How to make sourdough and enjoy amazing flavoured breads any time you want.
To buy sourdough loaves costs a lot these days, but you can easily become a sourdough baker yourself and make these delicious loaves for family and friends.
The ingredients are basic; just flour, water, sugar and salt. You don’t even need to buy yeast! If you can make bread, you can make sourdough bread and rolls.
Your starter is a batter that you keep in your fridge. The starter is a yeasty mix of flour and water. The starter is alive and with just a little care will stay alive for generations. Some bakers have sourdoughs that are quite literally hundreds of years old! If you can convince a baker to give you a little cupful of their starter, that is great, otherwise it is no particular problem to make your own.
Creating a starter
Blend equal quantities of warm water and flour. No need to measure, a coffee cupful of each will be plenty. Keep the starter in a warm place and ‘feed’ it every 24 hours. Cover with a loose fitting lid so that natural yeasts in the air can get in.
This technique works pretty much everywhere except the antartic where there are too few yeast spores in the air. If you happen to be in the artic, use a little packet yeast to start things off.
‘Feeding means throwing half your sourdough starter away and then adding a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water and giving it a mix. Within a few days to a week, there should be loads of tiny bubbles throughought the starter, and a pleasant, slightly sour smell. The smell is why it is called sourdough. You may find that during the process it splits, leaving a watery layer below the bubbles. This is not a problem; simply stir to reamalgamate. If it is totally full of bubbles and smells like beer, then your sourdough starter is ready.
The combination of natural yeasts and “friendly” Lactobacillus bacteria is not only great at producing a delicious open textured bread, it also allows you to make loaves with no kneading whatsoever.
Using the Sourdough
Now that the dough is ready it can be stored in the fridge and you only need to feed it once a week. Keep it is a small kilner jar in the fridge door.
When you want to make bread, preheat the oven and take half the starter from the fridge (remembering to top up the stater) and use what you have taken out as follows.
Measurements are simple.
1 part starter
1 part water
3 parts flour
salt (1 -2 tsp per large loaf)
Simply mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and leave for 8 hours under a damp cloth. At the end of this period it will have ballooned in size. Gently remove from the bowl, trying not to knock the air bubbles out and put on a well floured surface. Fold the four sides over so that there is flour all around the outside and place the loaf onto a baking sheet and into the oven.
Half an hour later, you will have some of the best bread you have ever tasted. The loaf is ready when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle. Easy and delicious.
Over the next few weeks you will probably experiment with a number of loaves. Alter the moisture content of the dough a little and see whether you like a slightly drier or wetter loaf.
If your sourdough starter smells strongly of alcohol, then pour off some of the liquid and add a bit more flour than usual over the next few weeks of feeding.
Some thoughts about flour
Often people will expect sourdough breads to taste ‘sour’. However this is because some manufacturers actually add a weak acid to their mix and people become used to this. In order to boost the sourness of your bread in the old fashioned non-chemical way, mix 80% white and 20% whole wheat flour in your recipe. The whole wheat really adds an extra sour note to the final loaves.