This is a simple sourdough recipe, however the starter for the sourdough is some what a labor of love and as I have been told by some of Sydney’s finest Artisan Bakers, the starter becomes part of your family for as many years as you are dedicated to tending to it. It is truly for the passionate foodie to maintain, though I have provided a less dedicated recipe for the masses. If you get time you should fully invest the effort as the results speak in volumes.
A starter is a wild yeast culture made from flour and water. It’s a natural leaven – otherwise known as ‘sourdough’ – for making bread and other naturally yeasted baked goodies. Once it’s active, you can store it in the fridge between bakes. Take it out and feed it up when you’re planning to make bread. Then put it back in the fridge. Or, if you’re baking very regularly, just keep it out and fed every 8 hours.
- 50g white bread flour, preferably unbleached organic flour
- 50g oat bran
- 100ml tepid water
- FEEDING YOUR STARTER
- 200g All-purpose flour
- 100g oatbran
- 200–300ml tepid water
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 500g All-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 230ml tepid water
- 10ml olive oil
- To make the starter, place the flour, bran and tepid water in a bowl and stir together to make a sticky paste. Cover with a damp tea towel (not plastic wrap) and leave on the kitchen bench for 2 days, dampening the tea towel again as needed to keep it moist.
- If after 2 days the mixture looks bubbly and has a milky smell, you can proceed to the first "feed". (It may take up to 4 days to reach this stage.)
- If there are patches of mold, throw it away and begin again with a new batch of starter.
- To feed the starter, stir 100g flour, 50g of bran and enough tepid water into the starter to make a soft, paste-like dough (about 100ml). Cover the bowl as before and leave for 24 hours. At this point the starter will look very active and bubbly. Stir well, then discard half the starter.
- Repeat the process: stir another 100g flour, 50g of bran and 100ml tepid water into the starter until fully mixed. Cover again and leave for 12 hours.
- • If the starter looks very bubbly and lively, it is ready to use.
- • If it seems only slightly bubbly, give it one more feed of 100g flour and tepid water and wait 6 hours. (You should always have about 400g of starter on hand: 200g to make the bread, and 200g to save.)
- To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Weigh out 200g of the starter into a separate bowl and mix it with the tepid water and oil, then pour it into the well in the flour. Gradually work the flour into the liquid mixture to make a soft dough. You may need to add a little more water as you work if the dough feels dry or crumbly, or more flour if it sticks to your hands or the bowl; use care and add only a tablespoon more flour at a time.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until very pliable and elastic. Clean the bowl and grease it lightly with oil or cooking spray.
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 3–8 hours or until doubled in size. Rising time depends on the room temperature and on the strength of your starter. (A new starter will give a slower rise and less volume than one that is well established.)
- Turn out the risen dough onto a floured work surface and knock it back to its original size. Shape the dough into a fairly tight ball and set it in a greased bread tin. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2–6 hours or until doubled in size.
- Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 220°C degrees. Just before placing the loaf in the oven, make 3 single slashes across the top of the loaf with a sharp knife to vent the steam. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when removed from the tray and tapped on the base.
- Transfer the bread to a wire rack and leave to cool. It can be kept for up to 5 days, and is wonderful toasted.