NATURALLY LEAVENED SOURDOUGH BREAD STARTER
HOW TO MAKE THE LEAVE (STARTER)
- 80g of good quality high protein (13%) Bakers Flour. (I buy Brero White Bakers Flour and Brero Rye online from Basic Ingredients in Queensland, and they are excellent). (If you use just regular plain flour it usually doesn’t have sufficient protein for the wild yeast to feed on. If you don’t have much choice, you can add a couple of teaspoons of honey at each feed to help keep the wild yeast in the starter strong).
- 80g Lukewarm Water
(Not straight from the tap as the chlorine will kill the yeast. Bottled water or distilled water will work best. Never use cold water as it might kill your Starter)
- Mix ingredients well and place in a lidded bowl that has a vent or cover with plastic wrap that has a couple of holes punched in the top so it is not airtight. (The yeast and lactobacillus needs some air to live).
Feed 80g flour and 80g water
Split your batch equally into 2 bowls and feed 110g flour and 110g water to each batch
Add 110g flour and 110g water to each batch
Give a super feed of 200g flour and 200g water to each bowl
NB Try to feed your starter at the same time every day.
Around 2 - 3 PM is good as it gives it time to rise earlier in the day on Baking Day. The cooler the weather the longer it takes to rise. You will work out your own schedule.
If your starter looks a bit grey and has liquid (hooch) collecting on top, this is the liquid alcohol given off as the wild yeast ferments. The presence isn’t a sign that your starter is in danger. It does indicate that your starter is hungry and needs to be fed. You can just stir the hooch into your starter or pour it off, feed your starter and it will be happy again.
A healthy starter has a strong yeasty sour smell. If you see mould growing on your starter discard it and begin a new starter. You shouldn’t have any problem if you ensure that all of your utensils, containers and hands are clean.
DAY 6: BAKING DAY!
You will need:
- Scale to weigh your ingredients. I use a digital scale.
- A bread proofing basket/banneton (I prefer the round 23cm rattan ones in the larger size. You can buy on eBay.
- Large Glass, China or Plastic mixing bowl (don’t use metal).
- A bread lame or sharp knife for perfect scoring
- Large French Oven or large round heavy casserole dish with lid. Caste Iron is best. I have 2 Chasseur French Ovens that I bought on sale from Kitchen Warehouse. But there are cheaper options. You just need something that is cast iron and can withstand a hot oven (235 Celsius). I prefer to make round loaves, but that is just my personal preference.
- Baking Paper (A good quality strong one).
- Plastic wrap
Before you start: Starter can take 10-14 hours to rise before it is ready to bake with.
The starter takes longer to rise in cold weather. In Winter I often feed my starter at around 9:00pm leave it on the kitchen bench overnight and then begin the pre-baking process at around 10am to bake at around 5:30pm.
In Summer the starter rises more quickly so I often start my starter at around 10:00pm, begin the pre-baking process at around 9:00am and bake at around 2:30-3:00pm.
On Baking Day your Starter should have doubled its size. It is best to use the starter when it has risen to its highest before it has begun to collapse.
You can check if it is ready by dropping a teaspoon of starter into a glass bowl of tepid water. If it floats, it is good to go. If it sinks it has either not had sufficient time to properly rise, or it has been left too long in which case you’ll need to make another batch and try again the following day.
BAKING DAY (Takes about 5-7 broken hours)
600g water (lukewarm distilled/purified – no chlorine)
2 tsp salt
1kg Plain Bakers Flour (I use Basic Ingredients White Brero Flour. I vary my mix sometimes when I want a nutty flavour and make up a mix of 900g Brero White Flour and 100g of Brero Rye Flour). *Please note that all flour isn’t the same. A recipe that works well in Australia may not work the same made in another country.
2tsp Olive Oil (pour into bowl to help stop the dough from sticking. The oil also helps prevent the dough from sticking to your hands when kneading. It is lovely kneaded through your dough, and it is healthy!
- In a large bowl mix the starter, water and salt and a tbsp of honey with a whisk, spoon, or electric mixer. (I use a Kenwood with dough hook). Then gradually add the 1kg of flour, stirring it in with a spoon or mixer. If using a spoon, you may need to flour your hands and hand mix until all of the flour has been mixed in.
