Well here we are again – Sourdough September – the annual event organised by the Real Bread Campaign to give us all an excuse to celebrate the wonders of Sourdough. As mentioned in a previous blog my sourdough journey has been one of trail and error and amazement. When I bake now I primarily make sourdough just because i 💛 wild yeast. And why? It’s free, it’s natural, we know (roughly) where its from, it’s not from somewhere far away, thus it’s local, has no transport costs (lol), it’s better for you than shop bought yeast, and it makes your bread not only rise but it tastes amazing too!
Ok so let me explain a little about Sourdough for those who don’t know. You will have no doubt heard about it – it seems to be quite popular these days. But even some of you experienced bakers who I have met at the community bakery days have been baffled by it. It really is quite simple.
Basically if you mix flour and water together and leave it in a warm place – just on the side in your kitchen for example, eventually it will start to ferment. This is because there are natural yeasts in the air around you, on your work surfaces (don’t spray that anti-bac spray otherwise you kill it!), on your hands and moreover in the flour itself.
Mix flour with water and cover with a damp tea-towel. Every day for the next 3 or 4 days add a little more flour and water and it will start to bubble and smell a little strange. It is fermenting! This way you can make your own sourdough ‘starter’ and use it to leaven your usual bread. Of course it will turn out rather different than a normal yeasted loaf and the process will take considerably longer. But it will be worth it I can tell you! And it really is quite liberating knowing that if all the shops completely ran out of fast action yeast then you would still be able to make your own bread with your own ‘homemade/homegrown’ yeast!
The process isn’t complicated although some of the books make it seem like it is. I gave up following recipes and just went back to my roots when my good friend Melanie (from the Steiner school) showed me what to do. She never measures anything and once you’ve done it a few times its quite easy to guage by eye how much water and flour to add (don’t forget the salt!).
The most important thing not to forget (this is the way I do it and not everyone does-most bakers will have a larger amount of starter) is to save a small amount of the dough back for next time you bake. Otherwise you will have to start from scratch making a starter again. But you could always have a few spare starters stashed away in the fridge for such emergencies!