The thing is bread has got expensive and most of it is squashy, steam filled, additive laden rubbish. Artisan bread is expensive and not easy to get. I like a challenge though, and so making sour dough bread has been on my to do list for a while. I did have a stab last October, but the starter didn't froth eagerly, the loaves never really rose and in the end the starter smelled of paint! I gave up.
And then I had another go. . .
The big difference this time is that I've been using mineral water to get my sour dough starter going. When I looked into this last year I found posts saying not to as the minerals are too strong, but when I looked this time I saw mineral water being recommended as the chlorine in tap water can kill the yeast. Turns out that even though I was using filtered water my tap water is not conducive to growing yeast, so having overcome that hurdle I now have a lovely bubbly wild yeast culture. And despite what my web based research led me to believe, once I cracked this issue, cultivating yeast is surprisingly easy.
There's lots of good (and some confusing) advice out there. My favorite resource has been breadtopia. I have broadly followed the method for a starter here. I used a mix of whole meal and rye to begin with - no discarding, just two tablespoons of flour and two of water everyday for 8 days.
|My frothy starter, not as frothy as usual though as I've just reawoken it from being in the fridge.|
Since i've got my starter going there's been no stopping me, but my favourite method is a no knead one. I wrote about no knead bread a couple of years ago here, but I now use a method adapted again from Breadtopia.
My recipe is a bit more intuitive and involves a small knead. As it's a wet dough I was finding it got stuck to the bowl after proofing, but an additional little knead, a bit more flour and prove sorts that out. So here, it is.
My method and ingredients
c. 3.5 cups of flour (I use a mixture of white, whole meal and rye) plus a bit more for dusting and kneading.
1.5 tsp of salt
0.5 cup of starter
2.25 cups of mineral water
Mix the flour and salt together.
Add the starter and water and mix. Add a bit more flour if it's very very wet. You should have a wetish, but cohesive dough. Might take some trial and error.
Dust with flour and place in a bowl covered with cling film.
Leave to rise (ideally) somewhere warm for between 4 and 8 hours.
After the dough has risen, sprinkle on a bit more flour and knead a few times until smooth (say about 30 seconds, this isn't a laborious step).
Dust the bottom of the bowl with more flour and shape you loaf into a nice round shape. Place it back into the floury bowl and cover again with cling film. Put the bowl somewhere warm.
Turn on the oven and preheat to gas mark 8. Take a large oven proof pot with a lid and place in the oven. Heat it up for 30-40 minutes. At the end of this time put the bread in the pot, put the lid on and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid (be careful it's super hot) and bake for another 15 minutes. Voila! You have bread.
And actually, since originally drafting this post I have taken an even less rigid approach. Today I put a full cup of starter in my bowl (the starter had been in the fridge so I thought it might need a bit of extra yeast) along with 3 cups of organic white bread flour and 2 cups of water. When I mixed it it was a bit wet so I shook in some wholemeal flour until it was about right. I left it overnight (it wasn't particularly warm where I left it). This morning the dough was very sticky so I added more white flour until it was smooth and left it for about an hour to proove. Here is the result:
|Bread - it nearly fills the bottom of my 5L pot!|
What I should also say is that as I add extra flour and another proove my dough is less holey than it would otherwise be. Some people are really after the holes in sourdough, but I don't have a sour dough basket to help with handling, so I forego the holes. It still tastes good and is a good texture though.
And the very best thing is, this good quality sour dough loaf costs about £1, less if I use just wholemeal and not organic flour.