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Giving sourdough a go!

March 9, 2019

Hello all.  Another account of my adventures in the kitchen.  I love to try new things and for two years I’ve been meaning to get around to making sourdough bread.  A year or so ago I was lucky enough to be offered a place on a course run by Cracking Good Food: a Manchester based social enterprise that teaches and trains people to cook from scratch. 70% of their work is community outreach which is funded by their cookery schools. (www.crackinggoodfood.org)

 

Our teacher, Rob, had such a passion for bread, especially sourdough.  He made us feel as if bread was the most important thing in the world!  I loved it and would highly recommend the course.  Alas, we only had a day so sourdough wasn’t possible but my curiosity was peaked. 

 

Sourdough, for those who aren't sure, is the name given to bread that uses wild yeast found in the flour and in the air.  Sourdough bread is thought to be more nutritious than regular bread and much easier for our bodies to digest.  The making of it is a longer process than with ordinary bread due to the fermentation time but I’m told it is worth the effort. 

 

Now, I’m a big bread fan and my usual bread routine is to fire up the bread maker at home when we are running low.  I can prepare a loaf in 5 minutes and 3-5 hours later with no work at all from me, I have a freshly baked delicious loaf.  Many people have told me I must have to be very organised to do this, well making sourdough required a whole new level of organisation…and patience!   I started on a Monday and I finally baked my first loaf the following Saturday!

 

Here’s a summary of what went on.  First the starter…

 

DAY 1

 

I mixed 75g of rye flour with 75ml of water* in a glass container and let on the countertop in the kitchen.  I covered it loosely with just a piece of kitchen towel.  (*I read mineral water is best but with all of my kitchen projects that require water I simply use water that has been boiled and then left overnight uncovered to allow the evaporation of the chlorine.)

 

DAYS 2 - 4

 

I fed the starter with 75g rye flour and 75ml water and mixed.  I added a little more water if I felt it was too doughy.  It was always gloopy and pourable.

 

DAY 5

 

The starter was bubbly and had a lovely sour smell to it, a bit like hops, which told me it was ready to use.  (Actually, it was my very helpful co-worker, Paul, that told me it was ready to use.  As a seasoned sourdough maker, he reassured me many times along the way via WhatsApp in response to my many ‘is this normal?’ photo messages.  Thanks Paul!)

 

Anyway, ready to go!  The wholemeal sourdough loaf.

 

I added 500g of wholemeal flour to a bowl, with 8g fine salt, mixed and made a well in the middle.  Then I added to the well 100g of my sourdough starter.  Then I added 315ml of water slowly whilst mixing the mixture till a loose dough was formed.  I covered the bowl with a damp tea towel and left it on the countertop ion the kitchen overnight (12 hours or till double in size).

 

 

DAY 6

 

In the morning I turned the dough out onto a floured worktop and kneaded it for about 10 minutes.  I had the help of this big plastic card which we were given on the bread course.  It helped scrape the mixture off the worksurface, my hands etc.  I had to reflour the surface and my hands quite a bit as the mixture was quite wet.  Then I put the dough into a greased bread tin and again left it on the countertop for the rest of the day.  After 8-12 hours (or till double in size) I baked the loaf in a hot oven (220C) for 30 minutes.  When baked I removed from the oven and left to cool on a wire rack. 

 

 

 

Then I took a step back to admire the small loaf it had taken 6 days to make! 

 

The mister and I dug in whilst it was still a little warm and it was so so good.  The sour after taste was just the right level of sour and the texture was perfect.  Lots of little air bubbles made it nice and soft inside but with a perfect crusty outer.   I’ve since done it again with the same starter, so now just a two day process, but made bigger batches for freezing. 

 

 

 

I’m told that if you are baking regularly, when you remove some of the starter, feed again and keep loosely covered at room temperature.  If you are baking less often you can keep the starter in the fridge and feed it every 5 days or so, removing half and feeding with flour and water. Mine was a bit scary looking after 5 days but Paul (yey Paul!) reassured me it was fine and, a day before using it, remove from fridge, uncover, give it a stir and a feed and bring it back to room temperature to make it bubbly again.

 

 

Well, I hope this little adventure of mine into sourdough bread has been useful.  It's not such a difficult task to undertake and it was quite fun getting so hands on making bread for a change!  I'll be continuing to make it and so any hints and tips are welcome!  Thank you for reading.  See you in the shop!

 

 

 

 

 

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