Sourdough September: 5 tips to make the perfect sourdough bread
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It’s Sourdough September! A month to put your baking skills to the challenge.
There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that magically rises from some water, flour, and salt.
We spoke to cookbook author and baking aficionado Grace Stevens on how one can go about making a scrumptious sourdough this month to celebrate.
Stevens said sourdough bread became hugely popular during the lockdown, in part because we had the time to truly connect with our food, and because we needed more of a challenge than banana bread. Sourdough, she says, is the champion of bread and is used for delightful rolls, delicious doughnuts, and divine pizzas.
Looking at the history, she said it is claimed that sourdough dates to ancient Egypt about 1500BC, that before this, bread was flat and unleavened, meaning it didn’t rise.
“During the American Gold Rush, prospectors carried a mixture of water and flour strapped to their backs. Natural yeasts would join the mixture while they were riding, and their body heat provided the perfect environment for yeast to multiply. When more flour and salt were added to this mixture, it would create the perfect dough for a well-risen loaf. Every sourdough bread begins with a base starter mix. The starter requires flour, water, and a little bit of patience, as the mixture is left to ferment and mature for between 12 and 48 hours. The bread’s famous tangy flavour and chewy crust are due in part to the wild yeast that this fermentation process cultivates,” said Stevens.
Below are Stevens five fabulous tips for a great sourdough.
Don’t rush the starter mix.
You need to plan it well in advance as some can take 48 hours to mature. You know your starter is ready when you take a teaspoon of it, plonk it in a glass of water and it floats.
Use filtered water.
Yeast is a delicate organism; the chlorine and other chemicals in tap water can prevent your starter from growing.
Remember to feed your starter once or twice a week.
Essentially, your starter is alive and feeding off the gluten, sugars, and carbohydrates in the flour. By removing ⅓ of your starter weight and replenishing it with ⅓ equal parts water and flour you give the microbes more to eat.
Your starter should smell fruity and fresh.
If it starts to smell like nail polish, you know to feed it. But, if this smell remains, you will need to start again.
Remember the temperature.
Putting your starter in the fridge slows down the yeast activity which allows the bacteria to dominate, giving the final dough a more sour taste.