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Making Bread (2): Sourdough

This post follows on from the last 'bread blog'

An example of a sourdough loaf

As promised in my last blog I've managed to get my hands on sourdough starter (again, thanks Mia!). It's definitely been an experience but as in the previous fermentation diary kombucha there's a lot of hearsay about how to use it online.

History

An important piece of info to know about sourdough is that it's historically how bread was leavened at least, with the exception of yeast farming, barm, etc. As an aside, barm is where 'barm cake' gets its name. Barm is the froth of the ferment from beer, beer's been brewed for years and using yeast from the brewery process has proved to be a good use of what would be a waste product. In fact, a lot of interesting fermentation and bread-related knowledge an be gleaned from the homebrewing world. They are both yeast after all, and the strains of yeast used there are much more important for achieving high alcohol percentages. Here's an interesting article: interesting yeast farming article

Starter

Sourdough starter is, in essence an inoculated dough. There is a lot of stuff around precisely what temperatures to keep it at, how hydrated the starter should be etc. But in essence sourdough kept at around 100% hydration refer to my previous bread article and at room temperature when in use will work. I keep my starter in the fridge when not in use as it can be held there for a longer time between needing to be fed. Feeding sourdough is simply adding flour and water to keep the bacteria and yeasts with something to 'eat' as they live and produce the acids and carbon dioxide needed. They need to be kept alive in the starter to work effectively when added to the main dough.

Inside of Fridge

Sourdough starter (back left) in fridge

Dough

Making the dough is simple but requires some more mental maths than with active dry yeast. The recipe is much the same as white bread with packaged yeast but just replaces the yeast with starter.

Ingredient %
Flour 100%
Water 65%
Salt 2%
Starter 10%

Might be an example but each starter is different and can be kept at different hydrations, playing with how much starter and water to add is important and can lead to making the optimal bread.

Proofing

Sourdough dough proofs a lot slower than packaged yeast breads. I've managed to get by with shaping and placing in the pan for a few hours to gain back air lost when shaping but have been gifted a cane basket or 'banneton' used for proofing. Essentially it's a basket in which you put the bread to proof and it shapes it for you into a nice loaf with a spiral shape

These aren't needed but allow for higher hydration in your dough as you have to touch it less! They could be replicated with a tea towel in a bowl also, but the spiral pattern will be lost.

Conclusion

Whilst still a fair way to go, there's a world out there of techniques to make the 'perfect' loaf but sourdough definitely brings interesting tastes and allows for a nicer fermentation process as it's naturally slower and can be left overnight easily.

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