What I like about sourdough is the deep rich flavour, the texture and the process leading to some of the gluten already being broken down. If people are slightly gluten intolerant, sourdough can be a great alternative. When it comes to sourdough, I have two bibles, both written by Yoke Mardewi (somewhat of a sourdough oracle): Wild Sourdough and Sourdough: From Pastries to Gluten-Free Wholegrain Breads. These books, particularly the latter, offer a load of information about the types of wheat and other grains available, and the benefits of sourdough. You can make sourdough with completely gluten free flours, I opt for flours with a lower gluten content, like rye and spelt because those are the flavours I like the most. Yoke’s books contain an enormous number of different recipes using a sourdough starter as the rising agent, from loaves, to croissants, pancakes, Christmas cake and crumpets to name a few.
I am by no means an expert but having sourdough in my life is a joy (and I promise that I’ll share the crumpets recipe soon) and I thought I’d share my adventures in sourdough with you and how to begin the process by making a sourdough starter.
I’ve made a couple of sourdough starters in my life, every single time though, the first one has failed, I’ve no idea why. The first recipe I tried added in grapes and yogurt to speed up the fermenting process, it was not a good experience to go through with a sense of smell. The second recipe I tried used plain bread flour which worked fine but then I gave up all grains for a while so when the time came to reintroduce grains into my diet I figured that sourdough would be a healthier and tastier way to do so. Thankfully I didn’t get any of the negative blood sugar effects that I do when I eat gluten rich breads. I’d really missed bread; I had taken to buying gluten free bread but store bought gluten free bread contains the same preservatives as normal store bought bread, it also usually contains xantham gum, which is not something I want to eat on a daily basis.
So to begin with, you need to make a starter, this will take a week, sourdough is a slow but worthwhile process. You can use any flour you like but Yoke recommends (and I quite agree) organic Rye flour. You’ll need a container to store your starter in that has plenty of room for expansion, I use a large Kilner jar (if air tight like this, make sure you let it have some fresh air every day or so or it might get a little explosive). Having a sourdough starter is like a pet, you have to feed and water it and make arrangements or take it with you on holiday. Perhaps give it a name and/or stick some googly eyes on the pot.
If you want to start adventuring into sourdough I cannot recommend Sourdough: From Pastries to Gluten-Free Wholegrain Breads enough, it is jam packed with information and recipes.
Making the starter:
- (Day1) In your jar / container, add 100 g of rye flour and 200 g of filtered water (always use filtered water), mix it to make a batter, getting as much air/oxygen as you can into the mixture.
- Close the lid and leave it to ferment in the warmest place in your house (18-28°C).
- (Day 2 or 3) Once your starter starts to show signs of bubbles, throw half of it away, add 50 g of rye flour and 100 g of water. Stir well, close the lid and put it back in its warm spot.
- Check your starter after 6 – 12 hours, it will be foamy or spongy depending on how ‘wholegrain’ your flour is.
- For the next 1-3 days, repeat stage 3.It should smell a little sour / fizzy but not disgusting, if the smell makes you feel ill, it is too far gone. This I learnt the hard way.
- Then, the next time add 100 g of rye flour and 150 g of water and allow it to ferment for 6-12 hours. Your starter is ready for action!
- When maintaining your starter you want a flour to water ratio of 1:1.5, a thick paste consistency. Your starter will need to be regularly fed.
Feeding your starter:
Once your starter is up and running, keep it at room temperature and feed it daily. Make sure to feed it the night before you want to use it (6-12 hours before use). To feed your starter with 2 tbsp of rye flour and 2-3 tbsp of water. This is what I do when feeding daily but only making one loaf a week. If you use your starter several times a week then feed it with 100 g of flour and 150 g of water. You’ll need ~300 g of starter for a loaf of bread. Make sure you vigorously stir your starter when you feed it, to get oxygen into it.
If you use your starter less than once a week, keep it in the fridge and feed it every few days, allowing it to come to room temperature first. Pop it back in the fridge one you’ve fed it but make sure you get it out the day before use at the latest so that it can come to temperature, be fed and have 6-12 hours to become active.
I’ll share a sourdough loaf recipe soon, whilst you bring your newest pet to life! It isn’t very pretty but it is totally worth the flavour.
Good luck! Please share any sourdough tips you make have with me!