Sourdough, what does that conjure up in your mind l wonder? Unless you have eaten sourdough bread l should imagine it would be something like me; a heavy,yeasty, horribly sour tasting loaf that is best left to the extreme foodies of this world who have far more ‘cultured’ taste buds than me.
Well, when we returned to the UK recently l called in to Leakers Bakery in Bridport and bought one of their sourdough loaves. We had it toasted the next morning and it was delicious. In fact, it lasted nearly all week. My next step was to buy the River Cottage Handbook No.3 on Bread by Daniel Stevens.For the recipe just click here. If you are into making bread, thought of doing so or even just slightly considered it then you MUST buy this book. It will gently hold your hand throughout the whole process of choosing flours, which yeasts to use and the beautiful process of making your first or even your 50th loaf of bread. I am sure this is the process they must have used back in the war years when yeast was unavailable.
Having made a few loaves already from the book ie. White Loaf, Wholemeal Loaf and Malted Grain, which is excellent by the way, l decided to go for it and produce my own sourdough ‘starter’.
This magical process is a way of making your very own yeast from the natural yeast spores that are all around us by mixing flour with water and leaving it in a warm room for a day or so and wait for the first tell tale signs of tiny air bubbles to appear on the surface. At this stage you know you have just created a life form!
Ohh, scary…a new responsibility has just arrived and one that can, quite literally, stay with you for the rest of your life! Some starters have been around for 30 plus years! Anyway, having just created your new life you must throw half of it away and replace with more flour and water. This is called feeding the starter and has to be done everyday for the first 6 or 7 days. By the end of the week you should have a lively starter that is positively frothing.
You are now ready to make your first loaf of sourdough. The recipe calls for making a ‘sponge’ with flour, water and a ladleful of the sourdough starter. Give it a good mix and leave in a warm place overnight. The next morning add the remaining flour and salt and stir up well. Then get your hands in and scoop the lot out onto a floured surface. Knead well adding a little more flour from time to time until smooth and silky.Place in a clean bowl and cover, leaving to double in size, about an hour. Then turn out and press with your fingertips to get the air out. Shape into a round and place back in the bowl and let it double in size again. Repeat twice again.
Place dough on a floured surface and again, using your fingertips, press it flat. Cut into sections and shape into loaves or place into tins. Cover, and leave to rise until double in size. This could take up to 3 hours. Get your oven up to a high heat, something like 240 or 250c.
I place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to imitate the proper professional steam bread ovens that give the bread a good crust. Slash the tops of the loaves and bake for 10 mins . Check on the crust,if it is browning quickly turn down to 180c. Bake for a further 20 or 30 mins. Let it cool on a rack before slicing.
Well, l couldn’t resist a quick slice. Verdict: It is quite amazing really. To think this has been made with just yeasts from the wild is incredible. It has a nice slight tangy after taste, moist, and l can’t wait to toast some with a dollop of home-made blackberry and apple jam. Let me know if you try this too. Note: This is a labour of love really. It takes up a big chunk of your day but if you have things you can do in-between proving then its not so bad. I managed to sort out all my old CD’s ready for packing!