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Sourdough Breadmaking for Beginners

Updated on January 2, 2015

How my passion for Sourdough started

My mum used to bake sourdough bread. Although this is now decades ago, when I close my eyes, I am right back there. I can see my mum taking the golden sourdough loaves from the oven and putting them on the table of our farmhouse kitchen. The aroma of fresh home baked sourdough bread filling the air. My mouth waters by just thinking about the slight salty taste from melting homemade butter on the first crispy slice of bread. There is just something about the aroma and taste of freshly baked sourdough bread which makes it so hard to resist.

The sourdough starter my mum used was made from a boiled potato, flour and water. A few years ago, I bought an Italian sourdough starter on the internet and have been baking bread with it ever since. You can bake different kinds of sourdough bread like ciabatta or Turkish bread, make a sourdough pizza base or bread sticks. Sourdough can also be used to bake pancakes, chocolate cake or cupcakes.

The birth of Sourdough

The story of sourdough goes back a couple of centuries. Apparently an Egyptian woman was making primitive dough for some flatbread by the Nile. She regularly baked most of her dough on a hot stone but left some dough behind. When she returned the next day, she mixed the leftovers with freshly made dough. The bread turned out bigger and lighter than her previous breads.

Proofed Sourdough Starter
Proofed Sourdough Starter

Where to get your Sourdough Starter culture from - There is a few ways in which you can obtain your starter culture:

  • Get some starter culture from friends or family. (Sharing ensures that someone else has a backup in case something goes wrong with the initial starter culture.)
  • Order a starter culture online. Choices are widespread. When I bought mine; the choices were: Austrian, Danish, French, German, Italian, San Francisco, Swedish, New Zealand and North American.
  • You can create one yourself. If you are new to sourdough, then I would not recommend this as there is a few pitfalls to this. There is some bad yeast and bacteria in the air which may at the starting stage cause bad tastes and odours. Even if things go well, then there is no guarantee that the starter which you create is of good taste and aroma.

The way that Sourdough Yeast works.

The sourdough starter culture is made up of many tiny micro organisms. These organisms perform a fermentation process as they absorb sugar from the flour and processes gas bubbles. These gas bubbles have the leavening effect on the bread. In addition to fermentation, the bacteria produce acids which add to the wonderful sourdough aromas and flavours.

Sourdough cultures are formed by wild yeasts and bacteria. From various regions in the world, people have created different tasting breads due to the unique wild yeasts from that area. With the addition of some other ingredients, like boiled potatoes, other aromas and tastes are created.

Some families have passed these sourdough cultures down many generations. This is the reason why some sourdough cultures are hundreds of years old.

How to care for your sourdough starter

Taking good care of your starter culture will make it possible to keep it forever and even pass it onto future generations.

As your starter is a live culture, it needs to be fed regularly. Starter can be kept in a wet form in a glass jar. A good jar size will be anything from 500 to 750ml (16 to 25 oz) . It can be kept either at room temperature or in the fridge. Starters kept at room temperature needs to be fed daily and fridge starters weekly. To feed a starter, you would have to remove halve the starter from the jar and replace it with an equal amount of water and flour mixture. For example if you remove one cup of starter, then you replace it with a mixture which contains half a cup of water and half a cup of flour.

Metal Equipment

Do not use metal equipment with your starter. Metal reacts to the starter and makes it less efficient.

sourdough
sourdough

Notes on caring for sourdough starters;

  • Use a sterilised jar to eliminate harmful bacteria.
  • Do not screw the lid onto the jar. Only let it sit loosely as to cover the jar. This will eliminate harmful bacteria getting in their whilst allowing your starter to breath.(After all it is a living organism)
  • Only use unbleached flour and preferably organic. The chemicals used in bleached flour may kill your culture.
  • The same goes for the water. Ensure that the water is of good quality. Use filtered or bottled water. Chemicals like chlorine and fluoride will have disastrous effects on your starter culture.
  • Use plastic or wood spoons and plastic cup measurement holders as metal equipment reacts to the starter and makes it less efficient. Metal baking trays and other metal equipment will be OK from after the dough is made

Leavened Sourdough Loaves - Just before baking
Leavened Sourdough Loaves - Just before baking

Sourdough White Bread Recipe

This is a great starter recipe if you are new to sourdough baking. This white bread recipe can be easily converted to a Vegan Sourdough Bread Recipe by replacing the honey with Agave syrup.

Ingredients

4 cups proofed sourdough starter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Tepid water

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons honey or Agave syrup (for vegan diets)

6 cups white flour

1/4 cup gluten flour

Before measuring out your 4 cups of starter culture, it must be proofed: To proof, you need to mix 2 cups flour with 2 cups of water. Then stir in a 1/4 cup or more of starter. Let mixture sit, covered loosely, for up to 12 hours. The longer it sits the more sour flavour it will have. Measure out the 4 cups required for recipe, and return leftover starter to your starter jar.

Pour starter into mixing bowl and keep separate

Add the salt and honey to water and stir until dissolved.

Add this mixture to the culture and mix well.

Add the oil and mix well

Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until the dough is too stiff to mix by hand.

