Sourdough
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  • Fermented food so best - cheese, wine, bread, beer, whisky. They have a complexity you can't find elsewhere. The bad news is most bread is a bit shit because it's been made with baker's yeast and not a natural starter. Sourdough bread is expensive not because of the ingredients but because it takes at least 24hrs from beginning to end, which means the yield per sq ft of any given bakery is tiny. Hands on time is no greater than a kneaded loaf but there's no escaping the time it needs to mature and prove. 

    And it takes skill. Not silly amounts but some, because your bread is not the same as my bread and an exact recipe is not something that'll work in any given kitchen. Your starter is not my starter, your flour is not the same, your kitchen temp is not the same, your water is not the same. This is where the skill comes in but once you nail it and understand why you've nailed it you'll have the skill for life, no matter what kitchen you're in. 

    Why bother though? Well that depends. When you nail sourdough bread your cooking horizons expand completely. You'll learn it needn't taste sour and you can use it for pizza dough, or croissants, or cinnamon knots etc. The skills needed to make these things are the same skills and understanding you need to make a loaf - it's about undertanding gluten development, time and temperature. Also, a freshly baked sourdough, sliced and spread thick with butter and sprinkled with salt is one of the best things you can eat. The fact something so delicious can be made with nothing but flour and a bit of salt seems ridiculous. When your first properly risen loaf comes out the oven you will love it as much as your favourite child. Waking up and remembering there's dough in the fridge that's ready to be baked is a genuine pleasue. 







    It is fraught with danger though when you're a newbie, and it may well take 3 or 4 loaves before you get it right. Most of it is foolproof but there are a couple of steps that require practice. Working with wet dough requires experience but it's so worth it when you finally get it. Making sourdough just feels right. The process is so satisfying you may be tempted to do it a little too much and then just give the spare loaves away. There's a bit of "Look what I can do!" but there's also a strangely therapeutic ritual to it all. Maybe it's the 10,000 years humans have been doing it for.

    A basic 600g loaf costs less than 35p to make including gas/electricity. If you get really into it you can start buying more expensive organic flour from small producers (and it does make a difference) but for now we're going to start with basic supermarket flour. You're going to need some basic equipment.

    Tbh I'm not sure this thread will be worth the time it's going to take me, but if I teach just one person to make good sourdough I'll be a happy(ish) man. I'll start in the spirit of the sourdough process and take my time with it. I'll divide it into sections to make it a bit easier to break down because there's going to be a fair amount to talk about in each stage. The more you understand about the process the bigger the chance of success. I'll start with the starter.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • The starter

    What should be a festering pot of things that make you very sick is actually a symbiotic relationship that turns carbs into such complex and tasty acids. This is a fairly easy process that involves mixing flour with water, pouring most of it away the next day before adding more, and takes about a week until it's ready to bake with.

    A mature starter works because of wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Both the yeasts and bacteria release enzymes that break down the flour into various sugars. They both feed off these sugars but they prefer different types and don't need to compete for food. Yeasts like sucrose and glucose, LABs prefer maltose.

    There are many many more other harmful bacteria (like e.coli) competing for those sugars in the flour but these will die off in the maturing of the starter. This is where the symbiotic relationship of the flour and LABs kicks in. 

    Yeasts produce ethanol and the LABs produce lactic acid. Yeasts can cope with high levels of lactic acid and LABs can cope with high levels of ethanol, so neither poisons the other. All the other bad stuff will die because of either the alcohol or acid or both. This leaves the tiny proportion of yeasts and LABs in the initial mix to exponentially grow until the sugars in the flour are used up.

    This hive of complexity is surprisingly easy to make and is very resilient to neglect once it gets going. People have revived starter mixes from Egyptian times so don't worry if you forget to feed it for a couple of days or so. 

    It is important though to do it properly for the first week until you build the yeasts and LABs that'll keep it good for the rest of your days.

    We need to talk about flour. For years it was thought that the yeasts in a sourdough starter came from the air and you'll still see that quoted on a lot on various sourdough websites and books. It then transpired that in fact they came from the surface of the wheat and were ground into the flour when it was milled. To complicate matters further it seems that later studies show many do indeed come from the air. The situation now seems to be that most come from the flour but a few come from the air.

    Every starter is different because of the combination of wild yeasts and LABs and your starter will directly yet subtly affect the taste of the final loaf. You don't get to decide what yeasts and various LABs get into your starter but since yeasts seem to form initailly on the outside of the wheat it make sense to start with some outer husk in the flour, and by husk I mean brown bits. You could (and people have) use just regular white flour and water but I'd recommend not to.

    I started with this initial method.



    However, since you will probably throw most of your starter away each day it might seem more prudent to make do with something more practical than buying rye four just for starter. Although I started with this method I have since omitted the rye and gone with wholemeal (which is used in the sourdough recipe anyway even if you used rye for the starter). I bought one of these but basically buy anything with a fitted lid that takes 3kg+ of flour (2 * 1.5kg bags).

