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At last the starter is ready so it’s time to put it to the test!

So here are the basic ingredients for the bread:

500g strong white bread flour
300g sourdough starter
250ml tepid water
10g brown sugar
10g sea salt

As with all my recipes the measurements are an approximation, use them for guidance but don’t worry if you’re not exact, I certainly don’t (maybe that’s my problem!).

I normally put the flour in the bowl first followed by the sugar, salt and then the sourdough. At this point I start to mix the ingredients together and then slowly add the water, I never add all the water at once as this may make the dough too sticky, it’s better to add too little rather than too much as you can always add more but once added it’s much more difficult to take it out (I know I can always add more flour, but that’s not the point!).

Once mixed together into a nice firm dough take it out of the bowl and knead for about 10 minutes. Some people say that when the dough has been kneaded sufficiently you should be able to stretch the dough so thinly that you can almost see through it.

Once you have finished kneading place the dough in a well greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise. I normally put the dough back into the bowl I used to mix the dough in and often just use flour as a liner rather than oil.

Saturday was another rather busy day so I actually left the dough all day and over night before knocking it back on Sunday morning. The recommendation is to leave it for about 3 hours, although many bakers suggest that the longer you leave it the better the outcome.

At this stage you put the dough back onto a clean surface and ‘knock’ it back, that’s just a technical term for another bit of kneading. You do this to take out the air that has accumulated during the proving/rising period.

Generally a sourdough bread will not rise the same as a normal yeast based bread, so don’t me surprised if after the first couple of hours there hasn’t been much movement, like me you can always let it continue to rise a bit longer, or even overnight. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in too warm a place though as the dough may actually form a bit of a hard crust on top, dampening the towel will help to alleviate this though.

For this quantity of dough it is recommended that you divide the dough in half and make 2 loafs, however, in this instance I only made 1 large loaf.

Put the dough into a well floured tea towel and place back into the bowl and allow to rise again. Once more I left mine in the kitchen for several hours as there were lots of other things happening, shopping, gardening walking the dogs, you know all the normal sort of quiet Sunday afternoon activities!

Once the dough has risen to your own exacting requirements, or when your patients has run out, gently turn it out onto a baking sheet and place it in the oven (about 200c) and bake for 30-40 minutes. I normally put a dish of water at the bottom of the oven to help make the bread crusty.

To see if the bread is ready just give it a tap and it should have a nice hollow sort of sound.

Take it out of the oven, leave to cool on a wire rack, of course if like me you are just a little impatient you could just cut off the end, butter it and taste.

The outcome was acceptable, if not brilliant, the loaf is quite a lot denser than I would like so there is a long way for me to go before I’ll be reaching that panacea that  we all strive to achieve. Anyway I hope that you have all enjoyed the 14 day sourdough tale and that it has maybe even encouraged some of you to have a go and not be put off by the potential pitfalls and the sometimes overstated difficulties.

Happy baking to one and all.

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Today I fed the starter again in exactly the same way as before by simply adding equal parts of Rye flour & water to the existing mixture.

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Water
existing starter from previous feed
Once the new ingredients have been mixed into the existing mixture it is once again placed back into the airing cupboard.
 
The previous day’s starter bubbling away nicely

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Today I once again fed the starter the same way that I have done on the previous days.

So the ingredients for the feed are once again simply the same as we used on the previous days, and they are again mixed in to the existing mixture:

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Water
existing starter from previous feed
Once the new ingredients have been mixed into the existing mixture it is once again placed back into the airing cupboard.
 

The previous days mixture is looking really good now

 

Add the new ingredients and mix in

The refreshed mixture

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Today I fed the starter again the same way that I did yesterday.

So the ingredients for the feed are simply the same as we used on days 1 & 3 and they are again mixed in to the existing mixture:

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Water
existing starter from day 3
That’s it, simply mix the new ingredients into the existing starter and then put it back where it came from. I should mention that it is a good idea to remove any excess starter from the sides of the container as we do not want ant mild developing where it shouldn’t!
As you can see the starter is looking good and active

 
50gr of Rye flour & 50gr of tepid water added and then mixed in
The starter after the ingredients have been mixed in
And back into the airing cupboard it goes for another day.

