Plain sourdough loafSo far I have covered making & caring for your starter, plus how to do an intermediate refreshment & some trouble shooting should things appear to be going a bit pear shaped!  You should now be ready to make your first sourdough loaf, (if you haven't done so already!)

 

Firstly you will need to make a "production sourdough"  from your starter.  Remember, if it's too acidic, which it may well be if it's been sat in the fridge for a few weeks, you will need to do an intermediate refreshment first.  The instructions for this are in my previous blog. 


Production Sourdough

Take 50g of your starter & mix with 100g of warm water.  Next add 225g of strong wholemeal flour.  Mix well, cover & leave to ferment for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon the room temperature.  The production sourdough will be ready to use once it has doubled in size.  You will now have 375g of production sourdough.  300g will be used to make your first loaf & 75g will be replaced into your starter & left to use another time.

 

Plain Sourdough

Ingredients

460g strong white flour.

300g production sourdough

230g warm water

10g of sea salt

 

Method

In a large bowl, mix the water & production sourdough together first.  Next add the rest of the ingredients.  Get your hands in to the bowl & give the contents a good mix about until they are all well combined & have formed a rough, wet dough. 

Turn onto a floured work surface & knead vigorously for about 15 minutes, until you have a well developed, stretchy dough which will be slightly shiny on the surface & not too sticky to touch.

Place the dough in to an oiled bowl or plastic container, cover & leave to prove until doubled in size.  I tend to leave my doughs over night to give the lactobacillus chance to provide me with that lovely unique sour flavour so I like to place them in a slightly cooler area to work their magic.

Once proved, this is the time to add any extra ingredients if you wish.  With a light dusting of flour on the work surface, empty the dough out of it’s container &, if you are doing so, add your extra ingredients & work through until well dispersed.   Shape your dough in to the desired shape, dust your proving basket generously with flour & semolina, (this gives a nice crust on the finished loaf), & place into your proving basket seam side up.  Cover with cling film or a plastic bag & leave in a warm place to rise for approximately 4 to 6 hours.  If you want to slow things right down, you can place your proving basket into the fridge overnight & then take out to bake at your leisure.  When your loaf is ready to bake it will have risen appreciably & be quite firm & springy to touch still.  If it has risen too far if will not spring back when pressed.  If this happens, take it out of the basket, knock it back, reshape & leave to prove again, but keep an eye on it this time.

Once ready to bake, gently turn your loaf on to a pre heated baking stone.  Give it a quick couple of slashes with a sharp knife to allow it to rise further in the oven.  The loaf will be baked in a pre heated oven, 230 degrees celsuis, for about 30 minutes.  Make sure to leave a large tray of hot water in the base of your oven to give you a nice crust on your loaf.  I always check after about 20 minutes, in case it needs a quick turn to ensure an even colour all over.  Once baked all the way through, the loaf will make a hollow sound when tapped on its bottom. 

So there you have it.  A simple, delicious sourdough containing just 4 ingredients, flour, water salt & your starter.  This loaf will keep for a good week & will actually improve it's flavour as it ages.

In my last blog, I discussed getting a sourdough starter activated & ready to use to create lots of delicious fresh sourdough products.  Today I am going to talk about some of the things which may go wrong with your starter, (or which you may think have gone wrong), & how to rectify them.

 

So, the clue is in the above comment there in brackets, "you think may have gone wrong"!!  There are several questions which I am often asked about regarding "problems" with starters.  The first thing to remember with your starter is that it is full of extremely resilient yeasts & lactobacillus bacteria.  They are really quite difficult to kill off. As I stated at the end of my last blog, if you followed the instructions to the letter, then you should have a starter which is ready for you to use to make your first loaf with.  It should be bubbling away & smelling kind of fruity & slightly vinegary, but if it isn't do not despair.  Unless your starter has been contaminated with some fatal fungicide, (found in non organic flour), some residue of cleaning fluid, perhaps on the bowl or container you are keeping it in or has overly chlorinated water in it, which will kill off any good, as well as bad bacteria present, then I can guarantee your starter will be very much alive.

So what's going on?  If it looks a bit flat, smells really most unpleasant & sour & has a distinctly unattractive looking grey liquid swishing about on the surface the simple answer is excess acid.  Over fermentation has occurred & the lactobacillus has taken over.  It is important to appreciate that your starter is actually a community of active organisms which must live in harmony to survive. Lactobacillus bacteria produce 'bacteriocins' which destroy competing & potentially harmful bacteria, but they also produce anti fungal properties.  Wild yeasts present in the flours we've used, can tolerate the acid conditions produced by the lactobacillus, whereas mould growth is inhibited so this is obviously a good thing.  The problems start when the starter becomes too acidic & the yeasts are unable to produce carbon dioxide to make the starter bubble & yeast reproduction will slow down too.  Do not despair, however!  The simple solution to an over acidic starter & revive the yeast is to reduce the acidity.  This is done by taking a small amount of the acidic starter & adding much larger amounts of flour & water.  This refreshment process is essential.  Do not think a small amount of flour & water will cut it, because it wont.  You need to dilute the acidity & this can only be done with much larger amounts of flour & water than starter, to introduce the necessary yeasts back in to the starter & rebalance things.

Intermediate Refreshment

Take 30g of old starter & mix with 180g of warm water, (about 30 to 35 degrees celsius), then add 90gms of wholemeal wheat or rye flour.  Mix well, cover & leave for 12 to 24 hours.  It should, after this period, be fermenting nicely.  You will now have two starters, an older one & your refreshed one.  Keep your old one in the fridge until you next want to use it to make bread.  It will become increasingly acidic, which is fine as it will keep it more stable & mould free for as long as you want it too.  When you next want to make some bread, you simply need to follow the refreshment process with your old starter again.  Your refreshed starter can now be used in the first stage of actually making a loaf.