    Buy something like this

    640x640.jpg

    and this..

    640x640.jpg

    and mix them together in a big container. Then follow the instructions in the vid but use this mixture as a substitute for the total volume of flour (rye and white) he uses in the vid. In the last couple of days you will throw nearly all of your starter away, leaving just 25g or so. This is barely the stuff stuck to the glass after you've poured it all in the bin but fret not. The amount of wild yeast and LAB in just that small amount is thousands/millions/billions/trillions/whatevs greater than the initial few days and it's enough to eat the new flour and grow just fine.

    If you want to buy rye then go for it but it's not needed right now. You can do all that when you become a sourdough snob. Also remember UK tap water is fine and all our white flour is unbleached by law.

    It might seem a faff but after 7 days you basically just tip it nearly all out (I've stopped measuring) and add equal parts flour mix and water. Whenever it's running low just buy another bag of each and tip them in to your flour container of choice. Keep doing this forever.  This might mean you have grains of flour in there that are 30 plus years old but don't fret, the symbiotic jar of amaze will sort out all the bad stuff for you.

    If you do neglect your starter because you're going on holiday for a month or something it's not a problem, just tip it nearly all away as you would before a feed and you're good. You don't need to put it in the fridge (although you'll hear that a lot). Tip it all out leaving 25g or so as normal and leave it until you come back. It'll take a couple of feeds to get back to normal and you're good to go again. As long as you get a rise and fall it's fine.



    TLDR: CO2 by-product from the yeast fermentation rises the loaf (texture) and the LABs produce the sour complexity (taste). Together they kill all the bad shit. Mix equal parts flour and water and throw most of it away the next day before repeating. Include some brown flour in the mix because it'll contain more natural yeast than the whiter stuff.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • Equipment


    Digital scales you used for the starter but if you haven't got that far yet this is fine.

    A mixing bowl. Glass is good but not essential..

    A cheap dough scraper. This is essential for working with wet dough which is one of the two harder steps in the whole process.

    A large cast iron pan frying pan (no lid or dutch oven - we're going to steam the oven just fine with the pan below) to bake the loaf on. 12" is perfect so just buy the cheapest one you can find. This is going to act as our baking stone. Frying pans that don't go in a very hot oven are a waste of time and I'd argue any pot/pan that won't go in the oven is a stupid pan. Plastic handles are just awful. A cast iron pan should last longer than you. They are great for all searing, roasting, and baking. They make the best pizzas outside of a proper pizza oven. You can make flatbreads with them. Smash burgers on them. Knock out a burglar with one in an emergency. Everyone should own a large cast iron pan frying pan.

    A secondary pan/pot with a heavy base, preferably cast iron because they retain heat but not essential. This will go in the bottom of the oven and heat up. When the loaf goes in above we'll pour some boiling water in and this will create a steamy environment that will allow the loaf to expand without setting the skin. 

    To give you an idea here are my two pans.

    0mz3tRG.jpg

    The first we'll bake the loaf on and the second will make the steam. The steam one doesn't actually have to be that big but it's the only other cast iron pot I own.

    I don't recommend a dutch oven for baking the sourdough. This is basically the pot on the right but with the lid. The dutch oven idea is you don't need a secondary pan for steaming because a lid keeps the moisture in and creates steam as the wet dough rises in the enclosed environment. It does work, for sure, but it's problematic for sourdough. For reasons explained later it's best to tip the fridge-cold dough gently onto a hot flat surface like a large cast iron frying pan, rather than dropping it into a high sided pan to avoid burning yourself on the sides. It's also much easier to score the loaf in a pan without boiling hot high sides to contend with, and good scoring is key to getting a fully risen loaf. 

    So that's basically it. Scales to weigh, a bowl to mix, a scraper to shape and two hot pans to bake and steam. 

    Oh - and a banneton. Many have said you can get away with bowl and a floured tea towel but I found this was not good, and to mess it up at the very last minute because it's stuck to buggery on the tea towel is awful. The one in the link is great, It's the non-round version and I prefer the shape of the loaf, plus when it's long you shape it differently and I'm positive this helps with the oven spring. I can vouch for the one in the link and it states it holds about 500g of dough, but that is perfect for a 600/650g of sourdough dough. We will not be waiting for a doubling in size that most other breads need.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • A general overview of the process

    So you have a healthy starter - one that rises (by at least double, but preferably *2.5) and falls within 24 hrs. An elastic band is useful so you can set it before the rise and guage how much it's risen by.

    Now is the the bread proving day (tomorrow is the baking day) and you're going to need to be home for at least 8 hrs, but not constantly. This seems like a massive time investment but as you get better at it you can keep halting the process by sticking it in the fridge and work the sourdough-making around your life rather than the other way around. At first you're going to need to be there though.

