Sorry I have been absent for a while but my last 10 days have been very hectic. Each night I told myself ‘I will write a post tomorrow’ and yet by the time I went to bed again I still hadn’t managed it. Yesterday I actually had a free day and got to relax and decided that some therapeutic, slow rising, bread baking was in order.
One of my favourite breads is sourdough and another is rye. I just love their depth of flavour, thick chewy crusts and wholesomeness. Being able to make my own sourdough, using a starter made from scratch is something I have longed to do for a long time. I did attempt to make a sourdough a few months back but I neglected it and it failed, however for the last three weeks I have been nursing a new batch of sourdough and yesterday seemed like the perfect time to give it its first test run.
The first week of a sourdough starter does require a bit of work, you have to remember to feed it every day, but after this it only need tending to once a week which is much easier to manage. I found having a specific day to feed the starter helped me remember it.
During its resting times in between its weekly feeds it tends to separate a little as the natural yeasts and flours work their magic. It develops a dark sort of skin on top and some murky liquid underneath which is on top of the gummy flour mixture. The first time I saw this I was rather alarmed, but just give it a bit of a stir and feed it with the flour and water mix and it is perfectly alright. The little bubbles that appear on the surface let you know it’s alive and happy.
My sourdough is what’s known as 100% hydration starter. This means it contains an equal quantity of water and flour. I find this the easiest one to work with when attempting to turn it into bread.
Anyway, onto the bread. As the only yeast used in the bread is the one naturally occurring in the sourdough starter, the bread will need long slow rising compared to if additional yeast was added. This is not a problem if you have a day a home to give it the odd knead and it’s actually very therapeutic and enjoyable to see it grow and develop before your eyes.
The resulting bread is completely worth the effort! It was amazing! The best loaf of bread I have ever made. A great flavoured thick crust, a soft light crumb and divine aroma. It was good enough to rival that of any bakery bought bread. I also proved it in a well floured bread basket which helped give it an authentic slashed pattern on top. I was so proud of it.
If I’m being critical, it wasn’t quite as sour as I would have liked, but as my starter is still very young, I am sure it will get more sour as the starter matures. I’m definitely going to be baking plenty more things with it in the future so I’m sure I will find out. You don’t have to limit the use of the starter to just loaves of bread either; it can also be used for pizzas, waffles or cinnamon buns etc.
Light Rye Sourdough Starter – 100% hydration
Day 1 – 100ml water, 50g white bread flour, 50g rye flour
Day 2 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour
Day 3 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour
Day 4 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour
Every week – 50ml water, 50g white bread flour OR rye flour
Method Day 1: Mix the water and flour together in a large bowl and leave it a warm place for 24 hours. Day 2: There should be a few bubbles visible. Mix in more of the water and flours. Return to a warm place for a further 24 hours. Day 3: There should be some bubbles and the starter may look a little separated, this is fine, just mix in water and flour as before and leave for another 24 hours. Day 4: Repeat as for day 3 and leave for a final 24 hours. Day 5: By this time your starter should be well on its way. It can now be covered with clingfilm and kept in the fridge. Leave for at least another week before attempting to bake with it.
Every week, even if not using, you need to remove the starter from the fridge and feed it with 50ml of water and 50g of white or rye flour. I like to use white and rye flours each alternative week. This keeps the starter alive and keeps a good light rye flavour.
After a week the starter will probably have developed a slight skin on the surface with a murky pool of liquid underneath and then a gooey mixture at the bottom. Don’t be alarmed, this is perfectly normal. Just give it a stir and feed it and it will be quite happy.
When used for baking, add 100ml water and 100g flour to the starter to help it maintain its bulk. When stored like this and fed regularly starters can literally be kept and used for decades. The longer they are kept, the more the flavour they develop and the moister and more sour your resulting bread.
Light Rye Sourdough Bread
400g white bread flour
100g rye flour
300ml lukewarm water
180g sourdough starter – 100% hydration
In a large bowl combine the flours, water and starter together (don’t add the salt!) Mix for 2-3 minutes until combined, it will be quite sticky. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the salt and knead in well. Continue to knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and a little less sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm again. Leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
Knock back the dough and fold it from the corners into the centre, turn it over and repeat the folding process twice more. Then recover and leave for a further hour before repeating the process.
Generously dust a bread basket or shallow bowl. Shape the dough into a round ball and place into the floured basket. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours until risen.
Preheat the oven to 245C and place a sturdy baking tray in the oven to heat up. Fill a shallow tray with water and place in the bottom of the oven to create a damp steamy atmosphere in the oven.
Once the bread has risen, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and invert the bread out of the basket and onto the tray. Do not attempt to move it once on the tray.
Place the dough into the oven and reduce the temperature to 230C. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the shallow tray of water from the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Then prop the door open slightly using a wooden spoon and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the bread is a deep golden colour with a crisp crust. (The steaming helps develop a thick chewy crust, the dry heat helps it brown and the bit of air towards the end makes it lovely and crispy).
Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.