Turn onto floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and satiny. (A dough mixer may be used to do this)

Pat dough into a 1-inch thick round and form loaf by rolling up, pinching the seam together as you roll the dough, and tucking ends to form the loaf.

Place in lightly greased loaf pan

Brush the tops with olive oil

Allow dough to rise, at 30 degrees C (85 degrees F) for 2 to 3 hours. (I normally switch oven on for about a minute and place bread in there with only the oven light on)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, (baking time varies according to your oven and your personal taste).

Remove loaf from oven and turn loaf out of the pan on wire rack.

Slice and enjoy - Yummy

(This recipe makes for 3 medium sized breads)

Any leftover dough can be placed in a plastic container and stored in the fridge for up to a week. Middle eastern style flatbread can then be made from it by just adding the herbs and spices and baking it in a pan. I normally add sesame seeds, origanum, thyme and salt and then bake it in olive oil.

This dough is so versatile.It can be used as a pizza base with your choice of toppings. Small round balls of this dough can also be baked as buns.

Kitchen Aid - Makes kneading easier

KitchenAid KSM150PSWH Artisan Series 5-Qt. Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield - White
KitchenAid KSM150PSWH Artisan Series 5-Qt. Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield - White
You can replace the metal bowl with a glass bowl. Se above for glass bowl.
 
Just out of the oven
Just out of the oven

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

A wholesome nutritious bread. This Whole Weat Bread recipe can be easily converted to a Vegan Sourdough Bread Recipe by replacing the honey with Agave syrup.

4 cups proofed white sourdough starter

2 tablespoon olive oil

1&1/2 cup Tepid water

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons honey or Agave (for Vegan diets)

Grains and seeds (3/4 cup overnight soaked wheat, 1/4 cup linseed, 1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds)

5-6 cups flour (2 cups wholemeal flour, 3 to 4 cups white flour, 1/4 cup gluten flour, 1/2 cup flax meal)

Before measuring out your 4 cups of starter culture, it must be proofed: To proof, you need to mix 2 cups flour with 2 cups of water. Then stir in a cup or more of starter. Let mixture sit, covered loosely, for up to 12 hours. The longer it sits the more sour flavour it will have. Measure out the 4 cups required for recipe, and return leftover starter to your starter jar.

Pour starter into mixing bowl and keep separate

Add the honey to the water and stir until dissolved

Add the salt and stir until dissolved.

Add this mixture to the culture and mix well.

Add the oil to the culture and mix well

Add the dry flour mixture, 1 cup at a time

Add soaked wheat,and other grains

Turn onto floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny. (A dough mixer may be used for this)

Pat dough into a 1-inch thick round and form loaf by rolling up from the one side, pinching the seam together as you roll the dough, tucking ends to form the loaf.

Place in lightly greased loaf pan

Brush top of bread with olive oil

Allow dough to rise, at 30 degrees C (85 degrees F) for 2 to 3 hours. (I normally switch oven on for about a minute and place bread in there with only the oven light on)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, (baking time varies according to your oven and your personal taste).

Remove loaf from oven and turn loaf out of the pan on wire rack.

Slice and enjoy - Yummy

(This recipe makes for 3 medium sized breads)

This bread also freeze well. The frozen slices are nice when toasted.

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
4 cups of proofed starterNewly shaped loafes, ready to be leavenedLeavened loafs of breadA food processor can make life easierLeftover dough stored in fridge can be turned into delicacies like this Middle eastern style pan bread
4 cups of proofed starter
4 cups of proofed starter
Newly shaped loafes, ready to be leavened
Newly shaped loafes, ready to be leavened
Leavened loafs of bread
Leavened loafs of bread
A food processor can make life easier
A food processor can make life easier
Leftover dough stored in fridge can be turned into delicacies like this Middle eastern style pan bread
Leftover dough stored in fridge can be turned into delicacies like this Middle eastern style pan bread
Sourdough Chocolate Cake
Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Sourdough for the sweet tooth

Many things can be made from sourdough, as mentioned in the first paragraph at the top of this page. Good examples of other products made from sourdough include pancakes, pastry, pizza and cakes. To the right is a photo of a delicious, rich, moist sourdough chocolate cake which I made from a recipe found in the book "Wild Sourdough: The Natural Way to Bake" by Yoke Mardewi. Her book, as seen below, also includes other delicious recipes. All her recipes are step by step easy to follow with lots of photos.

Wild Sourdough: The Natural Way to Bake

Wild Sourdough: the natural way to bake
Wild Sourdough: the natural way to bake
We used sourdough chocolate cake to bake the chocolate cake in the picture above. It tasted great, was moist and had a good texture.
 

********** Tip ************

This bread freeze well.

Slice bread and put in suitable containers into the freezer.

The frozen slices are nice when toasted.

Copyright Notice

The text and photos in this lens is my own work. Although I will most probably be happy for you to use the information and photos in this lens, please obtain my permission first. It is theft to reproduce copy or distribute it in any form, including electronic, without my express permission. However feel free to share the link to this lens, post it in your blog or put it on your facebook.

Do you enjoy eating sourdough bread? Have you tried using sourdough for baking pizza, pancakes and pita breads? Did you find the information in this lense useful?

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