Dough!

A few weeks ago, before we were all confined to barracks, I decided that it would be interesting to have a go at making sourdough bread. It takes a while to get the starter in a usable state and my first attempt just didn’t work – ending up watery and smelling rather unpleasant. Attempt number two was much more of a success and I have been carefully nurturing my lovely culture for a couple of weeks now. And then yesterday I noticed that it had gone mad and was bubbling out of it’s jar. So, the time was right to give it a go. I wanted to start simple and so I settled on a white loaf.

There’s mixing and kneading and leaving it to prove twice before finally knocking it back, shaping it in a basket and leaving it overnight in the refrigerator. after all the investment in time, I was itching to find out what it would be like. And the result? Delicious – a wonderful light loaf, not at all sour, but with a different taste to yeasted bread and a great texture. The next challenge is to keep the starter (now transferred to a much bigger jar) happy long-term and to experiment with some other flavours.

The recipe I worked from was in the Shipton Mill book A handful of flour. The starter is made with 1/5 wholewheat flour and 4/5 strong white flour, mixed with the same weight of water. I fed it every day for over a week, then every couple of days for another 10 days or so.

I like yeasted bread, but this is a rather good alternative – and how bread was originally made before commercial yeast was available. I’m really taken with the idea that every culture is unique because it’s the result of the person who makes it and the place and the specific conditions as well as the ingredients selected. So my sourdough will taste different to that made by anyone else – how great is that? Do you have experience of making sourdough?

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23 Comments

  1. Impressive. Steve today got heartburn from the one bread he had been OK with. And you know me and cooking – not a good mix. Don’t know where this will end up!

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    • Sourdough is supposed to be much more digestible that yeasted bread because the micro-organisms have so much longer to digest the flour. I don’t know whether this is true, but the stuff I made certainly tasted good.

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  2. Yay, good on you! I used to make sourdough bread back in the 70’s and 80’s – my kids were raised on it. I only gave it up when I got so busy with teaching there was no time to remember to feed the bug, nor to make the bread. In recent times I have returned to eating sourdough as it’s the only way my gut can handle wheat. But I buy it from a local artisan baker – Bought it from a local baker – past tense now. It did cross my mind to start another bug, but I know it took several months before my original starter-bug became really strong and healthy and it is only me and I don’t eat that much bread anyway… so the thought died away. But yes, I can attest to the fact that sourdough (the real stuff, not the pretend stuff you buy commercially mass produced) is better for the gut and therefore our digestion.

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    • I’m surprised how quickly my culture has got working… perhaps it likes the sunshine. It’s now residing in the fridge, so it doesn’t get too exuberant for a while!

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      • I was thinking, I was terribly healthy back then and only used local, organic products and that was back in the early days when organic flour was a bit like straw – that probably slowed my culture down – and added a solidity to the finished product that is lacking today 😀

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  3. Sounds and looks great. I used to make bread sometimes, with yeast, and once made a couple of french loaves for a dinner party (back in the day). I was expecting great praise from my guests, but not one person believed I’d made them myself – so I never bothered again !!!! 🙂

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  4. I made my first sourdough yesterday – we always make our own bread but there is a shortage of dried yeast just now, so sourdough seemed like a sensible option. Yours looks impressively light. Mine was denser, yummy when warm, and gave me indigestion afterwards – but I think that’s because I ate too much!
    It is nice to think that folk are having similar experiences at opposite ends of the country, and indeed the globe!

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    • How strange that we should be doing the same thing at the same time. I was surprised how much my bread rose, but then the started did seem to be especially active, plus, the starter does predate the lockdown, so has had chance to get going… apparently they get stronger with time. We do have dried yeast here at home, but I noticed when I went shopping yesterday that there was none on the shelves, so I’m feeling slightly ahead of the game.

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  5. I love sourdough bread and did make it a couple of times – I think I was given a starter from someone else’s. The problem I had was that a loaf lasts rather a long time and I was feeding the starter and either throwing some away or needing bigger and bigger jars! I gather it can be frozen but then I would have to remember to thaw it and revive it. In the end it went funny through neglect and I went back to using dried yeast.

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    • I am trying to keep the starter a manageable size by discarding two thirds of it before I use it. I’ll either use the removed part to make bread or do what I’ve been doing up until now and feed it to the hens. If we ever get to meet up again I can bring you some to use and then you wouldn’t need to keep your own culture going.

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  6. I’ve been making sourdough bread for some years now and would recommend a visit to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog. She is incredibly generous with her knowledge, and there are loads of recipes available. I also use recipes from The Clever Carrot (Emilie Raffa) , and her book is excellent. Enjoy your starter – they’re like gold in the fridge!

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  7. I make bread with commercial yeast but I have never tried sourdough. Yours looks fantastic! Maybe sometime I will give it a try.

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  8. How funny, I just set up my own starter a few days ago. Mine doesn’t look ready for using just yet, but there are definitely some wee bubbles in there. It’s strangely exciting.

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