Today there is cause for great rejoicing, a monumental day in my kitchen. I have finally accomplished the making of a successful sourdough plant. I had been told it was virtually unachievable, and indeed my previous attempts have been anything but inspiring but now I know it can be done and how to do it.
The key ingredient was organic wholemeal flour. I grind my own as I have the luxury of a wheat grinder. (If you don’t have a grinder, try using stone ground wholemeal flour). It’s an old electric American beast, given to us by a friend about 30 years ago, who in turn had been given it by an elderly friend. It is hardly a thing of beauty, but its grinding power is impressive – it will chug away noisily but effectively all day long. I’d left the poor undervalued thing in the shed for at least 25 years, unaware of its potential worth in the kitchen.
Anyway, I decided to try making a sourdough starter using some of the flour I’d recently ground. In a glass bowl I placed about ½ cup of the flour and ¾ cup warm water and mixed it well. I covered it loosely with muslin and put it outside, bringing it in once the cool of the evening set in. Each day I fed it with 2 tablespoons more of the flour and 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water. By last evening, about 2 weeks after I first started, I decided to give baking bread a try, using solely this sourdough starter as the raising agent.
In a large bowl I mixed 2 cups plain flour and ¾ cup of the wholemeal flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons oil, 1 cupful of the sourdough starter and a little extra warm water to make a soft dough, then covered with a tea towel. (I also fed about one tablespoon of this mixture back into the remaining starter and feed it with 2 tablespoons of flour and water to get it going again)
This morning when I got up I couldn’t believe that the dough I’d left to rise had doubled in size – I was ecstatic. I turned it out and kneaded it with a little more flour and then let it rise again in a greased and baking paper lined 20cm deep sided round tin. Again I was astounded when a few hours later it had risen to the top of the tin. What a sense of accomplishment! I baked it at 200°C for 15 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 170°C for a further 40 minutes. I cannot tell you how wonderful it smelled baking – the sour, wheaty aroma filled the whole house. Its crust is golden brown and crunchy – looks and smells amazing.
I turned it out immediately and am waiting for it to cool enough to eat. I recommend for anyone to give this a try – sourdough bread is just so delicious, and all the better if you’ve made the natural, additive free sourdough yeast yourself.
Note: Feed the starter plant as before – i.e. the 2 tablespoons of wholemeal flour and water each day.