- Turn out the dough ball onto a lightly floured countertop or large board....yes...it will be very moist!
- Knead the dough gently for 5 minutes, shape into a ball, and place into a bowl greased with olive oil , cover with gladwrap for one hour.
- After one hour, repeat step 3.
- Knead dough for 5 minutes, divide in half, knead and stretch into a ball and place the ball into a deep bowl or a proofing basket if you have one. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 3 hours.
- ½ hour before baking, place your casserole dish or French Oven into your oven and preheat to 235 degrees.
I7. Turn your dough ball onto baking paper, score/cut an X across the top with a sharp serrated knife or a bread lame (helps the loaf to rise), pick up your loaf using the baking paper corners and place into French Oven. (If you have a large oven and two French Ovens, you can cook both loaves together).
Cook with lid on for 30-35 minutes. Remove Lid and cook for another 15 minutes if you prefer a deeper brown colour. (I prefer to leave the lid on until the loaf is lightly browned as it keeps the loaf moist).
Turn onto a cooling rack . You can tap your bread to check that it is cooked…it makes a hollow sound when tapped. Now…be good! Don’t cut until it is cool.
Now cook the other loaf!
WHAT TO DO WITH THE REMAINING STARTER?
Save 100g of the starter. I put mine in the fridge. With a new starter it is best to feed it twice a week. Keep the weight of the 3 main ingredients the same. You’d feed a 100g starter with 100g water and 100g flour. When your starter becomes stronger and more mature, you can keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week, or even twice a month! If you’re going away, you can freeze your starter in a ziplock bag for up to a year. Just defrost it when you get home and give it a feed. Just remember to give your starter a super feed the day before you use it and remember that you will use 300g of starter for baking and need to retain at least 100g for your next bake.
Each time you feed your Starter, take off what you want to keep (I take 200g and feed mine 200g of water and 200g of flour and 1tsp honey so that I have enough starter to make 2 loaves).
Some people discard their starter, or they use the excess to make crumpets, waffles, or pizza dough.
HOW TO TEST IF YOUR STARTER IS READY TO BAKE WITH:
Depending on the room temperature the time can vary.
I put starter into a clear dish and use a marker to mark the starter level. It usually doubles in 10 - 14 hours.
The best way to check if it is ready to use is to put some room temperature or tepid water into a glass, and using a teaspoon take a tiny bit of starter and drop it gently onto the water. If it floats the starter is ready. If it sinks the starter isn’t ready yet or has already begun to go down, in which case discard some and feed it again...always equal quantities of starter, flour and water.
Sources of supplies:
White Brero Flour and Brero Rye Flour - You can purchase online from Basic Ingredients www.basicingredients.com.au (is the only place in Australia (Queensland) that has it and it is cheapest to buy 10 x 1kg bags at a time as you get a good discount. You can freeze the flour indefinitely. Sometimes they offer free shipping to certain areas and will let you know when they have specials.
Heavy iron French Oven - Kitchen Warehouse online has them on sale. You need the 27 - 30cm size. Mine is a Chasseur, but any large heavy lidded iron pot would do.
Proofing baskets - eBay or Basic Ingredients. (But...a calico cloth in a small to medium sized mixing bowl will also do).
Dough Cutter - Basic Ingredients (Not essential)
A digital weighing scale - Kitchen Warehouse
*I am grateful to Sarah Fielke who generously shared her sourdough recipe. Sarah has a couple of videos on her Instagram page that show how she kneads and shapes her loaves.
Over time I have tweaked the recipe and baking method a little, but I still give Sarah full credit for getting me started.
My starter, that is named Seymour, is now 4 years old and is very robust and happy. Some sourdough starters are over a hundred years old and are handed down from generation to generation. As your starter ages over the years it will develop a flavour that is unique.
People who are gluten sensitive may be able to tolerate sourdough bread without experiencing any issues because the fermentation process changes the gluten so it is more easily tolerated.
Live starters have been used for thousands of years. Modern bakeries only began backing using different methods and adding yeast instead of naturally fermented leaven to bread a bit more than a hundred years ago.
Sourdough bread is a high protein bread made from all natural ingredients.
Dr Google will help you find out more about the history of naturally leavened breads.