Sourdough – the path to enlightenment

A sourdough loaf used to be a luxury that I paid three or four quid for and to be quite frank I couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about.

But during lockdown I, along with a large number of friends, have been converted to the wonders and delights of sourdough.

No decent bread is to be had from the supermarket and it’s been almost impossible to get to the bakers in Norwich.

That, coupled with a shortage of flour and yeast, has meant many of us turning to sourdough as the  alternative.

I managed to order two sacks of organic flour from Shipton Mill and my friend Jenny supplied me with some of her sourdough starter.

This is the starter to which you add flour and warm water. Left in a warm place it will bubble up and rise. It’s then added as part of the recipe to make the dough.

The first loaf was a near disaster which left me on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

I’m not kidding. It was so stressful.

I followed the recipe and video Jenny supplied.

I love Patrick – the baker/chef in the film – and I found his explanations really comprehensive but in practice the dough was too wet and sticky for me to handle without becoming covered in the stuff.

At one point the ball of dough became an unruly mass that threatened to jump from the work surface to the floor like one of those slinkies we all had as children that had a kinetic energy all of its own.

I was exhausted at the end of it.

I swore never again.

But another friend, Sally, suggested a stretch and fold technique rather than sustained, lengthy kneading.

I also strongly suggest lightly oiling your hands and the work surface instead of using nothing at all before you stretch and fold the dough – I can’t remember where I got this tip from but it’s made all the difference to me and my sourdough experience.

I do use a little flour at the end of the process to shape my loaves and I lightly flour the tea towel I use to line my bowls for the final proof.

I’m going to post the original video here.

I’m also going to share the recipe I’ve ended up using here.

I have started using more wholemeal flour and changed the ratios slightly.

I now make two smaller loaves with these measures. I freeze one and eat the other immediately.

800g strong bread flour (200g wholemeal, 600g white).

250g sourdough starter

500g tepid water

20 – 25g salt

So in summary the video is great for giving you an idea of the whole process but please feel free to use the other recipe and my tips to make life a little easier.

The bread I’ve been making is delicious – it’s light yet slightly chewy with a crumpet-like texture. It freezes well.

Last tip. Please resist the urge to slice the loaf when it’s hot or still warm. It’ll ruin the rest.

If anyone needs some starter rather than making your own please ask and I’ll give you some.

Good luck and happy baking.









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