Obviously not a gardening post, but there is a tenuous link in that there are microflora and microfauna involved… and it grows… and needs feeding and watering. Plus there’s a permaculture/sustainable living angle here!
I’ve been growing my own sourdough bread starter culture since the bad storms hitting the UK started last year, the night our neighbours’ fences suffered. The first part of the recipe asked for the bread to be left outside for an hour or so. Hence it’s original reference as Waddesdon Storm bread. Over time the name Boris stuck, I’ve no real idea why.
He started off in a 2l Kilner jar but he did like to escape occasionally, now Boris resides in a 3l Kilner jar in the cupboard (although he camps in the fridge if we go away). I’ve made a multitude of types of bread from pizza bases to focaccia to seeded batch to farmhouse split tin to rye bread and more. I have to say it is rather tasty!
I first ate sourdough bread that my Nanna made years ago and would often help her, thinking back, she used a sour milk or buttermilk as her starter, but I went a bit more traditional with my starter, it’s literally just flour and water, using time and natural yeasts and lactobacilli from the air. I used stoneground rye flour in the first mix but over time any regular bread flour will do. It’s great fun to play with the different ratios of flours and flavourings for different results.
I’ve done a fair amount of reading up since last year. Playing with the water levels, or the temperature you store the starter at, or even the interval in between feeds all affect the equilibrium of the bacteria and yeast and therefore the rise and taste.
Apparently sourdough bread is healthier than that made using commercial baker’s yeast, it’s easier to digest, more nutritious and I have to say there is a depth of flavour that rivals the farmers markets artisan breads I’ve paid a lot of money for in the past. There’s the added bonus that I can make two large loaves from a 1.5kg bag of good quality bread flour (starting at 80p) so the price of a loaf starts at 40p, but more if you use organic flour. If you can find a local flour supplier rather than a supermarket do go for it, it’ll cost more, but no-where near as much as an off the shelf loaf would.
As much as a bread machine may be handy and even Cameron uses one, they’re very expensive and take all the fun out of it, they stop you getting to know your dough and the result just isn’t in the same league anyway. Sourdough isn’t suited to a bread machine so don’t risk it. It takes a lot longer to make a sourdough bread loaf, but it’s not harder, and you don’t knead it any longer than making regular bread, you just have to plan ahead.
There’s many recipes to get you started out there, I found a Jamie Oliver one that worked for me as a starting point, there’s even one currently printed on the back of a certain brand’s bag of bread flour. Have a play, try out different techniques – have fun with your food!
Green Garden Gate Waddesdon