How to make sourdough bread?
Some guidelines on how to make sourdough:
- plus 8 days for the starter and 3 hrs rising
Make a sourdough starter from scratch, then use it to bake a flavoursome loaf of bread with our simple step-by-step recipe.
Simple steps to make sourdough
First, make your starter. In a large bowl, mix together 100g of the flour with 125ml slightly warm water. Whisk together until smooth and lump-free.
Transfer the starter to a large jar (a 1-litre Kilner jar is good) or a plastic container. Leave the jar or container lid ajar for 1 hr or so in a warm place (around 25C is ideal), then seal and set aside for 24 hrs.
For the next 6 days, you will need to ‘feed’ the starter. Each day, tip away half of the original starter, add an extra 100g of flour and 125ml slightly warm water, and stir well. Try to do this at the same time every day.
After 3-4 days you should start to see bubbles appearing on the surface, and it will smell yeasty and a little acidic. This is a good indicator that the starter is working.
On day 7, the starter should be quite bubbly and smell much sweeter. It is now ready to be used in baking.
Tip the flour, 225ml warm water, the salt, honey and the starter into a bowl, or a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir with a wooden spoon, or on a slow setting in the machine, until combined – add extra flour if it’s too sticky or a little extra warm water if it’s too dry.
Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 mins until soft and elastic – you should be able to stretch it without it tearing. If you‘re using a mixer, turn up the speed a little and mix for 5 mins.
Place the dough in a large, well-oiled bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hrs. You may not see much movement, but don’t be disheartened, as sourdough takes much longer to rise than a conventional yeasted bread.
Line a medium-sized bowl with a clean tea towel and flour it really well or, if you have a proving basket, you can use this (see tips below). Tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust it with flour.
Place the dough, seam-side up, in the bowl or proving basket, cover loosely and leave at room temperature until roughly doubled in size. The time it takes for your bread to rise will vary depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature in the room, anywhere from 4-8 hrs. The best indicators are your eyes, so don’t worry too much about timings here. You can also prove your bread overnight in the fridge. Remove it in the morning and let it continue rising for another hour or 2 at room temperature. The slower the rise, the deeper the flavour you will achieve.
Place a large baking tray in the oven, and heat to 230C/210C fan/gas 8. Fill a small roasting tin with a little water and place this in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Remove the baking tray from the oven, sprinkle with flour, then carefully tip the risen dough onto the tray.
Slash the top a few times with a sharp knife, if you like, then bake for 35-40 mins until golden brown. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 mins before serving.
It can take between one and five days for your starter to begin fermenting, depending on the temperature and environment. Persevere for up to six days – if you still don’t see any signs of life, or the starter smells unpleasant, throw it away and start again.
DO I NEED A PROVING BASKET?
The dough will rise perfectly well in a bowl, but for the distinctive outline on the side of your loaf, use a proving basket (also called a banneton). Usually made from natural cane woven in a spiral pattern, they come in oval or round shapes. Make sure that you flour the basket really well before using, pushing flour into all the grooves, and never wash it – simply tap out the old flour after every use. You can buy them from cookshops or online at johnlewis.com.
STORING YOUR STARTER
If you plan to make sourdough every 2-3 days, keep it at room temperature, and feed it every day or two. If less often, keep the starter in the fridge, feed it once a week, then leave it at room temperature for 24 hours.
|FOR BEST RESULTS |
If using the starter from the fridge, leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Always try to use your starter when it is ‘hungry’ (has not been fed for 24 hours). Leave about 200ml of the starter in your jar for the next loaf.
KEEP A LOAF IN THE FREEZER
Sourdough bread freezes really well, so if you know you won’t eat the whole loaf, freeze half for another day. Defrost on a wire rack, covered with a tea towel, so that the bread doesn’t dry out or develop a soggy bottom, cites bbcgoodfood.
History of sourdough bread
When it comes to bread, regardless of its final form, we all subliminally know it has been around for quite some time. However, some types of breads have a very interesting history and evolution, like sourdough, according to Bakersmaison.
The first recorded civilization to have used sourdough was the ancient Egyptians around 1500BC. Like many inventions, it was believed that Sourdough was discovered and created by accident.
If you simply mix any ground up grain with a liquid, such as water and milk, then let it sit in the open air at room temperature, wild yeasts in the air will settle in the mix, eat the natural sugars and convert them into lactic (and other) acids which give it a sour flavour. They also give off alcohol and carbon dioxide, with the carbon dioxide causing the bread to rise.
Therefore, given that the Egyptians were quite proficient and enthusiastic beer makers, and the brewery and bakery were often in the same locations, or at least next to each other, it seems this was destined to occur. So, how did this happen? A bag of flour may have been mixed with some beer, creating a light loaf of bread, or wild yeast spores from the brewing process got in to some bread dough, causing them to rise higher than other breads. It’s anyone’s guess.
Perfection comes from trial and error, which is how they altered sourdough’s taste to suit the palette. Once the Egyptians worked out the combinations that produced the best taste, they discovered how they could keep this culture alive by taking a little amount of raw dough and adding more flour to it, which would produce the same flavour.
This came to be known as a ‘sourdough starter’, a good sourdough culture became very important to day-to-day living, and was even taken by explorers when they went on expeditions around the world.
From Egypt, bread-making spread north to ancient Greece, where it became a luxury product that was first produced in the home by women, and then in bakeries; the Greeks had over 70 different types of bread, which includes savoury and sweet, using a wide variety of grains.
In Germany, the use of sourdough was quite universal until brewers yeasts became common in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds. The overlap between brewing and baking was reflected in the fact that monasteries were producing both bread and beer, using the heat of the oven to dry malted grain and the yeast to raise the bread.
Yet the nature, and more specifically the taste, can also be influenced by the location. One of the best examples of this lays within San Francisco around the time of the gold rush.
While there is a legend that Christopher Columbus was the first person to bring European sourdough to America, most will refer to the gold rush period as the historical starting point for sourdough in the U.S.
It is also when San Francisco went from a small outpost of uncertain allegiance (it was Mexican for quite some time), to a relatively big city as it was flooded with miners. With them they brought, or in some cases made, bread starters. These starters were so important they would cuddle them on cold nights so the yeast and bacteria would not die.
However, in San Francisco, they found that the bread tasted different – sourer, chewier, tangier – than they were used to from back home. Yet it was with the opening of the Boudin Bakery in 1849 when the San Francisco sourdough got its official beginning.
In the 1970’s, two researchers set out to discover the truth behind the unique taste of the San Francisco sourdough. They discovered there was a type of bacteria found in the bread that had never been catalogued before. Eventually named L.sanfranciscensis, this type of bacteria was the biggest contributor to the unique taste of sourdough produced in San Francisco.
Although named after the famous city, and believed to have exclusively come from San Francisco at the time, it was later discovered this particular strain of bacteria is not exclusive to San Francisco, and has been found in France and Germany as well.
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