Why oh why oh why did no-one tell me that making sourdough bread was incredibly easy? I knew it was good for you, I knew it was a cheap loaf to make on a regular basis as it does not contain shop bought yeast and I knew it tasted very, very good, but I had no idea that it's the easiest bread on God's green earth to make! Has there been a world-wide internet conspiracy to make baking sourdough look like some arcane practice, only attempted in quiet corners of artisan bakeries by men who have a qualification in medieval alchemy? Yes, yes I think there has. And, as I am all about "sticking it to the man", I'm here to bust open this conspiracy and inform you, gentle reader, that you too can make sourdough bread.
- First, you have to make your starter. This is the yeasty batter which you use to rise the loaf. Start it three days or so before you want to begin baking. This is a very quick and easy way to make one.
- Take one American cup full of bread four (white or wholemeal) and place it in a large glass jar, jug or bowl.
- Add one American cup full of hand-hot water and I teaspoon of quick dried yeast (or 1 ounce of fresh yeast).
- Mix together and for the first day give it a stir every couple of hours or so. It will rise and bubble like crazy and becomes a lovely, sticky goo.
- On the second day just stir it once. You may see a thin layer of beer-smelling liquid, this is called hooch and it means your starter is working. (See picture).
- On the third day make your bread.Place 650 grammes of bread flour in a large bowl.
- Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
- 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- Stir dry ingredients together.
- Make a well in the flour and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil or melted lard or butter.
- Then add 100 grammes of your starter and mix together (gradually) with a little hand-hot water. About half a mug full will do it, but you may need more or less, depending on your flour. At this point your dough will look a little like the dough in the picture below.
- You do not need to knead!!! Hurrah!. Simply cover your dough and place it in a warm place to rise for 3 hours or so until the dough has doubled in size.
- When it's risen it will look a little like this. