Learning the ropes

I’m learning how to make fermented foods and I’m writing about that in this blog.

As part of that I’m learning how to make sourdough bread. I’ve made three loaves so far.

The first loaf I made using a bread machine and using the sourdough recipe that came with it. While this tasted nice I didn’t think it was real sourdough as the recipe included yoghurt and was only fermented for a day and also used freeze dried bakers’ yeast. I wanted something a little more authentic or traditional that used naturally occurring wild yeasts.

So, for my second I made the sourdough starter from scratch and then made the loaf without the aid of the bread machine, kneading the dough by hand.

Slices of sourdough bread

Even though the sourdough had't risen much it looked ok

The results of both experiments were edible. I was happy with the taste but there was room for improvement in the texture and the density of the bread.

My third sourdough loaf

My third attempt was another go using my own starter but this time I used white flour instead of wholemeal. I used a recipe from the internet:

  • 100 grams starter ( 100% hydration i.e., always adding same amount of flour and water by weight when feeding the starter)
  • 390 grams of strong white flour ("Allison strong white bread flour")
  • 250 grams water ( 68% hydration ((250+50(water from starter)/(390+50 (flour from starter)))*100 )
  • 8 grams of salt

The recipe said to leave the mixture to ferment for 4 to 5 hours at 24℃, and to “fold” the mixture three or four times during the fermentation.

So I did this. It was quite tricky folding the mixture because it was so wet and sloppy and sticky. I managed to fold it back on itself at hourly intervals, I did this in the bowl it was sitting in.

Uncertainty

I then left it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So I just left it.

Should it have been rising? I didn’t know.

I couldn’t kneed it because it seemed so sloppy and sticky. I’d already folded it.

I sort of gave up.

After a couple of hours it seemed to have risen a little bit.

So I thought I’ll just go ahead and bake it anyway.

I preheated the oven a little bit and popped the dough in. My oven doesn’t get very hot, it was about 180 to 200 degrees C.

Flat and ugly bread!

After 40 minutes I got it out of the oven, it was flat and ugly and didn’t look like it had any “oven spring” (extra rise from the oven).

Sourdough loaf

My (rather flat looking) sourdough loaf

I put it on a cooling rack and went to bed.

In the morning I examined it again. I knocked it on the bottom, it didn’t give the hollow sound I’d seen in the bakers’ videos online.

I wasn’t hopeful.

I cut it and it looked alright.

Revelation

I tasted it and it tasted divine.

It was delicious.

It was chewy and tasty.

I don’t know how to describe the taste.

It tasted like food, wholesome food!

I remember reading some books, classics, written a long time ago, perhaps 19th century, I can’t remember which ones they were exactly, maybe Charles Dickens.

I remember passages about bread, I could never quite understand them. A meal might be just be mainly bread and some beer and it was spoken of as though that was enough.

I think when I tasted my sourdough the penny dropped.

Bread is whole food!

Up until this day I’ve never eaten real bread. I’ve been eating some industrialized version of it.

This is how bread must have been for thousands of years, very simple, tasty, wholesome.

The loaf didn’t last very long, I ate the whole loaf in a day.

Sourdough slices with butter and jam

Sourdough slices with butter apricot and jam, mmmm delicious!

So I am converted.

I haven’t bought any supermarket bread since I bought my bread machine (3 months ago). That was a step in the right direction. Now all I want to eat is sourdough bread.

I feel more experiments coming. Can I make a bread machine loaf using my wild culture? Can I repeat the tastiness of this loaf?

I will be attempting do these things and endeavoring to record my process. (There are so many variables that can effect the outcome, and it’s easy to forget what you did.)

So stay tuned for further sourdough adventures.