proofing process first thing when I wake up.
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This is the dough when it comes out of the fridge in the morning.
  • The next morning, preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and take the dough out of the fridge. Being careful not to knock the air out of it, place your ball of dough in its baking vessel. I’m not precious about what you bake your bread in. I have a Staub dutch oven that I got on sale but you don’t need to buy one if you don’t want to. You could also put this in a loaf pan and cover it with foil as an alternative, or any pot with a lid. The main thing is it needs to be covered. If you’re using something other than a dutch oven your baking times may vary from mine.
  • Your dough will proof in its covered baking vessel for 45 minutes while your oven heats up. After that, slice a little X in the top of your dough with a very sharp knife as shown here. I don’t know why we do this, maybe it just looks nice.
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Post-proofing, with little X on top. Ready to bake!
  • Put your dough in your covered baking vessel inside the preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 400. I don’t know why this is a good idea, but just trust me. Bake for about 45 minutes. Most recipes will tell you that when you tap your bread and it sounds hollow, it’s done, but honestly I’ve never really known what sound I’m supposed to be looking for. My trick, and please don’t hate me if this doesn’t work for you, is that when I stop noticing the smell of baking bread, like literally when it kind of goes away, my bread’s done. This usually happens around 45–50 minutes. Set a timer for 45 minutes and check on your bread. If the crust looks like a deep golden color, it’s probably done.
  • As an aside, a lot of recipes will tell you to take the lid off your cooking vessel for the last 15 minutes or so of the baking process, but I find that my bread achieves my desired level of golden crust-ness and avoids burning when I leave the lid on the whole time. It’s really up to you.
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There is something very satisfying about a grilled cheese sandwich made 100% from scratch. Pro tip: Put a little mayo on the outside of your grilled cheese when you make it. That’s where that lovely golden exterior comes from.
  • Take the dough out of the oven and leave it covered for about five minutes, then uncover and set on a cooling rack if you have one, and if you don’t, a neat trick is to take out an extra oven rack if you have one and use that instead. Just make sure you take it out of the oven before you preheat or bake.
  • Let your bread cool for about an hour if you can wait that long. Then slice and eat. It’s best to store in in something that’s not totally airtight like a bread box, but I don’t have one of those so I usually keep it in a ziplock bag that I don’t close all the way. (I reuse the same bag to reduce waste.)
  • This bread is especially delicious when toasted or used in grilled cheese sandwich format. Enjoy.

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Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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