SOURDOUGH STARTER AND SOURDOUGH BREAD
After the kitchen renovation, and long months without any refrigeration or power, I was certain that Sedrick-the-Sourdough-Starter was gummy history. I couldn’t interest him in anything; nothing brought a rise out of the boy. I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking him out though, so I stuck a bit of him in a Ziploc bag and stuck the bag into the freezer … where I promptly forgot it. Several months later, I started a new starter, rediscovered Sedrick freezin’ his boots off in freezer, thawed him out … gave him a good pep talk, and tossed him into the new starter. Gaazooks. Sedrick immediately came to life, and within 2 hours the glass bowl was nearly overflowing. It’s true; it’s hard to keep a good boy down. Sedrick lives. And we made a delicious loaf of sourdough white.
a bag of bread flour
an organic apple (I have apple trees)
a large clear-ish plastic or glass bowl with a lid (or use cling film)
tepid water from the tap (kitchen faucet)
a scale for weighing the flour and water
Grate a small organic apple, but don’t go near the core. No need to peel the apple. Set the grated apple aside.
Now in a large plastic or glass bowl, stir together 250g bread flour and 250g tepid water until all of the lumps are gone. Stir in the grated apple. Cover with cling film, and set in a room-temperature location in the kitchen where you can look inside the bowl from time to time. By day 2 or 3, you should see a few small bubbles breaking the surface. Fermentation has started. It LIVES!
Chuck out all but 100g of the soupy starter, and “refresh” its food supply with a new measure of 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. Stir. Cover again. Say nightie-night. You have a living creature in that bowl now, so we teach good manners by example. We say ‘good morning’ and good night’ and ‘wake up your lazy so-and-so; you’re going to miss the school bus’. Stuff like that.
Day 5: Did your starter climb up the bowl a bit? Can you see a new high tideline on the inside of the bowl? I use a clear plastic bowl so I can mark the ‘refresh’ level with a pen, and then compare where the new tideline is to see how awake the starter is. By now, mine was trying to run off in the middle of the night for some iffy rendezvous. Refresh your starter by chucking out all but 50g of old gooey-wiggly-batter-like starter, and stirring in new food: 100g bread flour and 100g water.
Day 6: Refresh your starter (toss out all but 50g to which you’ll add 100g bread flour and 100g water. That’s a total starter weight of 250g). Wait for 6-10 hours, and if the starter grows up the side of the bowl at least double its original height, your starter is ready for use. If it doesn’t, feed it again, and see if it has more oomph the next day. If your kitchen is cold, you’ll need to be patient.
If you’re going to bake bread the following day: Give your starter a stir, and then add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water. You should now have roughly 450g starter ready to use the next morning. The starter will feed on the fresh bread flour overnight. BUT … Don’t use ALL of your starter. Measure out 50g in the morning, feed it, and store it away – then you use the remaining 400g.
If you’re NOT going to bake bread for a few days, store your 250g of starter in the fridge, feeding it once a week as described above (chuck out all but 50g starter to which you add 100g bread flour and 100g tepid water). Some of your starter can also be frozen as a back-up should your little jewel pop its clogs. Been there; done that.
Out on the internet there are plenty of methods and recipes and percentages for making a sourdough starter. You can use grapes or apples. I’ve known people who use pineapple. This just happens to be the easiest “recipe” for me to remember because the hydration percentages are 100g weight for each, and I just retained 50g of the old starter which always gets fed 100g of bread flour and 100g tepid water. I use tap water, by the way. It works fine. No need (imo) to buy bottled water for this, although many bakers do. Thames Water works brilliantly for me. I pay for the darned stuff; might as well use it is my thinking.
So next step. Let’s make sourdough bread!
400g newly-refreshed sourdough starter at room temperature
175g strong flour/white bread flour
25g softened butter
50g tepid water
8 g table salt
7g instant yeast
(if you want certainty of a good rise, add 7g instant yeast for a hybrid loaf, although I don’t think you’ll need the yeast as your starter should easily carry the weight of this amount of flour and water)
Pour your starter into a large bowl, add the flour bit by bit stirring it into the starter, slowly add the water, stirring until a soft dough forms and all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. If you’re using a stand mixer, throw in the first 3 ingredients, mix well, add the water if needed to form a soft ball of dough (tacky is okay but not super-sticky at this stage – I’m not good at handling very wet dough).
Allow the dough to rest for 5-minutes, and then mix in the salt very, very well. I spread the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle on the salt, and knead it into the dough. Let rest.
Now knead the dough for 5-10 minutes by hand until it’s soft and silky. Or use your stand mixer, and knead with a dough hook for 5-minutes at low speed. Do a windowpane test after 5-minutes. If the dough ‘breaks’ before the windowpane is visible, knead a bit longer.
Lightly oil a large glass or plastic bowl, shape your dough into a ball, and set in it the bowl to rise. It took my boy Sedrick about 3-1/2 hours to rise the dough enough for my liking.
Gently remove the dough from the bowl, lightly press into a rectangular shape, and then fold each short end into the middle of the length, and then roll the two folds into one log-shape. Press the seam at the bottom closed (tightly), and press the ends closed and tuck (slightly) under. Allow to rise on a baking sheet or in a tin, covered by a towel or inside a large plastic bag until doubled in size (about an hour in a warm room).
Preheat the oven to 220c. Place an empty roasting tray on the bottom rack of the oven to warm. When the oven is hot, put your loaf of bread in, and immediately close the door. 2-3 minutes later, open the oven door and very quickly pour hot water into the roasting tray to create steam. Quick! Close the oven door so you don’t let too much heat or steam escape. That steam will allow your bread crust to expand so you’ll get a good rise. Bake at 220c for 30-35 minutes until it sounds hollow when you rap the bottom of the loaf.