Sourdough bread – slow food

6 Aug

For the past few months I have been making sourdough bread every few days. This is not a bread you can decide to do on the spur of the moment. Sourdough makes use of the wild yeast that is present on almost all fruit and grains. If you want to make this delicious and relatively healthy bread, read on.

Firstly you need to create a sourdough starter culture. I hope you have a week to spare. You will need some strong white bread flour and a large (1 litre) sealable jar, such as a Kilner jar. Exact quantities and timing are not too important, but it helps to stick roughly to these rules.

  1. Weigh out 70 grams of flour and put it into the jar. Add 70 ml of warm water to the flour and stir to form a thick smooth batter – I use a chopstick for this.
  2. Seal the jar and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours.
  3. Add another 70 grams of flour and 70 ml of warm water and mix.
  4. Repeat daily for another 5 days.

The culture should start to bubble after about three days, depending on temperature and amount of yeast present.

The culture is a bit like having a pet. It needs looking after. I call mine Kevin.

‘Kevin’ the culture

After a week the culture should be quite active and is ready to be used to make bread. You should store it in the fridge until required. You should continue to feed the culture every few days – depending on how often you make bread. You can put a grape in the dough if the reaction has not started after three days – take it out once the dough is bubbling!

Take the culture out of the fridge the night before you intend to make bread.

Basic sourdough recipe:

  1. 150 grams of starter culture
  2. 500 grams of flour
  3. 320 ml of warm water
  4. 1 teaspoon salt

I mix this using the dough programme of my bread maker, but by hand is probably more satisfying. I don’t intend to give lessons on kneading here, but I will say that the dough should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled baking tin and leave to rise. Dependent on temperature, this can take between three and twelve hours. The longer the rise, the better the flavour. The dough should roughly expand by about 4 times before it is ready to bake. This is dependent on the type of flour used. Wholemeal does not rise as much as white and rye and other grains will also reduce the size of the loaf.

Heat the oven to 180 C before baking. Dress the risen loaf with a little sifted flour or sprinkle some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or poppy seeds over the top to make the final result attractive. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack. When the underside of the baked loaf is tapped it should sound hollow when it is ready. The loaf should rise a little more when baked.

This is a half size loaf – the whole mixture being 400 grams strong white bread flour and 100 grams rye flour. For smaller loaves reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes.

Enjoy the warm bread with whatever you like. It keeps quite well and makes great toast.

Variations on the recipe involve different flours, and additions such as onion and seeds. More will follow.

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