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Sourdough bread

For those of you who wanted a recipe for sourdough starter here it is. I've also included a basic bread, but once you have your starter and know how to make a sponge it's easy to experiment with different flours and flavourings.

You will need a clean jar, ideally one with a lid. I'm not sure how big a jar you need but it's probably worth getting one that holds a pint or so. I have a jar from Lakeland which has a rubber sealed lid on it, but a jam jar or or tupperware box would be great.

Making your starter:

  • Put equal measures of water and flour (rye or whole-wheat is best when you start off) in your jar. Just use a small cup or a (American) cup measure if you have one (a lot of recipes work with cup measures so it might be worth investing).
  • Leave the starter at room temperature (or on top of fridge if your house is cool).
  • Feed it! After 24 hours or so (when it is clearly bubbling) you need to feed it. It's easy: Simply discard half of the starter and add half of whatever measure you used to begin with (in my case I'd use 0.5 cup water and 0.5 cup flour). Do this every 24 hours for 3-4 days.
  • When the starter is ready it will have puffed up with a bubbly froth and smell of yeast.
  • Unless you are planning to bake daily, you can now store the starter in the fridge. Put the lid on but leave a slightly open (if you are using a jam jar, pierce the lid) and it will stay alive as long as you feed it once a week. Feed it in the same way as above (I normally leave mine out for an hour or so to help it keep going).
Sourdough recipe:

[SIZE=+1]Sourdough Baking Step One: Proofing the Sponge[/SIZE]
Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.

  • Take your starter out of the fridge. Pour it into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!
  • Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours.
  • Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready. The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavour you will get.
The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.
[SIZE=+1]Sourdough Baking Step Two: The Actual Recipe[/SIZE]
Of course, there are a lot of recipes for Sourdough bread.This is the basic recipe I use, though, and it's simple and makes a good bread. You'll need the following:

  • 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
  • 3 Cups of unbleached flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened butter
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
First, you should have some leftover sponge. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time: Put it into the jar, and give it a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water. Keep it in the fridge as above; you'll have starter again next time.

Now, for the recipe: To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil (or a little butter). Mix well, then knead in the flour a bit at a time. Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. I use a mixer wiht a dough attachment but it's easy enough by hand (will take a bit longer, maybe 5-10 minutes)

Let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel. Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread; my starter takes about an hour or so, but some starters take much longer. Let the dough double in size, just like yeast-bread dough.

Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet (sprinkled with cornmeal or greased). Slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.

Place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 180[SIZE=-1]o[/SIZE] Celsius and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing.

It sounds like hard work, but it's actually really easy.

The reason I'd recommend starting with whole-wheat or rye flour is because they have more natural yeast in them so it's more likely to be successful. When you bake your first bread you can use any flour you like and the sponge will still be good as a starter for next time.

Oh, and if you find a brown liquid layer on top of your starter, don't worry. It's called hooch and can either be poured away or simply stirred back in.

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Plod, plod, plod.....
Thanks Alli, I'm going to try this next week. Each year we make cider with friends at a big party and last year someone was telling me about this. I planned to do it then but you know how it is.....
I heard that even people who can't normally eat wheat can eat this because of the predigested gluten. Do you know anything about this? One of my daughters has trouble with wheat. It makes her very bloated and upsets her tummy. I was given a good bread recipe by a friend a while ago. I'll dig it out and share it on here. I haven't forgotten the cheesecake one either, it just didn't seem very appropriate to post it while Katy was having such a rough time.
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Bess - I hadn't heard that, but did a quick search and a study was done using 30% wheat flour and 70% grain flour (buckwheat I think) sourdough bread. None of the gluten intolerant testers got a reaction from the bread.

I guess it's worth trying provided that the intolerance isn't too severe.

Oh I love that I'm eating again and able to cook and bake. Luckily I did not put on weight from eating too much of home made food - it was all down to late night binging on junk - so I can bake and cook without concern :D


Plod, plod, plod.....
Bess - I hadn't heard that, but did a quick search and a study was done using 30% wheat flour and 70% grain flour (buckwheat I think) sourdough bread. None of the gluten intolerant testers got a reaction from the bread.

I guess it's worth trying provided that the intolerance isn't too severe.
Yes definately. I made her a polenta and lemon cake yesterday which she loved. But it would be good to try the bread recipe.

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