Sourdough & Fermentation
I don’t remember the exact moment but about 8 years ago I started thinking more deeply about one of my favourite fizzy drinks… beer. All of a sudden I cared much less about its effects and more about how it was made and why it tasted the way it did and where it came from… This curiosity lead me down a long and interesting path of brewing and distilling education. As time went by I also dabbled in cider, kombucha, and now sourdough!
Bread is my obsession of the moment and I’m in love with the process. I’m certainly no expert but I’m loving learning more about this magical process and taking the time to produce one delicious loaf at a time. In this gluten-free world I am sort of embracing the opposite and indulging in an old world tradition.
Some may wonder what the difference between regular bread and sourdough bread is. The main difference is that “regular” bread is made with commercial yeast. This yeast has been cleaned up, modified and constructed to produce consistent and strong results over and over. Sourdough bread is made with a starter and that starter is created by capturing wild yeast and bacteria - it’s in the air all around you and on every surface. The idea is to make your own starter at home (it takes around ten days) with two simple ingredients: flour & water. Once you have your starter you can make delicious sourdough! Your starter is what makes your bread taste a little tart and funky and it also creates the CO2 in your bread which makes all the rad bubbles and gives it an airy texture and some nice height. Lastly the bacteria in your starter creates lactic acid (that sour flavour) and this lactic acid results in a lower glycemic bread than a “regular” bread. Whole grain flour is obviously a great choice and contains many more nutrients than white flour. You want to get the entire grain in your bod to get all the good stuff from the bran and the germ!
So there are hundreds of articles, videos and opinions on how to make your sourdough starter and loaf. It can be a little overwhelming. After watching a ton of videos and doing as much research as I could handle I learned that you can make this bread in many ways. I also learned that the starter is more resilient than you think – if you think your starter is dead or mouldy or bad or not strong enough or doesn’t float or, or, or… the chances are the starter is just fine so long as you feed it and it bubbles up a bit. Same with the bread, you can do the stretch and fold method and slap it and add seeds or psyllium husk or spray the top of the loaf or… and all these things work and are great but you don’t have to do them all exactly how everyone says you do. Bread is much more resilient and tougher than pastry – it is a science but there is a lot of room to play and bend the rules.
I found my favourite recipe for making the starter here and for baking the loaf here. Elly’s technique and filming are nothing fancy as she is a casual home-baker but she knows what she’s talking about and she has a relaxed method. Her cute Aussie accent is pretty great too – just make sure to disregard what she says about letting your loaf rise and proof in a cooler box. This is Canada and we all know it’s darn cold out right now so feel free to let your dough rise in a nice warm spot in your home. I like to use the top of my fridge near my stove. She also makes her sourdough starter with pineapple juice instead of water because the pineapple juice has a nice acidity to it. Honestly water works great too so don’t feel like you need to run out to buy pineapple juice.
The three basic ingredients for your bread are: flour, salt and water. I picked up a variety of flours from Bulk Barn so I could experiment with different recipe ratios. One hot tip that I did read in every article is that it’s always good to add a little bit of rye flour to your recipe. It gives a really nice flavour and texture. Some people add a couple tablespoons, some add a full cup. As for the tools that you need I would say the most important things are a jar for your starter, a small spatula to mix it and clean the sides of the jar, a glass bowl for your dough to rise in (glass is inert so it’s great for this, don’t use a metal bowl) and a medium sized Dutch oven. I got mine at Ikea years ago. I use it all the time and it still works perfectly so if you don’t want to drop a lot of money on a Creuset pot don’t feel like you have to! It is sort of an essential item though for making a good sourdough because you need to trap the steam in the pot in order to create that nice crispy outer crust.
I’ve been having a blast making loaves on the weekends. I’ll mix my dough on Friday night and then bake a nice loaf on Saturday afternoon. We like to smother the slices in jam or just butter. We also pile on cucumbers, cheese and cured meats. A grilled cheese with homemade bread is also pretty spectacular. Whatever you fancy, it’s all super tasty!
Have fun in the kitchen and let us know if you try out this recipe! We always love to hear from you.
Peace, love and bread.