DIY : Sourdough Bread

Did you know that the 24th Feb marked the start of Real Bread Week? A celebration of fresh, additive free, baked bread. Nothing beats a freshly made loaf and having gotten out of the habit of making our own (we’ve been pretty spoiled by all the fabulous local bread-makers we meet at the markets!) we thought this was the perfect time to start baking again.

We absolutely love sourdough with its unique taste and ancient history. Instead of being made with cultured yeast, sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Because flour naturally contains a variety of yeasts and bacterial spores, when added with water, the naturally occurring enzyme amylase breaks down the starch into the sugars, glucose and maltose, which sourdough's natural yeast can metabolise. With sufficient time, temperature, and refreshments with new or fresh dough, the mixture develops a stable culture, known as a starter. Luckily one of our lovely customers gave us a sourdough starter, but you can see how to make your own starter here. Due to its fermentation time sourdough is thought to contain less gluten than regularly baked bread and can be an option for those that are gluten intolerant. It also has a much longer shelf life as well, not that it ever lasts long in our house!

We have trialled a mixture of different methods to bake our sourdough and have had success with the below.

You will need:

1 sourdough starter

strong white bread flour

warm water

salt

Method:

A few days before you want to bake your loaf you need to start feeding your starter to make sure its nice and lively. Most people recommend using equal measures of water and flour to the measurement of your starter (e.g 100g starter needs 100g flour and 100g/ml water). After feeding leave starter for 12hrs in a warm place. Keep it covered but not airtight as it needs to breathe. After 12hrs the starter would have risen and start to bubble, a sign of a good starter is no liquid on top and lots of bubbles.

Now your starter is ready to go. For one loaf take 285g of starter (make sure you have some starter left over to make another batch), 425g bread flour and 9 g salt. Mix together in a bowl and then mix with enough water to make a sticky dough, slowly add the water to ensure right mix. Use your hand or a scraper to mix the dough. For 10 mins you’ll need to knead your dough, using your palm and the full force of your body to thoroughly work the dough. Now leave the dough in a bowl, cover with beeswax wrap and leave in a warm place for its first rise, usually for around 4-6 hrs.

Next, re-knead the dough to remove air and then you’ll need to shape so the dough feels firm and soft, we’ve found using an envelope technique best to create a seem and shape (see minute 5 on this video). Place a tea towel in a bowl, cover with flour and then place dough inside bowl so seam is facing up. Wrap towel over top and cover with beeswax wrap and leave for its 2nd rise - depending on your timings either leave at room temperature for around 6 hrs or leave in fridge for around 12hrs.

Your dough is now ready to bake. Set oven to 230 degrees centigrade and place dough onto pizza baking tray, seam side down. You’ll need to score the top of the dough to allow air to escape during baking (see minute 7 of video) Before placing into the oven make sure you either spray water inside or put a tray of ice cubes/water in the oven below where you’ll be putting the baking tray, this ensures a nice crispy crust that is a signature of sourdough. Bake for around 30 mins. You’ll know when its done as it’ll be golden and will sound hollow when you tap the bottom.

You should then have a beautifully baked sourdough loaf, no additives, no plastic packaging!

For more information on Real Bread Week and more baking recipes click here

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