I'm not a great teacher. In fact, if you've only met me in this space, you may not realise it but I'm a terrible speaker in public. But I wanted to be part of this. A farm blitz with a workshop component so participants take home useful skills! Great idea!!
For ages I've been thinking I should post about sour dough making and now I think the time is right. Hopefully I can explain it clearly in writing.
The first thing I need to tell you is that sour dough bread is a process rather than a precise recipe but do not be put off by this. It is the easiest bread I've ever made. Just follow my instructions below and you will fall in love with the resulting bread.
The easiest way for me to teach you is just to show you exactly what I did in my kitchen today. I had seven and a half cups of sponge (I'll tell you how to make the sponge in a minute). The sponge should get past the frothy stage and start to look bubbly like mine is in the middle. Then it's ready to use. I could have even let it get bubblier than this mix.
Making the bread
Bake the loaves (or loaf if you're only making one) for about forty minutes. You'll know when it's cooked by tipping it out of the tin and rapping it with your knuckles. It sounds hollow then it's done. If not, or if you're not sure, chuck it back in the oven. Cooking it longer will just make the crust very crunchy. It won't overcook the bread.
Now for all the nitty gritty tips -
- don't be scared to try. It's easier than you think
- know that this is an imprecise process, you're dealing with a living ingredient
- Use a ceramic or glass bowl to prove your sponge, metal can inhibit the rising action
- near enough is good enough. I don't measure. I just guess.
- some days it will rise quicker than others, depends on humidity, temperature etc.
- the amount of flour needed will vary depending on the type of flour and weather conditions
- if you make wholemeal the texture is better if you do half and half wholemeal and white flour, it will also rise better
- sour dough slows down in the fridge. If you want to slow the rise of the bread (if you need to go to bed before it's ready etc.) then put it in the fridge. Same with the starter. If you won't use it for a while put it in the fridge. I think of it as putting it to sleep.
- If you want to add fun stuff like sun dried tomato and olives or similar, do it at the kneading stage.
A sponge is the term for the mix you prepare from the starter when you want to make some bread. To make the sponge you need to add the same amount of flour and water as there is starter. So if I have two cups of starter, I would add 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water to make the sponge. You leave it until it's bubbly and then make your bread. You don't need to panic about getting back to it at exactly the right time. It will be ready for several hours. I generally make it at night so that it's ready to go in the morning sometime.
Feeding the starter
Because sour dough needs to be kept active, it needs to be fed. To feed the starter just put half the flour and water to starter. If you have half a cup of starter, add a quarter cup of flour and a quarter cup of water. The reason is that you don't want to waste your flour if you're not making bread with it. You just want to keep it active. Obviously if you don't make a loaf with it and you keep adding by feeding it, you will end up with more starter. Therefore, when you have all the starter you want, just tip half out before adding your flour and water so that you don't end up with a giant amount.
If you don't plan to make bread for a few days or weeks, put your starter in the fridge. It will be fine in there for quite a while. It will separate and have a liquid on the top. I just stir it back in and then add flour and water and put it back on the bench when I'm ready to bake again. Some people choose to pour it off for a milder flavoured bread. The starter has a good sour, fermenty smell. It doesn't smell off.
I wash my pot whenever I make bread before putting the starter back in.
Sour dough is kind and forgiving. Please, even if my description sounds overwhelming, just try it. It will make so much more sense when you are actually doing it.
I am assuming in this post that you can get some starter from someone. If not, google it. Mine was given to me and I don't know this step in the process.
Oh, and you're not supposed to cut a loaf until it cools but I couldn't care less. Straight from the oven, when it's hot, tasty and aromatic, I spread it with plenty of butter and ENJOY!
Good luck with your bread making! Following are some photos of this week's workshop.
|how we rose our bread quickly|
|a quick spot of gardening|
|the amazing oven we got to play with|