By definition, sourdough is the “leaven for making bread, consisting of fermenting dough, usually from previous baking”. In terms of simple science, regular dough is fermented using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. What sets it apart from regular bread is its sour taste, courtesy of the lactic acid from the bacteria, and the better kept quality.
While it does sound like a new trend, much like avocado on toast, sourdough has a history that dates back thousands of years, with the first culture of it dating around 3700 BC. What’s interesting is that its actual origins are speculated to be even older. It was the original leavening agent, much before baker’s yeast or barm from beer came into the picture.
Making The Sourdough Bread
Yes, it is entirely possible to make this at home without using an arsenal of ingredients or unaffordable equipment. Sourdough is essentially and exactly, a fermenting mixture of flour and water. Let’s see what it takes for you to become your own baker.
Flour contains a variety of yeast and bacteria to begin with. You add water to it and let it sit for a few days, and then you will see it develop a kind of culture that makes it rise up. Sorry, history reference there. Coming back to it, we mean the present times where you are trying to make a sourdough starter, put your mixture in a closed jar that has enough room to accommodate the starter when it rises. We would like to give you two tips here. Number one, make sure that the water you use is free from chlorine or chloramine, as that can impede the fermentation process. Tip number two, place your jar in another bowl to catch the starter in case it spills over.
The whole thing depends on the temperature of its surroundings. Keep it around 26 degree Celsius and you will see good enough growth.
As the dough ferments for several days, flour and water are added to it periodically to increase the volume. These are called refreshments and these are what keep the mixture active. Remember that if temporarily the mixture does not rise for a few days or so, it is alright. It has not ‘died’, as many people mistakenly think so. Consider that the dough is taking a little break and it will soon be back on track to rising and shining.
If you are making bread at home, you know how personal the process is, be it in terms of taste or just the satisfaction of it. Considering that, here is a nuance that you could give a shot to. A dry and cool starter will produce a more sour taste than a wet and warm one. The exact science behind that is – dry and cool starter has more yeast growth and less bacterial activity, which means that it produces more acetic acid than lactic acid.
A wetter and warmer starter does the exact reverse. It has more bacterial activity and a higher production of lactic acid than acetic.
With dough mixtures containing rye, a higher amount of lactic acid is preferred, while in case of wheat, acetic acid is the coveted goal. It might take you a while and a few trials and errors to get there. But not to worry, because the sourdough mixture is as forgiving as it is resilient. As long as you don’t neglect it too much, it can bounce back from small mistakes. Sounds like advice for a relationship, right? Well, it kind of is considering the right dough can last a lifetime. On that note, firmer starters require harder work than the wet ones.
3. Intervals Between Refreshments
You will have to start by refreshing your starter once a day. As the activity of your culture increases, the feedings will increase to twice a day, until you stop using the flour altogether. This is in case you are a regular baker. Otherwise, you may keep the starter in the fridge and refresh it only when you plan on baking. Keep in mind that your baking must be in sync with your refreshment schedule.
The right way to refresh it would be to stir the existing mixture and scoop out a part of it to mix it with fresh flour and water. Then keep it aside as it starts the fermentation process and begins to rise throughout the day. For accuracy, something that can make a mountain of a difference in baking are measuring cups and weighing scales. They truly go a long way in establishing the quality of your bread.
When making the final dough for baking, you need an active leaven. This would be available when the starter is fed half a day prior, giving it time to be bubbly enough to float on water. Depending on your preferred formula for the bread, mix the leaven with flour and water, knead it into loaves, let it rise and then put it to bake.
Sourdough that has been proved for several hours may be used in the baking segment of a bread machine. But to get that slashed and blistered texture, it is best to oven bake it with the use of a baking stone.
Bread is one of the simple pleasures of life and sourdough in all of its gluten-free, low glycaemic index glory that can so easily be made at home, will make you feel like a master baker. One that has found the secret to turning a guilty pleasure into a healthy one. You may or may not get that perfect loaf of bread immediately, but when you do get it eventually, it will become a permanent part of your life and everyone else around you. That’s bound to happen because we reckon you won’t be able to stop talking about it. Oh come on, the bragging rights lie with you, so you’re allowed to!