Have you ever wanted to make your own bread?
As a child dad had a bread maker. My first experience was an unfortunate one though. I accidentally turned the machine on and despite trying I couldn’t turn it off. No one else was home and I didn’t want to break the bread maker so I grabbed what I thought were the right ingredients, mixed it briefly by hand and chucked it into the bread maker with my fingers crossed. The result was reminiscent of bread in look and smell, but more like a rock in texture.
Thankfully this experience did not put me off and I have since successfully made bread in a bread maker.
A few years ago I realised I was intolerant to commercial baker’s yeast (and brewers yeast which is truly a first world travesty as beer is delicious!). Luckily, proper sourdough is made with wild, not commercial, yeast and I have no reaction to this.
Last year my housemate started her own rye/spelt sourdough starter. This inspired me to start a wholemeal version. For a few months all went well and many loaves of tasty bread were baked. Unfortunately, I was not very consistent with how I treated or fed my sourdough starter and it went nasty.
Since then I have wanted to start a new culture, but have been lazy. Before recent holidays to the NSW South Coast I went to a couple of local bakeries to see if it was possible to buy unbaked sourdough bread in order to make pizza bases.
It was at this point I learnt that most bakeries add commercial yeast to their sourdough to speed up the process. One of the bakeries, Dobinsons, was however kind enough to give me some of their sourdough starter so I could make my own dough. I used half to make pizza dough and have fed the other half to use in other sourdough cooking.
Check out ‘How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter’ by The Kitchn to find out how to start and look after your own starter.
Making sourdough bread
You will need to feed you sourdough culture about 12 hours before you want to use it. Feeding the sourdough starter is necessary to activate the wild yeast in it.
To make bread you will need warm water, sourdough started, flour, salt, a big bowl, electric beater with bread hooks and a loaf tin.
The exact quantities of ingredients for making bread do not matter too much, as evidenced by the large number of different recipes available on the Internet.
What is important is to mix the water with the sourdough culture before you add the flour, otherwise your mixture will be lumpy and difficult to handle. (I also like to add a little bit of olive oil).
Add the flour and salt, and kneed the mixture for 25 to 30 minutes. My housemate bought electric bread hooks so I have been using these as it is much easier and quicker than kneading by hand.
Once the dough is qlossy and smooth leave it to prove. You can do a single prove or a double:
- Single means you prove the dough only once after it is kneaded. Usually, this would be done in the baking tin so the dough is disturbed as little as possible between the proving and baking. A single prove will produce dough that has larger bubbles in it, it will also be quicker to make than a double prove. I tend to prove my sourdough for at least 12 hours.
- Double prove, as the name suggests, means proving the dough twice after kneading. The first prove would usually be in a bowl, after which you gently knead the dough to remove the air, before proving a second time in the baking tin. A double prove will result in smaller air bubbles in the bread. This is the most common way bread is made. I usually do the first prove for 12 hours and the second for 3 hours.
It is important to cover the dough while it is proving so it doesn’t dry out and form a crust.
I usually bake my bread for about 40 minutes at around 170 degrees Celsius, but this will vary depending on the size of the loaf.
Tips for baking:
- Line the tin with baking paper to stop the loaf sticking
- Knock on the underside of the loaf to check if it is ready. If it sounds hollow your bread should be ready
- Feed your sourdough starter a small amount every day to keep it really active. Active sourdough will create better bread, that will be lighter in texture and require less time to prove.
The Outcome: The bread didn’t rise as much as I thought it would. But that didn’t matter because the bread was delicious with an amazingly light and fluffy centre and a thin crunchy crust.
Ingredients: Sourdough starter, flour, warm water and salt. (optional olive oil)
Equipment: Bowl, electric bread hooks, baking tin
- Mix sourdough starter and warm water (and olive oil)
- Add flour and salt, then knead the dough by hand or using electric bread hooks until smooth and glossy
- Prove the dough for 12 hours
- Knead the dough and prove for a further three hours in the baking tin
UPDATE (Sunday 27 April): So I went looking for the recipe I used to make this sourdough so that I could add quantities to the ingredients listed above and link to the more detailed recipe. I couldn’t find it. But, I did discover that most recipes for sourdough use a different method to me. The original recipe may as well and I may have only read half of it (this is quite likely). In short, they make a soft dough, known as a sponge, which is a slightly wetter version of my dough. They prove the sponge and then add more flour during the second kneading. This would enable you to make a Vienna style loaf. I will try this next time and let you know how I go.
Other sourdough posts: Sourdough Crumpets