 

 

A juvenile sourdough starter.A sourdough starter!  This is something which, given the right conditions, is actually very easy to create & once active, can be kept in the fridge, where it will happily live until such time as you want to use it to make a loaf, or whatever other sourdough product you have in mind.  It will simply need to be "refreshed" each time, before use, but more on that later.  Firstly, lets deal with the starter itself which is sometimes referred to as a "mother".  I will simply refer to it as a starter.  Some folk like to name their starters & this can be useful in reminding you that your starter is actually a living thing which needs "feeding".  My daughter calls our original one Prince!  Prince is a wheat starter, & in keeping with the rock star theme, our rye starter is called Elvis, (yes nuts, I know).

A couple of things before we get started, which will help.

Basically, a sourdough starter is a mixture of flour & water which is then left to ferment.  Pretty much any flour will ferment if mixed with warm water & then left for a while, but your starter will become active much quicker if you use a wholemeal flour.  The reason for this is because the outer bran of the wheat grain contains far more yeast, which is essential to make your bread rise.  Wholemeal, or dark rye flour contains even more yeast & microbes, making it particularly good for a starter.  The other important factor for your flour is that it is organic.  Non organic flours are sprayed with fungicides &, according to statistics, residues are found in a large proportion of non organic UK flours.  Yeast is a type of fungus, therefore fungicides kill yeast, therefore dont use a non oragnic flour!  Need I say more.

The water you use make your starter is also important.  Tap water contains chlorine, which is a strong biocide.  This is decidedly grim for the bacteria which you want to nurture in your starter.  You can reduce this threat by either leaving the water you want to use standing in a jug or bowl over night, allowing most of the chlorine to evaporate, or use some still spring water.  Your starter will cope admirably with water straight from the tap once it has established itself but give it the best  chance of getting going by avoiding tap water in the first few days of its life.

Your starter will need warmth to get it going.  If you dont have a particularly warm house, or a nice warm place to stand it, dont despair.  It will simply take longer for your starter to establish itself, but generally speaking, the optimal temperature for a juvenile starter is 25 to 30 degrees celsius, perhaps even slightly warmer for a rye starter.  Once your starter is established it will cope finer with all sorts of temperatures & heat is one of the important ways in which you can control your starter.

The last thing to mention is the receptacle to store your starter.  Use a glass jar or a plastic container with a loose fitting cover.  There will be some build up of gas pressure & the last thing you will want will be exploding starter. (here speaks the voice of bitter experience!!!).  Never use a metal container as your starter will be acidic in nature & may react with the metal, causing it to corrode, (never good!).

Lets Get Started.

The quantities that I've given here are very small, but by doing it this way, you will not have to throw any excess away but if you want to make a bigger amount, simply increase the amounts given to your chosen quantity.  Here are two types of starter, the first with wholemeal rye & the second with wholemeal wheat.  You will notice that the water/flour ratio differs between the two starters.  This is because rye is more absorbent & much stickier than wheat flour.

Rye sourdough starter

Day 1

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 75g

Day 2 add

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 150g

Day 3 add

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 225g

Day 4 add

  • 50g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 325g

 

Wheat sourdough starter

Day 1

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 30g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 60g

Day 2 add

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 30g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 120g

Day 3 add

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 15g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 165g

Day 4 add

  • 90g of white or wholemeal flour
  • 45g of water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 300g

 

With all starters, getting the consistency of the mixture right is crucial at this stage.  The starter should always be quite sloppy & almost pourable so that you can see evidence of the yeast working & also a more liquid environment allows for quicker biological reactions to take place.  Use your hands, or a finger, (make sure you wash them first & thoroughly rinse any soap off them).  One of the key bacteria present in sourdough, lactobacillus, is thought to be introduced through contact with bakers hands, so get stuck in!  You'll notice that on the third day of your starter, the water/flour ratio decreases & you will have a thicker, less pourable consistency.  By day 4, if you've followed the instructions accurately, you should have a starter which is ready to use for the first time to make a loaf.  It should give off a fruity, slightly sour smell, (mine always smell a bit like banana!), will be bursting with yeasts & lactic acid & bubbling away.

If it's not, dont despair.  I shall cover what may have gone wrong, in my next blog.  In the meantime get "Started"!

What a whirlwind year it's been for me & The Little Sourdough Bakery!  I've sold one business, (which I ran successfully for 16 years!), started The Little Sourdough Bakery, sold my flat in Oban, bought a new property in Glasgow & moved into it on the 17th of October & now here I am, sitting here writing the last blog of the year.

I'm keeping this one short as I have a mountain of stuff to do before the big man comes tonight, plus I have lots of exciting developments to tell you all about next year, but until they are confirmed I cant really spill!  So really I just want to wish all my wonderful customers, friends & family a truly wonderful Christmas & New Year.  Thank you all for your continued friendship & support & I shall see you all next year!

Lots & lots of love to you all,

Vicky

x

Calling all you Hipsters, Funksters & folk who generally like stuff that's unique & a little bit on the curious side of life.  If this description applies to you then you are going to LOVE The Urban Market. 

Phew!  What a busy couple of weeks I've had & more ahead, with exciting times to come.  I put my flat on the market & decided to do myself a favour & take some time off to try & prepare for the move once the flat actually sells.  Good grief!  I never realised how much junk I had hoarded over the years, (emerges from pile of rubbish!!!).  I still haven't got through it all, but I am feeling slightly smug, as I have done two rooms in the flat & they were certainly the worst ones.  The next big job to tackle will be the loft, but I have enlisted the help of my daughters with that one as they have lots of stuff up there too & since neither of them reside at "Chez Vicky's" any longer, it's time they shifted their stuff out.