Sourdough Bread is one of life’s better things, currently undergoing a revival and becoming a foodie event rather than just a food.
Actually it is possibly the most artisan of foods, unique to the maker and the one food form that can make an honest claim to terroire.
No yeast is added to the flour but yeasts for rising are airborne and unique to each location, and it is this factor that makes each loaf unique. If you give a starter to a friend a mile away it quickly becomes unique to them. Since some Sourdough starters are over 150 years old and have travelled great distances with their baker owners, and have been divided and shared many times a whole range of starters exist.
So, how does it all work?
Starting with the principle that yeasts are everywhere a Sourdough starter harnesses them, and any naturally occurring yeasts in the flour to start a leaven. Basically strong (bread)flour and water are mixed and left to ferment.
Some recipes use Plain flour in the starter, my preference is for the Strong and I always use good flour such as Bacheldre Mills. The ferment (starter) is fed equal amounts of flour and water on a daily basis until it becomes light and fluffy, full of bubbles and “active”. A yeasty, sour smell will develop and this is just what you are looking for.
Some of the starter is removed and mixed with more flour and water to form the “sponge” which will then be risen for 12-24 hours and mixed with more flour, Water and salt to make the dough. This is then kneaded, shaped and risen for 6 -8 hours before baking.
The unused starter can be rested and reactivated by feeding when next required.
One of the miracles of nature Sourdough requires only flour, water and time to develop and bake into a tasty loaf with a good chewy crust and pleasing crumb.
This post will be a step by step examination of baking a loaf.
Firstly 2oz water and 2oz flour are mixed together and placed in a covered bowl to stand for 24 hours at room temperature. The next day another 2 and 2 feed is given and stirred in. Gradually bubbles start to form and rise to the surface as the starter activates.
I usually feed for 4 days so that I have added 16oz to the original 4. By this time the starter has really got going and developed a pillowy texture.
9oz of the starter are removed and mixed in a bowl with 9oz flour and 5oz water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. This is the Sponge which is covered and left for 12-24 hours to activate.
The following day the sponge is mixed with 18oz flour, 2 tbsp. Olive Oil, 1tsp sugar, 2 tsp salt and 5oz water and mixed to a dough then kneaded and shaped. Left for 6-8 hours to rise – or overnight in a cold place (even your fridge will still rise the bread) the loaves are cut on top before baking – use a very sharp knife or razor blade. This allows the bread to swell during the early baking process and gives a decorative top.
|Water and OIlive Oil added|
Slow rising allows the gluten to really work and produces a better loaf.
So what are you waiting for? Get the flour out, get that starter going and within a week you will have a loaf that is Local and Great, and when the starter looks like it is about to take over the world like a 1950’s Sci-Fi movie spread the love, give someone else a bit of starter and let the process begin again.
|Only sharing can save the world|
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