Sourdough

I think it’s fair to say that I love the bread bowl. In five minutes, you can rustle up a loaf that proves and cooks in two hours and works every time.

Here I offer basic instructions for Sourdough. This takes a little longer.

The key to this bread’s success lies in the preparation. Once begun, the process will continue unaided for up to 48 hours before cooking. So.. For one loaf, you will need:

1. Flour.

I don’t count water as an ingredient. We drink that every day, you’re merely diverting the flow for a few minutes.

Buy the very best quality Organic Strong Wholemeal or Granary flour. It really IS worth spending money on this. Saving comes later as you add other ‘Filler’ ingredients and gain in confidence.

In a scrupulously clear glass bowl (by preference, you can monitor what’s happening more easily) mix your starter for the loaf by combining a cup of flour with a cup of water. Depending on the flour, you may achieve the ‘Thin yoghurt’ consistency you need immediately. If not add flour or water and stir until you get there.

Cover lightly to keep flies and dust out but do not clingfilm. Place in a warm spot. This is the bit that requires nature and you to work together so it’s best doing your first sourdough in the summer. Or the airing cupboard. I use a sunny windowsill. So, kitchen paper or clean tea towel are fine.

After a day, peep in and check for action. If you have been successful, free flying yeasts will have settled into the nutritious soup you have prepared for them and they will be feeding and farting CO2 into the mix with gusto. Bubbles will be appearing on the surface and it will be smelling sharp and yeasty. If not, don’t despair. Just give the mix a good bash with a hand whisk to break up the grains and release some of the carbohydrates, add a drop more water and repeat. As the yeasts do their stuff, add 2 tablespoons of flour and a little more water, to regain original consistency. Be rough with it.

If after a further two days you still have no luck, scrap and start again. Persevering with older mixes can result in a sour smelling mix that has the wrong infection. No yeasts… no bread.

After a few days, and if the mix has become productive it will look very active. (It is important not to let it go too far as the yeast will exhaust the food supply and it will die). Pour and scrape the mixture into a large bowl and add flour stirring until you can only mix by hand. Then have fun forming a ball of dough. This should be slightly wetter than artificially risen dough. Don’t worry about kneading. The act of forming a ball will have achieved enough gluten stretching. If you have a gripe to work out, carry on but it’s not strictly necessary.

Leave in your warm place for a few hours depending on temperature. It should achieve a resistant springiness to touch and look taut.. Place carefully on an oiled or Polenta’d baking sheet (no fat!) and bake in an oven, pre-heated to 180c for 30 minutes.

Good luck. It’s well worth a try.