How to make Sourdough, Sour Dough and Friendship Sponge Bread Recipe
The staff of life
Sour dough, Friendship bread
I’m bonkers about bread making by hand I make bread three times a week and I’ve pretty much covered bread from every angle in other hubs, but the only recipes I’ve left out are probably some of the most basic ones. So here you are, Sour Dough and making bread using a sponge for the mix. I’ve mentioned making small amounts of sponge to add into the mix, but this time it will be the mix. If you are keen on improving your bread baking then this is the way to go, I include some mother even in my yeast recipe breads because it helps the bread come together better.
The sponges can be divided and given to a friend for them to make their own sponge mother, hence the title Friendship Bread.
The living starter
There are many different versions of this and I’m sure there are lots of hubs too, but this is my way and the way I’ve found to successfully produce a really tasty above average bread.
This bread is grown as much as made, it is necessary to first create, what is known as a Sour Dough Mother.
Begin with a cup of strong white bread flour and a cup of warm 100ºf, mix together and leave somewhere warm. I use a kilner jar with the seal ring removed, because you don’t want it air tight. The idea is that instead of adding yeast the mix slowly takes yeast from the air and begins to ferment, creating gas bubbles.
I usually put a few grapes or basil leaves into the starter, because they have natural yeasts which help the starter, and give flavour.
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Second day, add a half cup of flour and the same of warm water. Stir it into the mix which should already be very sticky. Day by day the gluten in the flour strengthens and builds.
Third day, already there should be bubbles in the mix, don’t worry if not. There should be a slightly sour smell when you open your container, don’t worry that’s normal.
Forth day, you can add a little wholemeal flour to the mix, add a full cup of flour and half a cup of warm water. Give it all a real good mixing which will put in air, and like most living things your starter needs air.
On baking day, add flour and warm water, and then leave your mix for about three hours during which time it should fill with bubbles.
You need 300g of bread flour and 125ml of warm water. Add two big tablespoons of the mother and mix well with the flour, add two teaspoons of salt. add one or two tablespoons of butter which will give the bread flavour and help its keeping quality.As the dough starts to come together turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until it feels right. By that I mean it will begin to feel soft and spongy, it will stretch without tearing and hold together in a smooth ball.
The bread needs proving and cooking just as you would any bread. See my hub on making a simple loaf for more details.
If you get water forming on your mix you need to feed it, but first pour off the liquid. The liquid is quite high in alcohol and used to be pour off to be drunk, but I think it provided more of a headache than anything else.
I used to sit at the end of the kitchen table as a kid and watch my grandma make and bake. She had a range which heated the rest of the house too; it had two ovens, one above the other and a place for the kettle and a bottom cupboard where the bread was proved before baking. She was stone deaf, a victim of the Low Moor munitions factory disaster in 1916, when the steel factory exploded and although grandma was a few miles away in a village called Shelf, she was deafened by the intensity of the sound.
It may have affected her hearing, but she was still the best cook and baker I’ve ever come across, her current and mint pasties were just heaven.
I remember reading that it was the main type of bread used in the Californian gold rush, and that Sour Dough Sam is the San Francisco 49er’s mascot. This type of bread was common during the Klondike gold rush too and old timers there were and I believe still are referred to as old sourdoughs.
The idea with this dough is not to throw away leftover’s, which become the starter for the next batch. Some starters can be as old as fifty or sixty years, because they will live as long as they are fed and looked after, they can go on indefinitely. Some call this starter ‘Friendship Bread’ because you tend to produce more than you need and rather than throwing it away, you can pass it on to friends and they can also grow their own.
Funnily enough, my Italian friend Fabio and I both have the same memories of our grandma’s who had a stoneware pot that contained their sourdough starter. My grandma used to talk to it as she fed it; she said it was her bread-cow, because she milked it every few days for the dough.
The chemistry and science behind why this makes a tasty bread are too complicated to go through here, and to be honest I don’t suppose we really need to know. I’m a breadnut so I find it all interesting.
You can add, grape must, apple juice, milk, basil leaves [Greek sour dough] any source of lactic acid bacteria will improve and change the flavour and character of your bread. Sour dough bread lasts longer and seldom goes mouldy.
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Making bread using a sponge.
This idea can be taken further and larger quantities made to use half and half with dry flour. Bread such as Ciabatta is made in a similar way with the exception that yeast is added and then proved overnight in the fridge. See my link for the recipe. There are other names related to this type of bread making, biga, poolish and pâté fermentée, which are called pre-ferments.
For the sponge, I use 300gm of mother and 300gm of whole wheat or wholemeal bread mixed together with enough warm water 100ºf to form a slightly sticky dough. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and two tablespoons of butter. You can also add 2 teaspoons of sugar, or malt extract, or I sometimes add a banana or two that have started to turn brown.
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The all the ingredients together and knead until it feels right. Let it prove for about an hour, this gives strength and adds flavour to the bread.
Divide the dough in half and shape. Place on a greased baking tray or if you have an oven stone. Prove the dough on a floured peel so you can drop it straight onto the stone.
Preheat the oven to about 220ºc gas mark 9. Cook at 9 for about ten minutes and then turn down to gas mark7 for about 20 minutes. When you get them out of the oven, turn them over and tap the bottom to see if it is cooked, it should have a hollow sound.
This bread is great just on it's own or with a thick generous spread of butter, but of course it will go with anything, and I think that once you have tasted this you will never eat shop bought bread again.
I hope you try this recipe, and that you have enjoyed sharing my kitchen for a short while, I've certainly enjoyed your company, so leave a comment please.
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