Sourdough Bread Secrets

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Here is the basic sourdough bread recepie demonstrated by Ramsey on our May 5, 2020 online session of The Table @Home. We also include some really helpful and informative notes from Graham Beck of Little Stream Bakery.

 

Ingredients

2  to 2 1/2 cups sourdough starter, refreshed and at room temperature (see recipe and Graham's notes below)
4 cups white bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water (approximately), should be a bit warmer than room temperature and if possible de-chlorinated by boiling or letting sit uncovered for 8 hours if using "town" water

Method

  1. Measure the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl
  2. Add sourdough starter
  3. Slowly mix while adding water to make a workable dough that incorporates all of the flour
  4. Knead the dough until nicely elastic and the dough can be stretch to near paper thinness (15 min)
  5. Put dough in a floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise until double in size and your finger meets little resistance when you poke it. How long depends on the room temperature and starter but can be left for 8 hours/overnight
  6. Punch the dough down, divide into two equal parts
  7. Shape into two round loaves
  8. Dust loaves with flour and let rise again in a smaller bowl covered with damp cloth until almost double in size (will be much faster this time - an hour or two is sufficient)
  9.  Preheat oven and baking pan (if possible use cast-iron dutch oven) to 500 (yes 500) F
  10. Remove hot pans from oven and dust bottom with flour. Place loaves in pan, score the top and place in oven
  11. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Bread should be nicely darkened on crust and when tapped on bottom have a very hollow sound
  12. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy after 15 minutes  
  13. After cooling slice and freeze if not able to eat it all within a few days
  14. Enjoy!

How to get sourdough starter and a recipe....

With the recent growing interest in sourdough you may know someone who has starter to share. Many bakeries including Little Stream will offer you some of their sourdough. You can also make your own. Some recipes will use natural air-borne yeasts others may "seed" the culture with a few grains of dry yeast. Both can work great. Here's a recipe Ramsey recently used with great results from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole rye flour
1 1/2 cupls water
1/2 teaspoon milk or milk alternative (optional - Ramsey experimented with oat milk and it worked great)
a few grains of dry yeast 

 

Method

Mix ingredients together in a non-metalic bowl. It should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Cover and let sit at room temperafor three to five days stirring twice daily. It should become pungently fragrant but not unpleasantly sour. If it is has an unpleasant odour than it's likely been too warm and you should start over and find a cooler spot to culture. 

Recommended links for more information

After receiving some Little Stream starter, Ramsey was inspired by this video and we just love listening to this baker's Irish lilt as he walks through a process for sourdough baking. Sourdough Bread Masterclass

Community Kitchen Coordinator, Aisha, likes using this recipe and has been tutoring people on it during the pandemic with good success. Weekend Sourdough

 

Other notes on sourdough from Graham Beck at Little Stream Bakery...

Little Stream bakery uses an old reliable 50+ year old Ottawa valley starter that I and the bakery have been personally using for 36 years.

Sourdough was often called was called “friendship bread”  as the pioneers or traditional folk in the “old country” always always shared it. So when customers ask if we can sell them some - I reply no …but we will give you some!  It was given to me by my friends who went on start Green Door restaurant.

Refreshing/refreshing/feeding/build ( different words for the same process) the starter: essentially this means doubling the amount of culture you have by simply adding equal parts by weight flour and clean water and mixing it thoroughly. Whole grain flour is the best choice but other flour will also generally work. At the bakery the starter that we don’t measure by weight or volume the flour and water but go by feel - once you are proficient at this you can also disregard the the need to measure but go by feel. It should have the texture of a very thick liquid or a very soft dough. Deep well water with some hardness is best but any clean water will work. After refreshing the starter leave it out at room temperature or slightly warmer and it will take 3 to 6 hours to become very active. You will notice it developing air bubbles and growing to about 50% more than the size it was. Your sourdough culture is now ready to use to make bread. For our culture I would recommend half to 1 cup of starter for a recipe that is designed to make two or three loaves.

Always keep the sourdough culture in the fridge when not in use  - i.e. when not being refreshed/built. Also keep the lid on loosely when being built (t room temperature) and firmly on when stored in the fridge.

A 1 L or 500 ml large mouth mason jar works well to store your starter.

If you are not going to use the starter culture for over a week it is still best to feed it once a week. That may mean you have trowing some out - that’s ok the compost likes it.

If you get busy and forget for a few weeks or more - do the following: Throw out the discoloured top half inch or so on top, then feed it 4 to 6 times in a row the excess in the compost. That should bring it back to life.

It is by trial and error that you will get the results you want. For example if your bread seems to dense try resting it more or making a still softer dough. If your bread taste too sour ferment it less but taste it during the process to get a sense of where you want it to be. Remember that there’s 4 main variables in the Sourdough process: time, temperature, amount of sourdough culture, and degree culture sourdough intensity. You can play with any of of those variables to make a product that works for you. For example if you find the dough too sour do everything the same the next time but use either less starter or less timer less active starter.

Little Stream Bakery's sourdough culture is very stable and strong, it is at least 50 years old. Old sourdough cultures contain a minimum of 50 species of lactic bacteria and a minimum of 25 species of wild yeast. So you have here dynamic little ecosystem that will add to your health and to your own culture. The lactic bacteria are actually the dominant micro organism. When you hear bakers talk about the wild yeast and do not mention the lactic bacteria, they are indeed missing much of the point.  It is indeed the lactic bacteria that make the bread healthier. While the healthy lactic bacteria die off in the baking process, lactic acid’s are created in the fermentation and are retained in the finished bread. These lactic acids stimulate peristalsis ( the involuntary movements that move food through the digestive tract) the  and help balance stomach acid. The lactic acids also lower the acidity of the bread and thereby lower the glycemic index. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in all whole grains and seeds that naturally occurs in the bran of the seed. It’s purpose is to preserve the longevity and durability of the seed.  Phytic acid acid will chelate and thereby bind and remove minerals such that they are no longer available to us. The sourdough fermentation process create phytase, which neutralizes phytic acid all but completely. Sprouting, soaking and bakers yeast will also lower phytic acid but sourdough fermentation does this most completely.

Each method and sourdough culture and recipe is different but it is widely understood from solid science, that sourdough bread actually breaks down most of the gluten such that a fully fermented sourdough bread will often contain less than 1% gluten. In fact one of the Little Stream Bakery’s competitors in Montreal is allowed to make a claim on their Kamut bread that it contains less than 1% gluten because they commissioned a university study that confirmed it. They can only use it for that specific recipe with grain from a controlled agronomics - Kamut only has one variety allowed under it’s organic licence. Still this should be true of all full fermentation sourdoughs using wheat or spelt. Sourdough is the only kind of leveaned bread we ate before the invention of the microscope - I suspect that is a big part of why people have problems digesting gluten in today’s world.

Most of all have fun and enjoy the dance!

 Graham's recommended links: 

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/sourdough/how-to-make-sourdough-...

https://www.catsfork.com/CatsKitchen/tassajara-sponge-method-for-sourdou...