Plain Sourdough


In the quiet months of the year, I love to bake bread. 

My relationship with sourdough was not one of "Love at first sight". I am an avid baker but sourdough had always beaten me so I kept it at the very bottom of my list. 

I was given the right starter at the wrong moment. A bit like being forced to own an unwanted pet. I was ill at the time, and this starter was just there staring at me. It invaded my fridge space, which is always very limited, wanted to be part of my daily routine, wanted my love, time and attention. I was just not ready..... 

However I owed it to my cousin who carried it all the way from Sydney, and to my uncle who passed me this “thing” plus a recipe full of percentages that made me feel like I had to crack the code in a Dan Brown novel. 

First attempt..... flop. 

Me and flops don’t mix well. I cannot start off a battle by losing the first round. And that did it. I kept trying, first meticulously, then being a bit casual, then just feeling my way through, then researching and reading and learning and baking, and more baking.

The next thing I knew is that I was in love. 

In general, Bread Baking is fantastic but working with sourdough is absolutely magic. It’s not easy and it takes lots of understanding, patience and time. I have been baking bread for years yet I found it quite challenging. 

There are many techniques and many different ways of preparing this bread. 

My top tips are: use good quality bread flour and a healthy lively starter; make sure the water content in the dough is always high, proofing slower rather than faster; not using the fan option during baking. If possible use a Dutch oven, cast iron pot or baking stone for baking. 

You can make your own starter or else identify someone who bakes sourdough bread and nicely ask for a couple of tablespoonfuls. You can continue to feed and nurture your starter for many years. Baking bread at home can easily become part of your daily routine.  

Online, one can find an infinite selection of recipes, techniques and styles of sourdough bread. Some prefer some methods rather than others. Make sure you understand and master the main key steps. The starter - The Leaven - The Autolyse Stage - Folding - Shaping - Proving - Scoring - Baking. 

I have evolved my sourdough recipe and for each loaf i have changed the flour to an array of different flours. From spelt to kamut, seeded, type 2, wholemeal and plain. In this article, some of the breads i have baked have also been flavoured. Some with sweet ingredients and some with savoury. Once you master the basics, you can take it a step further.

The end result is a crusty loaf with a distinct flavour, that is not only beautiful to look at, but very tasty, healthy, digestible, has no additives and has a longer shelf life.  It fully rewards your dedication!




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