Use the best quality, organically grown flour you can get, preferably freshly ground if possible.
Use filtered water (to get any chlorine out of tap water).
Always allow your culture to come to room temperature before opening and handling, and keep closed as much as possible.
Essentially sourdough is made with flour and water. Most bread cultures are used to control the indigenous bacteria naturally present in the flour, which might produce unwanted characteristics such as excessive sourness or spoiled taste. Adding the cultures will ensure a uniform and a more complex flavour development with minimal batch-to-batch variations.
The variety of flour used influences the characteristics of the sourdough and it is possible to make sourdough with wheat, rye and other types or mixtures of flours. Other important parameters influencing the attributes of the cultures are time and temperature during the processing. Additionally it is possible to produce sourdough adding sugar and salt, which also will influence the result.
Making Your Sourdough Starter
First you have to make up your sourdough starter, using flour, water and bacteria. In some cases you may also add some sugar and/or salt, which will affect the flavour of your final bread. Please see directions for full details on how to do this step. Once you have made your starter you are ready to take a portion of this starter and make your bread, following the recipe of your choice. The remaining starter can be stored in your fridge for later use.
Step 1. Preparing the initial pre-dough.
- Mix 500 grams of flour with 500 ml of water (one part flour to one part water) to make one kg of pre-dough.
- Add 0.25 grams, or one pinch if using our mini measuring spoons, of the starter culture. The starter culture can be dispersed in a small amount of water and then be added to the flour, mixing in well.
- Depending on the required effect (acidity and flavour development) and type of flour, the resting time for the wheat pre-dough should be up to 24 hours at 20-30°C. At 25°C, 12-18 hours are recommended whereas at 20°C the time should be increased. For pure rye pre-dough, it is recommended that the resting time should be more than 24 hours at above 37°C. The shorter the resting time the less sourness (lactic acid production) and flavour components are developed. The dough should be stirred from time to time.
Step 2. Preparation of the sourdough
- Mix 500 grams of flour with 500 ml of water.
- Take your one kg of the pre-dough and blend this with your new mixture of flour and water giving you two kg.
- Depending on the bread recipe, additional baker’s yeast may be added together with salt, sugar and other ingredients
- Stir the dough from time to time to prevent indigenous yeasts developing and leave it for four to six hours at the same temperature as used for preparing the pre-dough. The shorter the time the less sourness and flavour components are developed.
Step 3. Preparation of the bread
- Following your bread recipe, add the required amount of sourdough (leaven) to your other ingredients. Allow to rise for the required amount of time in your recipe, or for sufficient time to get the rise you are looking for.
I have used this leaven to make breads with or without additional bakers yeast with good results. The addition of bakers yeast speeds up the rising process. Without the yeast I like to let my bread rise 12 to 24 hours, depending on the flour I am using. Rye flour always takes longer to rise. Slow fermentation bread is also easier to digest as the gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down during the fermentation process. This may explain why many people who are gluten intolerant can eat sourdough breads with little or no negative effects.
BASIC BREAD RECIPE
- 750 grams of wholemeal flour
- 1 tablespoon of dried bakers yeast (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of sourdough pre-dough
- 1 1/4 cups of water
Place the flour and salt into a bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre and add in your sourdough starter and mix in. Add one cup of your water and mix in. Add additional water as necessary until a smooth elastic dough forms. If using yeast mix this with the water prior to adding to your sourdough starter/flour mix.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes. Cut the dough in half to form into loaves and place them into two oiled bread tins. Cover with a clean, damp tea towel and allow to rise for at least six hours. The longer you leave the bread the better. The best results come when you make the dough on one day and bake it the next leaving it to rise for 12 to 24 hours.
Bake your bread in an oven that has been pre heated to 200° C. This should take about one hour. Your bread is done when you can remove it from the tin and tap it on the bottom and get a hollow sound, like a drum. Once done remove your bread from the tin and allow to cool on a rack so that air can flow around the bread.
- The use of bakers yeast will result in a lighter, fluffier bread.
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