A while back we started to make simple sourdough breads from scratch & noted the results in a blog entry on Simple Savings web site.. Bit's of this entry come from there..
Sourdough is one of the oldest bread baking methods that uses a fermented starter.. The starter is made from a mixture of flour & water that has been left to sit for a period of time.. The starter ferments once wild yeast & bacteria (lactobacilli) from the atmosphere colonise it.. The colonies of good bacteria will out compete the nasty bacteria varieties by making the starter too acidic for them to survive.. This is what gives the bread it's unique "sour" aroma & flavour.. Wild yeasts convert the sugars into carbon dioxide which is what makes the dough rise.. Ethanol is another by-product that can sit as a liquid layer on top of the starter & is called "hooch".. This also contains dead yeast cells & according to some sources, it should be poured off the top of the starter as it tends to make the mix bitter.. Our second starter did not form a hooch layer.. I think it may be because it has been fed & divided/reduced regularly..
After searching the net & reading a few different versions of sourdough starters I decided on a basic flour/water starter to begin with.. Other recipes I have read include things like honey, sultanas, pineapple juice & sugar to add different characteristics to the bread but I think I will master the basic starter first..
To make a basic starter you will need,
750ml-1L wide mouth jar that has been sterilised with boiling water
Cheese or a "Chux" style cloth
Rubber or elastic band
1/3 cup of rye
1/3 cup wheat flour
2/3 cup of filtered water*
Mix the ingredients until the flour & water are combined well
Cover the jar with cheese cloth.. The yeast & bacteria will fall through the holes in the cloth to colonise the flour water mix & start the process..
The starter needs to be stirred every 8-12 hours to oxygenate the mix..
Feeding the starter..
I have made up a container with a 1:1 mix of wheat & rye flour which sits on the bench next to the starter jar.. Every morning the starter gets fed with 1/3 of a cup of the flour mix & 1/3 of a cup of warm (body temp) water*..
You should start to see small bubbles in the starter by day 4 but in saying that, both batches of our started to form bubbles within 36 hours but it does depend on the amount of good bacteria & yeast you have in your households environment.. We made a loaf with our first started after 4 days that turned out a lot better than I expected.. We then made 3 or 4 more that all turned out great.. Unfortunately we missed a day of feeding/stirring & ended up with a green "growth" on the top so threw the whole starter..
A second batch was made up but fed over eight days just to see if there was any difference in the loaves that were baked from it.. This batch has been reduced twice to a level of about 1/3 of a cup in the jar every few days. The excess was disposed of down the sink.. If I had left it in the jar, the jar would have very quickly overflowed as the starter grew during the feeding process.. Besides feeding the excess to the sink, some was also given to friends so they could have a go at sourdough for themselves..
I really couldn't tell the difference in flavour between the 4 & 8 day starters.. If we have to start another I think we would be baking after 4 days as long as the starter appears active enough.. Sourdough starters will continue to develop their own unique characteristics over time.. I have read of some starters that are well over 100 years old & passed down from generation to generation..
*If you don't have access to filtered water it is advisable to leave some water out overnight so that the chlorine can dissipate as it can kill or retard the growth of the wild yeast..
The recipe we used is a basic one I found on Food four thought blog.. The only small change I made was to use atta flour instead of white which made the loaf darker..
200g atta flour
400g rye flour
1 tsp salt
170g sourdough starter
320g warm filtered water*
Place flour & salt into large bowl & mix.
Make a well in centre of the flour.
Add the starter and water and mix them together in the well until combined.
Then combine the mixed starter with the flour until most of the flour is incorporated.
Use hands to knead the remaining flour into a ball then cover and set aside for 20 minutes to allow the water to be absorbed into the dough.
Knead the bread for 15 min. (I cheated & kneaded in the Thermomix for 3 min..)
Place the dough into into a loaf tin & set aside for 9-12 hours in a warm area or until it doubles in size. It will take longer than conventional breads.
Preheated oven to 210°C.
Bake for 10 minutes then reduce to 180°C for a further 20minutes.
When done the loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
We really like this bread sliced very thinly then toasted.. Tastes great with our cashew & sundried tomato spread/dip.. The other favourite is tomato & grilled cheese..
Thanks for reading & have a great one..
Bianca & Rob..