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Today the starter showed signed of activity and has increased in size so it’s on with the feeding. 

So the ingredients for the feed are simply the same as we used on day 1 and they are mixed in to the existing mixture:

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Water
existing starter from day 1
That’s it, simply mix the new ingredients into the existing starter and then put it back where it came from.
 
The starter mixture from Day 1
Add the Rye flour & water to the existing starter
Mix the new ingredients in with the existing starter
All mixed in, cover and return to that nice warm place and wait another 24 hours

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It’s now twenty-four hours since I started the sourdough ‘Starter’ and so far it isn’t doing very much at all so I’m going to leave it alone for a while longer, maybe I’ll come back to it this afternoon or maybe I’ll even leave it till tomorrow.

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As promised in my previous post here is the start of what I hope will be a daily record of the sourdough ‘Starter’.

So first things first, the ingredients:

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Water

Note that I am using grams for the liquid and not millilitres, this apparently makes things that bit more accurate, you could equally use the American equivalent in cups, 1/2 cup of flour to a 1/4 cup of water.

Basic ingredients: Flour, a jar to mix and store the starter

Put 50gr of flour in the jar

Add 50gr of tepid (warm) water and mix well – this is what you end up with

As I’m using a lidded preserve jar I just close the lid, I don’t lock it in place I just loosely cover the top of the jar as some people say it could explode if it were airtight, if you don’t have a preserve jar then any reasonable size container that you can cover will do. Do bear in mind that this will grow considerably over time so ensure that whatever container you use is going to be big enough!

Put the jar in a nice warmish place, I use the airing cupboard.

Here endeth Day 1

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After a couple of false starts I have finally managed to make my first sourdough bread. For a long time now I’ve wanted to make my very own sourdough but have always been put off, primarily by the time it takes but also by the volumes of information on how to do it. Now normally I wouldn’t complain about ‘too much information’ as the more there is the easier something is to do, however in the case of sourdough I’m not sure that’s true.

My first attempt a couple of weeks back was a complete disaster even though I thought I had followed the instructions to the letter. The trouble is that there are just so many differing views on the subject and although in the end they are all basically the same they are not always explained easily for those of us with little brains!

So I’m going to add to the confusion by putting yet another view/explanation out there for all to see, hopefully one that might just make it a bit simpler. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an expert and my attempts are by no means perfect, but they are edible, tasty and in most respects they have the feel, texture and taste of any other sourdough that I have had.

To cut to the chase and to put things in the simplest possible way here is what you need to create a sourdough starter, which is simply the replacement for the yeast that you would otherwise use to rise the bread:

  • A jar
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Patience

That’s it, nothing more, nothing less! You simply take equal parts flour & water, mix them together, leave them in a warmish place for a day or so and then do it again. You keep doing it until you have enough of the starter to bake a loaf and if you’ve done it for long enough you might have enough left over to continue feeding the starter. That’s all well and good I hear you say, but what are the quantities, what flour do I use, how much patience?

Well, from what I have been able to glean it all really depends on who you believe, which books you’ve read, how you word your Google search, because no tow ever appear to be quite the same!

I started by reading ‘Bread Matters‘ by Andrew Whitley which provided various ways to make the starter. My first attempt was with Spelt flour (basically because that’s what I had in the store cupboard at the time), unfortunately it was an abject failure. Why was it a failure, well firstly a lack of patience I think and secondly I probably tried to make too large a loaf! This attempt produced a loaf that was over baked on the outside but under baked and dense on the inside.

For my second attempt I bought a bag of Rye flour, which, according to most people, is the best and easiest flour to use for a sourdough starter. I did some Goggling and came up with this site and more or less used the instructions there, but needless to say I didn’t follow them religiously. After about a week I used the starter, yes I used all of it, which produced 2 small round loaves.

