If you’ve ever thought that making your own sourdough bread (or any bread) at home is just too hard, have a quick look at this. I’m a complete novice and this was the first time I tried to make sourdough but I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
We had brought sourdough starter over with us about 5 years ago. We got our starter from my husband’s brothers who have their own business making the best sourdough pizzas from their own custom-made, wood-fired oven. (Well worth a try if you’re in Sydney – they cater and will rock up to your party with their oven on a trailer and everything else you need for your pizzas. – Stone Hat sourdough firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Our sourdough starter was dead so we had to resurrect it. I’ll explain this below but it doesn’t always work. My husband has always been the one to look after the starter so with a little help from him, we got it to a state where it could be used. This took several rounds of Making a Starter (see below) and I was amazed that it worked! When it is ready, the starter will look bubbly and have that lovely sourdough smell.
Making a Sourdough Starter
I’ve been using a ratio of 50% liquid to 50% flour. You can adjust the total quantity using this ratio depending on how much starter you need. For starter, it’s all about getting the right hydration. For my first loaf, I used:
- 100g water
- 50g wholemeal flour
- 50g white flour
- 2tbs of sourdough starter
- Measure out 100g water.
- Add 2 tablespoons of sourdough starter and mix to combine.
- Add 50g of wholemeal flour and 50g white flour then mix to combine.
- Cover with cling wrap (not too tightly) and leave to sit until it bubbles and doubles in size. This could take between 4 to 8 hours depending on how hot the area around it is. It can take even longer if it’s really cold.
Once your starter is bubbly, use it to make another starter using the same steps above. This is so you always have more to work with. You can put your extra starter in the fridge if you’re not going to use it right away. You’ll need to “feed” it. I’ve explained that below.
Making Sourdough Bread
- 275g water
- 85g sourdough starter (also called a mother)
- 365g white flour
- 60g brown flour
- 8g salt
- Add all the ingredients together.
- Knead for 5 minutes. The dough will feel nice and smooth. You can do this in a food processor as well, using the knead function.
- Rest the dough for 5 minutes.
- Knead again for 5 more minutes.
- On a floured surface, knead it a couple more times and form into a ball shape.
- Leave to rise for about half an hour then knead it out again and shape it into your desired shape. (Place a wet muslin on top of the dough as it rises and check that it doesn’t dry out)
- Leave this to rise until it has doubled in size. This could take 6 hours or overnight if you’re in a cold environment.( We put ours in an air conditioned room overnight because we didn’t want to get up at 2am to put it in the oven.)
- Preheat your oven to the hottest setting and place a tray of water in the bottom – this creates steam which is somehow good when baking.
- Slash your dough across the top to allow steam to escape.
- Place the sourdough on a middle tray and bake 20 minutes.
- Turn down the oven to 200 and bake another 20 minutes until it’s golden and toasty on the top and feels hollow when tapped.
- Finally, take it out and eat it!
If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up! Fresh home-made sourdough is well worth the effort involved. It is a fine art form with many experienced bakers spending years to perfect. There are lots of blogs out there that will also help you with tips and ideas. Here is one that I found really helpful.
I’m just a novice and have no idea so my baking of sourdough is by no means a fine art. But it still tastes fantastic, fresh out of the oven and slathered with butter. Yum!
Sourdough also has great health benefits. See our article on fermentation by Sarah Shaw, We are 1% DNA and 99% Bacteria.
If you’re looking for starter to try your hand at making some sourdough bread, just drop us an email on email@example.com and we’d be happy to share some with you (if you live in Singapore).
Now for the more “technical” bits. This is what scared me off from making sourdough but once you get the hang of it, it becomes suprisingly easy. Even if it is a bit tricky and time consuming.
Feeding a starter:
Once you have a healthy starter, you can put it into the fridge and keep it indefinitely. You just have to feed it ever so often. We put ours in a big mason jar and follow the steps below every two or three days.
- Remove 40g of the starter from the jar.
- Add in 20g of water.
- Add in 10g of white flour and 10g of wholewheat flour.
- Mix well and place back into the fridge.
Do that every two or three days to keep your starter alive. I usually use the 40g that I removed to make a fresh starter of 50g water and 50g flour (half/half white and wholewheat). I leave that out on the kitchen bench to bubble up so I can bake a loaf of bread.
If you starter dies, you’ll know it! It smells rotten and there can be a black film at the top of the mixture. This happens when you ignore your starter for too long. I was horrified when my husband said he could resurrect it because to me, what’s dead is dead and should probably stay that way. But I stand corrected. We resurrected the sourdough that had been dead for at least a year! (Sorry, I don’t have photographs to tell the story. I was so sceptical about this that I didn’t bother.) Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work though. It doesn’t always come back to life.
To resurrect “dead” sourdough.
Try and scrape away the black area at the top and get a good spoonful or two of the starter at the bottom.
Next, follow the process above for Making a Sourdough Starter. Do this once and if it bubbles even a tiny bit, you might be able to resurrect your sourdough.
Next repeat the same process for Making a Sourdough Starter again. You can throw away the old stuff.
Then repeat again. You should see the starter becoming more and more bubbly with each round. It will also start to smell better and better at each round.
Keep doing this until you have a fresh healthy starter to work with again.