I find a comfort in baking that nothing else provides. Baking bread takes that to a whole new level. Creating sourdough is in its own universe. It’s the organic nature of the process. The fact it takes time. That you have to use your hands. That there are variables you can not control, instead just having to take into account.
Having said that, my breadmaking skills have been a little light on the hit and sledgehammer like on the miss.
This, I have decided, is primarily due to my impatience and that I get a bit panicky – have I kneaded it too long? too little? is that the feeling of my earlobe (a tip once given to me by an old Chinese woman who was an expert at making dumplings)? oh God is it too wet? that seems really dry? is that doubled in size? When did I start that batch?
Sure, they were edible but they weren’t right. Besides, I wanted to be baking bread that I could use for sandwiches and the like, not just fancy foccacia type numbers that were a hit with dinner.
Couple that with my absolute adoration of a decent sourdough and my perpetual state of brokeness and you can see me leaving the land of dried yeast behind.
I found this book called Wild Sourdough and decided to take the plunge.
And you know what? Every single loaf has been fantastic. But it is the process that I find so enjoyable. Renewing my feeder each day, leaving a dough to rise in its own good time, air kneading a dough to a satisfying elasticity. And on and on I could go.
So how do you make sourdough? First you need your starter – a flour, water slurry which you leave to ferment, thus using the natural occurring yeasts in the flour as the rising agent.
That’s it. Yep, it’s that easy. Some tips though:
1. Try and get the best biodynamic/organic/unicorn endorsed flour you can find and/or afford
2. Only use spring water as tap water has flouride and chlorine in it which will kill the natural yeasts.
3. Use ceramic bowls and wooden utensils – avoid anything metallic
Combine equal parts of flour to water (use an electric scale). I started with 100g of flour to 100g of water.
After a couple of days (my rye starter had bubbles the next day, the white flour/spelt flour started took a little longer) there should be bubbles forming – add another round of flour and water and do this for a week. Then your starter is ready to use.
So go – get that underway.