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Gary's & Akos' sourdough recipe and method

Part 1 of 3

I’m sure it’s not copyright, so I’ll share my sourdough starter experience from my recent course at the School of Artisan Food. Contrary to many sources, there is only a need to use a teaspoon of flour a day - none of that rubbish of using 100g and then throwing half away every other day. Also plain tap water is fine - no need for mineral water.

The starter. So, start with a very small jar and a heaped teaspoon of flour and a teaspoon of water. Mix well. Each day for another 5-7 days, add another heaped tsp of flour and water, mixing well. By day 6 or 7, there should be signs of activity - bubbles in the mix and a different smell to the starter. Keep warmish, but don’t cook it!

NB different bread flours have differently noticeable activity - wholemeal Rye flour produces lots of activity while White flour has much less obvious reactions. Apparently, chick pea flour (Chana) is very active! Possibly, organic stoneground may be better (IF available).

What’s happening is natural yeasts AND the same bacteria in yoghurt, which are naturally present in the flour and encouraged by adding water and keeping warm, encourage fermentation and growth of the ‘good’ bacteria. This makes your bulked up and very active ‘sponge’.

So, the ideal end result after about a week:

A mix of flour and water that is bubbly and has a distinct aroma. If we think wine has many, different aromas, well starters are amazing! I have three on the go, one is slightly alcoholic, with vinegar and acetone notes, while the second is more bready and yeasty. The third is almost cheesy, certainly with dairy aromas. All are good!

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Sourdough Part 2 of 3.

The Sponge. Now, use 90% of your starter along with 100g of tepid water and 100g of flour. You can mix a Rye starter with White flour at this point, and I would suggest you try that first. (Continue adding flour/water to the bit of your starter remaining in the jar - for your next loaf!) Leave the bulked up mix overnight somewhere warm - an oven warmed to 50°C for 5 mins and then turned off works quite well. Cover with cling film, plastic bag or shower cap.

This is your bulked-up production volume of active yeast and bacteria.

The next day, you should have a ‘sponge’ showing lots of holes and ‘stringy’ gluten strands when you poke a spoon into it. If so, making bread is the next step!

Part 3 to follow…

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I was also taking out of it in the process and added it to crepes or flatbread. Some of the best textured and thinnest crepes I have ever made.

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Yes, agreed! Adding it to a normal yeasted recipe does add something extra, like these hot cross buns which use a mix of quick yeast and sourdough - added texture and taste.

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I should have added some to the focaccia I made (for the first time) yesterday.

(looks better than it was, while the crust was spot on, it was a little chewier than I’d have liked - possibly over worked)

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Yes, I’m sure some sourdough mix would have added a useful lift without the need for any kneading. It’s all about experimenting and seeing what works, isn’t it?

That’s such good looking bread! Never has mine been so full of holes like that!

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Thanks, I guess I had a bit of beginner’s luck. My starter is plain white flour, so it is much less bubbly then the one on your photo. Then used strong white flour for the bread. Such an interesting process, I followed a series of videos by a Hungarian artisan baker that he just recorded to help people in lockdown. It is in Hungarian, otherwise I would link.

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I had beginner’s luck first time i made sourdough. Helped no doubt by a rare 25 degrees. Sadly the luck was never repeated.

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@suiko and @szaki1974 I have, until now, had poor results, except one instance when the ‘oven spring’ was so great, I was forced to move the shelf down, part-way though cooking, to the lowest position, so rapid and high did the loaf rise!

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Thanks so much Gary, just a question , do you leave the jar uncovered when you start it off ?

@Leah No, keep the lid on. The natural yeasts and more particularly the Lactobacillus are present on the flour already. No need to add organic grapes etc. If you can find it now, wholemeal Rye flour has the most noticeable effect rather than White flour, but both do work as described by @szaki1974.

The most important thing is achieving that bulked-up sponge stage, once you have a achieved a good starter. Give it a go tomorrow!

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Mine was actually keeping 50g and using the rest in something else first daily then twice daily (dependending on how fast and how strong the vinegary smells appeared)… I think it is not necessarily rubbish as the aim is to calibrate the proportion between bacteria and yeasts. Saying all this, there are several methods and I guess everyone will stick to what has worked for them.