    There is a four hour gap in the beginning though between stage 1 and stage 2 where you do not need to be there. Plan your day accordingly. Once you get good at it you can spread it over a couple of days if you like. The point is it doesn't take much hands on time at all, but it takes time to do it's thing and you need to be there to change from one process to the other. On the plus side it's really rewarding. Once you understand your dough and can relax a bit it's positively beneficial, like yoga or something. 

    In the meantime prepare for a bumpy road. If this was easy everyone would be doing it because the end product is so good and too cheap to not do it for the rest of your days. I'd say it will take about three or four loaves to get a great loaf and that's a fairly heavy time investment, but once you do you'll fall in love with it. You'll make sourdough pizzas quite easily once you have the loaf skills, or sweet stuff, and you might even start making loaves with 120% hydration like glass bread, which is godlike. It all starts with sourdough loaf skills.

    There are a host of things that can go wrong and it's identifying what did go wrong that will probably make up the bulk of the posts once I've detailed all the steps. 

    Thare are 2 things that most people trip up on so I'm giving you fair warning. 

    1. Over-proofing the bread before it goes in the fridge. We are not looking for a doubling in size. People who successfully bake other things with dry yeast struggle the most with this because they're used to certain habits.

    2. Shaping a wet dough. Sourdough is a highly hydrated loaf which means it's sticky as fuck. It will stick to your hands and scraper but don't worry, there are things you can do. But it will take practice.

    Once you've done all the steps for that day you'll put it in the fridge overnight, or 24hrs, or 48hrs if you like. This will give it a complex taste you won't find in loaves using dry yeast, which can be made in within 4hrs or so from scratch.

    If you have the time I'd watch this vid. We're not going to do some of the things shown but it will give you a general idea of what to expect on the day.

    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
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    Prepare for disappointment
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    Let's turn it up
    Prepare for disappointment
  • You’re all the way up to 11, can’t go higher.
    I am a FREE. I am not MAN. A NUMBER.
  • You ruined it elf. You always ruin things, bringing this thread bad luck now.
    Prepare for disappointment
  • This is why we need a new forum like phpbb so we can have sub topics under a general heading like food.
  • Sourdough is a massive thing here on the IOM. Lovely stuff.
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    You ruined it elf. You always ruin things.

    An eternal truth
  • This is going to be exhausting. I've only covered the starter and that is the easy bit.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • Also elf is barred for all the usual reasons.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • But but but I like sourdough. :(

    Used to get it from Planet Organic with smashed avocado and scrambled egg on the way to work. That was a year ago before we moved though.
    I am a FREE. I am not MAN. A NUMBER.
  • Make it yourself old bean.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • Main issue I have is fucking dough. Dough is disgusting. It's sticky and icky.

    Just make fucking flatbread, that's what I do. Thin fucking flatbread. Pita basically.
    Prepare for disappointment
  • Main issue I have is fucking dough. Dough is disgusting. It's sticky and icky. Just make fucking flatbread, that's what I do. Thin fucking flatbread. Pita basically.

    Dont be silly. A properly made and living dough is wonderful and feels brilliant. 

    Good choice of video by the way. I came across Rosendahl last year. He gets quite in depth but is pretty good at explaining all the steps.
    SFV - reddave360
  • Question, how long would a homemade sourdough or any loaf of bread last before it gets mouldy?
  • Depends on what shit they put in it. A sourdough has the acid that keeps it good for around a week.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • Franco Manca all the way lads.
  • Dinostar77 wrote:
    Question, how long would a homemade sourdough or any loaf of bread last before it gets mouldy?

    It will probably go stale before mouldy. So if your bread is starting to dry out, use it up asap. Sour dough has about 4 days of shelf life when fresh, other breads vary. 

    In terms of helping get to the 4th day - a bread box will help, wrapping your bread is another helpful way to keep it from drying out (which then leads to the mould). Cling wrap is good for this. Some say You can also put your bread in the fridge to prolong it but this is only good for commercial breads. A proper fresh bread will go mouldy just as quick, if not quicker,  in your fridge. You also slice it up and freeze it in packs. This is good if you live alone. The quality suffers a little but really not as much as you might expect.

    The best advice I can give is only buy or make enough bread for a day or 2 and consume it as fast as you can. If you are making a dough yourself, you can freeze the dough before baking it. I haven't done this with bread dough but I have for pizza / focaccia dough and it works fine.
    SFV - reddave360
  • Depends on what shit they put in it. A sourdough has the acid that keeps it good for around a week.

    I have two week old sourdough in the fridge. Should I ditch it? Someone gave it me as a starter, I fed it once, over two weeks ago

    Prepare for disappointment
  • It keeps a long time in the fridge. Tip 75% of it away and feed it. Next day tip 80% of it away and feed it. When you're seeing a good rise and fall every 24hrs it's good to go. Then tip nearly all of it away and feed it. Keep doing this.
    "Plus he wore shorts like a total cunt" - Bob
  • Feed the 25 and 20 percent remainder respectively, yeah?
    Prepare for disappointment
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