In a previous post I described how I made my sourdough starter using just flour and water and “wild” fermentation. In this post I’ll describe my attempt at making sourdough bread using that starter.

The first thing to decide is what ingredients and proportions to use. There are lots of resources out there on the internet and in books giving recipes, quantities and proportions.

At first it’s a bit overwhelming.

My first sourdough bread recipe

You have to start somewhere though so I searched around and decided on:

1 part starter : 1.5 parts flour : 0.5 parts water (by weight)

I would see how this turned out and modify it as necessary for my next batch.

I added the ingredients together in those proportions starting with 156g of starter, 229g of wholemeal flour (the same flour I made the starter with) and 77g of water.

My first home made sourdough using wild starter

My first home made sourdough using wild starter

As I mixed it seemed too dry. On one video on-line it mentioned this might be the case and said just keep on mixing it until it comes together. However I hadn’t seen that video at this stage but I had seen others that said for sourdough “wetter is better”. So I added more water, then some more again.

So the portions were more like:

1 part starter : 1.5 parts flour : 1 part water (by weight)

Now it was really sticky!

Who would have thought that mixing flour and water together would be so tricky!?

Kneading sourdough

I started to try and knead the dough. I wasn’t sure how to do it. I had a jar of flour to sprinkle on the work surface to combat stickiness. I had to use that a lot. The dough kept sticking to my fingers. It was like wearing gloves made of dough.

And what are the kneading actions? I sort of squashed and rolled the dough and occasionally folded it.

I subsequently researched what I should be doing in the kneading process: squash, fold, quarter turn, repeat

The kneading process is supposed to “activate the gluten”. I think the upshot of that is that the dough becomes more of a coherent whole rather than just a wet mush.

I kneaded it for about half an hour, I enjoyed the process for some reason, despite the stickiness.

Eventually it looked like I thought it should, so time to let it rise.

Raising sourdough

There seemed to be quite of lot of choices at this stage:

  • Using a special basket.
  • Doing a second kneading.
  • Proofing (proving?) in the fridge or not in the fridge.
  • Baking on a stone or baking tray.
  • Spraying water in the oven before and during the baking process.
  • Starting at a higher temperature and lowering it during the baking process

At this point I don’t know why you would do these things. So I wanted to keep it as simple as possible: knead it, let it rise, bake it. I can then work from there with subsequent efforts and try the different techniques, and understand why I need them.

I greased a bread tin and put it in there and then left it for 6 hours. It doubled in size. I then got distracted by something else and ended up leaving it overnight at room temperature. In all it was left about 18 hours.

I’d heard the longer you leave it the sourer it gets, we’ll see.

Baking the sourdough bread

I pre-heated the oven to 200℃ and then put it in there for about 15 minutes.

It looked cooked but I wasn’t sure, it looked quite dark. I read that it should have an internal temperature of 200℃. But for how long? Just ‘till it reached 200℃? In any case I didn’t have a food thermometer. I decided 15 minutes was long enough.

I let it cool. The surface felt hard, and the loaf had shrunk slightly coming away from the sides of the tin. It came out of the baking tin quite easily.

The top looked like bread but underneath it looked more cake like. It didn’t really have a crust on the sides and bottom.

It looked a little brick like, and felt quite heavy.

I don’t think it had risen enough. It had doubled in size and the fermentation process was working because I could see air pockets, but it seemed too dense.

Does that matter? We are used to light fluffy bread but in other countries denser breads are more common.

For me at this stage I think the more important question is: is it edible?

Cutting into the bread and feeling the inside it did feel slightly doughy to the touch. It could have done with a bit longer in the oven.

Eating my first sourdough loaf of bread

I tasted it anyway, it tasted edible, it had a strong sour taste. (So yes that long raising time may have caused that.)

I decided the best course of action would be to toast it because of the slight doughiness.

So I ate it as toast with butter and with butter and marmite and butter and jam. Tasty!

It worked! Maybe not as good looking as you see in the shops and slightly under-cooked but it tasted good and I enjoyed eating the whole loaf (toasted).

It’s a start. I still have a lot to learn.

Making sourdough bread is difficult?

Last night I was looking through a bread making book (“Brilliant Bread” by James Morton) at a friend’s house. Chapter 8 (out of 11) was a chapter on sourdough bread. In the first paragraph it said something like: if you’ve come straight to this chapter go back and start at the beginning you chancer!

Basically it was saying don’t start with sourdough bread because it’s more complicated than regular bread. It recommended starting with commercial yeasts and building up your bread making knowledge that way.

But I’m just not that interested in bread that isn’t sourdough, so I’m afraid I’m just going to have to ignore those instructions, and learn the hard way!

The chapter on sourdough bread was interesting. It explained the balance you need to get between cultivating the lactic acid bacteria, which provides the sourness, and the yeast, that provides the raise. They have varying needs and respond differently to the possible conditions.

One thing he said that I was surprised at was that lactic acid bacteria doesn’t give off carbon dioxide that make the air bubbles in the bread, it’s the yeast. But when I make sauerkraut I see loads of bubbles. Maybe yeast just gives off more? Or maybe it’s something else in the sauerkraut that’s making the bubbles?

I don’t know, still lots to learn.

Conclusion:

  • My first sourdough bread was edible, and even tasty
  • It didn't look pretty
  • I enjoyed the process
  • I'm looking forward to making some more and trying different techniques/methods

Things to try for next time:

  • Buy a food thermometer so I can take the temperature inside the bread.
  • Don't prove the bread in the baking tin.
  • Score the dough before baking with a razor blade.