Sourdough

With COVID-19 still imposing restrictions on movement, many people have had the time to try new things.   Sourdough seems to be having a moment with lots of you making (or getting hold of) a starter.  As someone who has been making sourdough for more years than I care to remember,  I have been asked by a few people just how to keep a starter going once past the initial week of growing it.

Despite the rumours, sourdough is not difficult.   When you are used to it it fits around you.   It is a different process from other bread and I think that is why people are a bit confused.

I won’t go into the health benefits as I am sure you probably already have read about this bread being easier to digest and the reasons why.   I am also assuming you have a starter already or will follow a guide elsewhere.  It’s over 20 years since I made one!

The main places where people go wrong is in keeping the starter going and worrying about kneading so I am going to confine this post to those topics.  You can use whatever bread flour (or combination of types) you want, and indeed I love lots of different types though my favourite is malted brown, and I have suggested some seeds or nuts you may want to use in addition.  But experiment and personalise according to your taste.

Feeding your starter (if leaving bread to prove overnight in fridge)  

  • The day before you want to make bread, start feeding your starter.  This ensures it is lively and active for bread making.
  • Take it out of the fridge and add 4tbsp flour and 4tbsp water (pref filtered).  Mix well and leave out overnight. Photo shows before and after final feeding.
  • The next morning repeat the previous step and leave until the afternoon when the starter should be bubbling and lively.image

Dont forget to save at least 2 tbsp of starter back every time you make bread so you have enough to build on for the next batch.
If you need a break the starter will keep happily in the fridge for 2-3 weeks without feeding.  Don’t worry if the surface turns black or has white mould on it after this time.   That’s normal.  Simply remove the effected part and use the untainted starter underneath to start building again

44478926-94CD-4849-8B5D-340C2EA4D967Sourdough Bread Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500g bread flour
  • 50g seeds and/or nuts (pumpkin,sunflower, linseed, walnuts etc) optional
  • 325g water (filtered if poss)
  • 100g starter
  • 10g sea salt
  • flour for dusting

 

Method

  1. Place water into large mixing bowl and mix in the starter.  Add flour and mix into a sticky dough. Cover with a tea towel (or I use a shower cap) and leave for 30 mins.  It is a wetter dough than traditional bread as it needs higher hydration levels for the starter to work properly.
  2.  Sprinkle with salt and a splash of water and mix again.  Cover and leave for a further 30 mins.  By not adding salt at the beginning you are allowing the wild yeasts to establish (salt inhibits/kills yeast) and giving your sourdough a softer crumb.
  3. Instead of traditional kneading you build the gluten in your sourdough by “turning” or “folding “.  With wetted hands (put under tap then shake off excess so dough doesn’t stick to your fingers as much) take a corner of the dough, lift it up and across to the centre pushing in in. Do this rotating the bowl each time till you have done each corner. I like to repeat it till I have made 12 folds each time.  Cover and leave a further 30 mins
  4. Repeat process 5 times more each 30 mins (approx).  The dough will become less sticky each time.30 mins after the last fold tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. And pull into a rough square shape.
  5. Bring each corner into the centre to form a parcel/envelope shape.  It is then easy to draw all the sides into a ball shape, eventually
    turning the dough over so the seams are underneath.  Tension the surface by making a light chopping motion horizontally at the base so that you are drawing the top surface of your dough tighter.
  6. Choose a bowl that will act as your shaper and is twice the size of your dough.
  7. Take a piece of baking parchment that is just bigger than the size of the bowl when you push it in,rub it with a couple of drops of oil, then do the same with a couple of drops of water.  Sprinkle the prepared paper lightly with flour.  Put your dough onto this (seam side down) and then lower into your chosen shaping bowl.  Lightly coat the top of you dough with oil before covering with shower cap (or clingfilm)  and place in fridge overnight.  If you want to cook it sooner leave to prove for 4-5 hours till dough is half as big again. 
  8. In the morning place a tray or a cast iron casserole in your oven and turn the heat up as high as possible. Remove bread from fridge
  9. After 30 mins remove dough covering and score with serrated knife.  Sprinkle top with flour
  10. If using casserole take of lid and lower the dough on paper in and putting lid back on.  Bake for 35 mins at 220/200 fan removing lid for last 10 mins.  If using tray,  place dough on paper on tray and return to oven and throw in a teacup of water on the base of oven (this will help the dough rise) and bake for 35 mins at 220/200 fan turning down or putting in cold sheet above loaf  if top browns too quickly.
  11. Cool on wire rack

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8 Comments

    • Lickthespoon says:

      I have indeed and infact my starter is only made and fed with rye.
      When actually making the loaf itself as opposed to the starter if you only use rye flour it’s tasty but a much denser loaf. I tend to use 20% rye flour in my mix with spelt whole meal and white. But if you don’t mind a denser loaf all rye is delicious and made the same but don’t look for the same rise

      • Tamara says:

        Thank you. I have an all-rye starter and usually make a rye-flour-only loaf which I love but I’d like to try making a free standing loaf too. This seems quite impossible to me as rye dough is very wet and runny and is always baked in bread form. Guess I would have to add some other flour, as you suggest, to make it more “stable”.

      • Lickthespoon says:

        I’d love to know how you get on. Do let me know as it’s great to learn from one another.

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