Sourdough Starter

50gr Rye Flour
50gr Tepid Water (warm water, not too hot)

Mix the two ingredients together in a jar and leave in a relatively warm place, I use the airing cupboard, for at least twenty-four hours and then do the same again. If you keep repeating the process for a week or so you should have a fairly viable starter. You can tell that the process is working as the starter will be increasing in size day by day, it may also kind of bubble and it will definitely have a sourly , fermenting type of smell. Some recipes suggest throwing a portion of the starter away after a few days as otherwise you end up with too much, I didn’t I just carried on feeding, I also didn’t feed every day or at the same time. I’m not convinced that any of it is that critical.

The mixture starts off as a sort of sticky dough but gradually changes texture and consistency as the time goes on. I only did my starter for a week and then used it to make my two small loaves, this next one I will leave for quite a while longer before I use it, mainly because I would like to have some left over so that I don’t always have to start from scratch.

I think one of the reasons that it all seems so complicated is that there is always lots of writing and instruction but seldom any pictures, well that’s about to change as I aim to do a number of posts showing the growth of my new starter. I’ll try and do it on a daily basis but I won’t promise!

Sourdough Bread

So what about the actual bread then? Well that was relatively simple really and for a change I did it all by hand.

500gr Bread Flour
300gr Sourdough Starter
250ml Tepid Water
10gr Brown Sugar
10gr Sea Salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside to rise for several hours, normally if I’m doing a standard yeast loaf I would let it rise for about an hour but sourdough acts much, much more slowly.

I then knocked the dough back, re-kneeded it, split it into two small round loafs, placed each one in a floured tea towel in a bowl and left them to rise for another few hours (about 3-4 hours). Needless to say they didn’t look as though they had risen much at all, never the less I put them in the oven at about 220C for 35-40 minuets and to my utter surprise they actually rose and came out quite nice. I put a bowl of water in the bottom of the oven which produced steam, which in turn produced a very crisp crust.

For a first attempt, I’m completely ignoring the first catastrophe, the results aren’t bad at all. I’ve only got photos of the end result so far but I will try and do another post showing the production process once the next starter is ready.

The 2 loafs straight out of the oven

The inside after breakfast 

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Mothers day 2011 saw us crossing the Solent over to the Isle of Wight on one of the Wightlink car ferries when all of a sudden one of the coastguard helicopters appeared at eye level on the side of the ship. This caused great excitement amongst the passengers with everyone rushing outside to get a closer look and the ships crew telling everyone to get back inside!

It was one of those unfortunate occasions when I didn’t have the camera, they always happen when you’ve decided not to burden yourself down with lots of equipment, I just never learn! So I just sat back, held onto the dog tightly as she had never seen a helicopter before and it was all very frightening, then I remembered the iPhone in my pocket so all was not lost.

Obviously not the best photo in the world, but considering that it is heavily cropped and taken through the sea sprayed window it’s more than acceptable.

This turned out to be an exercise that provided much excitement to what otherwise is a very mundane 45 minute crossing.

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Last week I thought that we had a nest of sparrows in the ivy near to the back door to the garage as every time that I walked past it a little brown bird would fly out straight past my face and head down to the back of the garden.

The ivy is growing up against a brick wall and is probably only 3 or 4 inches deep as we tend to keep it well cut back so it’s not the sort of place that you would really expect to find a nest. I had kind of thought that the birds had gone as I hadn’t been dive bombed this week at all. Then today as I was doing a bit of work in that garage there was a sort of whining noise, which I thought was coming from either the dog next door or our own hound but when I stepped out to listen more closely it was apparent that the noise was emanating from the ivy.

On closer inspection this is what I saw

So obviously out came the camera and for the next few minutes I was able to get some really nice shots of the sparrows, only they weren’t actually sparrows they were wrens, which I think makes it even more special.

Although the parents were a little reticent to come and feed the young while the big scary man with the big lens was there, they did eventually come, so I guess that I can’t be all that scary after all.

A lot of the images were captured at a very high ISO (20,000) so you may find that quality is not as good as it should be, but unfortunately I was starting to lose the light as it was getting towards evening and the weather in the UK is not all that great at the moment which is obviously why we have a hosepipe ban!

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