Sourdough – Day 3

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

Sourdough – Day 2

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.

Sourdough – Day 1

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

My First Sourdough

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 

My Poor Poppy

Today we went for a long walk with the dogs, Poppy our oldest collie (two and a half) and our new puppy, Bertie who is about four and a half months old. It was a truly wonderful walk down the quiet, snowbound country lanes with a stop around halfway in the local pub, where we sat round the open fire in arm chairs having a very welcome pint.

As you can see from the following photos Poppy just loves catching snowballs (well any balls really), Bertie on the other hand just chases Poppy, he hasn’t quite got the hang of chasing and catching the ball yet, at least not while Poppy is around anyway!

Unfortunately when we got back to the house we discovered Poppy lying very still in the snow, she wasn’t moving at all. We went over to her to see what was the matter and discovered that she had broken her back leg. We rushed her to the vet who confirmed the break and immediately arranged for us to take her to a specialist orthopaedic centre a few miles away. They have now x-rayed her leg and confirmed that the leg has a twisted fracture of the femur and they will operate tomorrow.

Not quite the perfect end to the day that we were hoping for.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The other day I decided to make a stew in the slow cooker. As I started to prepare the vegetables I thought that it would be a great idea to photograph the preparation step by step and put them on the blog.

So this is really a picture recipe which ought to be relatively straightforward for anyone to follow, but I’ll start by just providing a brief description of the process. I’m not going to provide any details on the actual quantities used as I tend not to take too much notice of them. I find that it is often a personal preference on the quantity of ingredients used in cooking, and it also varies depending on the amount of people that you are cooking for.

This particular stew fed two of us with a bit left over for lunch the following day, in reality it would probably have fed three people, or at a push four!

The basic ingredients I used were:

  • Onion
  • Leeks
  • Swede
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Beef
  • Bacon
  • Flour
  • Cloves
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leafs
  • Beer
  • Marmite
  • Tomato Puree
  • Mustard
  • Beef Stock Pot

Chop the root vegetables and put them in the slow cooker, add a little boiling water to keep them from browning while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Coat the beef in flour, this helps to lock in the meat juices, adds flavour and will help to thicken the stew. Put some oil in a pan and warm it through, I’ve used coconut oil as it is a healthier option and is very flavoursome (if you’re on a diet you could dry fry or use a 1 cal spray oil). Lightly soften the onion and leek and then add the beef (for a vegetarian stew you could substitute Quorn, or just add more vegetables) and continue to cook until lightly browned. Add the herbs and stir in the stock.

I have added cloves to give a warm wintery feel to the stew.

Make up some stock of choice, I have used a Knore beef stockpot, and add to the pan then add any other flavourings that you fancy, I’ve used some Marmite and mustard, I’ve also added some tomato puree to add some body. You can now add some more liquid, I’ve chosen to add some beer which creates a sort of ‘carbonade flamande‘ (Belgian Beef), I used a larger but a stout is generally better. You could also use red wine which would give you more of a ‘boeuf bourguignon’ (French Beef Stew), around the Christmas season you could always add mulled wine to give more of a seasonal sort of flavour. I also add a number of things to flavour the stew, Marmite, mustard and tomato puree, you could also use ketchup or a brown sauce, don’t be afraid to experiment just make sure you taste it as you go along!

Transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker and then put the empty pan back on the heat, add the chopped bacon and fry gently in the remaining juices until softened and then transfer to the slow cooker, stir thoroughly, put the lid on and cook on low for eight hours. You can obviously shorten or lengthen the time to suit.

If you don’t have a slow cooker then place the stew in an ordinary oven and cook on low. You can of course cook the stew at higher temperatures for much shorter times if necessary but they will not be as flavoursome.

The swede and parsnips chopped and in the slow cooker

 Carrots and onion being prepared

Diced leeks

Coat the steak in flour to enhance the flavour and seal the juices in

Melt the fat in a pan

Gently fry the leeks and onion till soft

Add the coated steak and continue to fry gently until browned

Add the herbs

Make some stock, add it to the pan and continue to cook gently

Add flavouring to your taste

Adding beer or wine will give body and flavour

Transfer to the slow cooker

Add some bacon to the pan to soak up any remaining juices

Transfer to the slow cooker and stir thoroughly

Add a couple of bay leaves and some fresh thyme if you have them, put the lid on and cook on low for several hours