I am 100% sure that the 26 degrees over the last two days when my starter was still developing helped the process greatly. Luckily when the temperature dropped the bread was already proving overnight in the fridge.

One can only guess… there are so many variables - temperature, humidity, type of flour, types of ambient yeasts, how long / strong you work the dough, hands vs machine, how long you leave the dough, at what temperature you are proving, type of oven, type of vessel, etc… not dissimilar to winemaking. As the guy on my video said… ‘We all need to become bakers’ - a combination of science and art.

@VinoVeritas - where is post 3 of 3?

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Keep it in the microwave or oven, door closed (turned off… :wink: ) together with a bottle of warm water.

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Thanks @szaki1974, good advise :+1:

Yes, agreed @szaki1974, an unfortunate choice of words - It’s whatever works for your situation and depends on all of the variables mentioned by @suiko too. I was always concerned at how much flour was being used and it’s been so refreshing using a very small amount instead.

I do think that the room temperature of many houses can be quite cool and something mid-twenties would keep everything reacting much better - I actually used the cooler part (edges) of a plant propagator that was on at the time!

Part 3 of 3 to follow later today when work allows…

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I’ve been making all my own bread for more than a decade now and it’s been getting really infuriating the way everywhere is sold out of bread flour. I usually buy 5x1.5kg of bread flour at a time and my last load is almost exhausted now. Not the end of the world (despite what the hoarders think) as there’s plenty of bread in the shops. Anyway my lodger who also makes his own bread managed to locate an online store that had stock of the flour we both use and they dispatched 2x5x1.5kg to us yesterday so that’s great. The price is around £1 per kilo plus postage. My lodger in the process of searching found a number of people auctioning 16kg bags of the same flour (Marriages very strong) on ebay. He checked one of them after the sale had completed and it went for £81 plus £12 postage (we paid £8 postage for our 15kg worth).

Several things drop out of that:

  1. How many of those idiotic, panic buying hoarders are actually far from idiotic, scheming profiteers?
  2. Those profiteers should be on a fast track to jail in my opinion.
  3. What kind of idiots are paying £5 a kilo for bread flour when there’s a) plenty of bread in the shops and b) bread flour available online if you’re just prepared to go to the third page of the google search to find it?
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Sourdough - Part 3 of 3

Breadmaking - The recipie Now take the bulked-up Sponge or Ferment and add flour, water and salt. The amount of water added can vary, depending on the absorbency of the flour or whether all white or a mix of white flour and wholemeal.

So, add 150g of the Sponge to about 300 - 330g of tepid water, mix in 500g of strong white flour and 8g salt, carefully weighed. Mix to a very rough dough and then leave for 30mins for the flour to hydrate (absorb) the water before kneading.

I find that kneading can be less than with normal breads - it’s almost as if the structure is halfway there from the sponge stage. Once rested, form into a ball then grab the opposite edge and fold it over into the middle. Turn 90 degrees and repeat. Do this 12 or 16 times until some resistance is encountered. The dough may seem quite ‘bouncy’ and also probably quite sticky - this is normal. Try and avoid using more flour to make it easier to handle the dough - use a plastic dough scraper or lightly dampened fingers.

Cover, keep warm (20-24°C approx.) and then repeat two or three more times. Now shape (a normal, but large loaf tin is fine), allow to double in size ideally. A good test is that a finger indentation in the dough should return to normal in a few seconds.

Immediately before baking, slash the top in one or several places to allow for an oven spring. Bake in a pre-heated oven preset to 250°C, immediately reduced to 210°C. Bake for 40 - 48 mins depending on your oven and the flour mix. Optional: Straight after the loaf goes into the oven, add water to a hot tray under the loaf, being VERY CAREFUL to avoid being scalded by the steam produced.

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I heard there is plenty of flour. The problem is the limited capacity for putting it in retail-sized bags - under normal circumstances a lot would be sold in larger bags to businesses that no longer operate.

We too usually are slowly running out of flour as we make our own bread most of the time. Where did you buy yours online?

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I’m also wondering this …

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