The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help in the Desert!

Jwertz's picture

Help in the Desert!

I need some help! I love to bake but have never done this from scratch. I'm currently deployed to a desert environment. I took advice from an arizona baker/blog and finally got this starter going. It's finally smelling like real sourdough. Anyway, I have an oven, no Dutch oven, and I can bake in what looks like catering pans. If anyone was in the service, they know what I'm talking about. Metal square pans that have a lid. My tent is cooled to about 90, I do have access to a fridge and have ovens that can go to low temps (like a conventional oven). I'd love to be able to provide fresh bread for our Easter Mass to the service members. I am unsure what the most foolproof method for continuing is. This starter has doubled, smells appropriate. Oh yah I also have no scale or measuring cups. I have ladels that are measured in ounces and found a flour/water conversion online. I tried to proof some bread/previous starter once and it crusted up and went no where- so I have a plastic bag I plan on using next. It's verrrrrry dry and very hot here. Thanks in advance! 

idaveindy's picture

(I'll let others chime in on how to determine if a starter is mature enough to bake with.)

A measure (by volume) of white flour (AP or Bread flour), is about 1/2 the weight of an equal volume measure of water.  That factoid can get you in the ball-park, and from there you can adjust by feel and practice.

 I'm unsure of the relative density and weight of starter -- and it would also depend on hydration and "frothiness."

Here is the simplest sourdough recipe I have found on this web site:


Pulling back a bit, and riffing on basics and make-do:   unleavened flat bread.   Flour, water, salt.  Like a pita, tortilla, or even a cracker.  Or a "wafer" as some relgions use.

On one hand, I respect the goal of providing what your congregants/communicants are used to.  On the other, approximating a 2000 year old (or further back to the Exodus) tradition of unleavened bread can have its points too.

May God bless ya'all.  Happy Easter. He is risen.

Ambimom's picture

This is a tough one.  As for the dutch oven part, just place one of the pans on top of the other, but a dutch oven is not actually necessary for sourdough.  I'd use one ladle of your starter to 8 ladles of flour. [Don't forget to feed your starter at this point and store it in the refrigerator.  That way you don't have to feed it every day.]  Add salt if you have it, maybe 2 TBS.  Just keep adding ladles of water until you have a sticky flour.  Keep kneading and adding water a bit at a time. Bread dough is something you have to "feel" because the amounts of ingredients are variable according to the environments. After you make a few loaves you learn to recognize dough when it is ready.  It should be smooth, but moist, not flour-y.  After you mix your dough, form into loaves (or lump) cover with damp towel and let it rise.  It probably will rise rather quickly in the desert.  The other option is to let it stay overnight in the refrigerator (covered), take it out the next morning, let it rise then.  Bake.  I don't know what "low temps" you have, but 380-390 fahrenheit is enough.  You'll smell the bread when it is ready...maybe 40 minutes, depending on how big your "lump" "loaf"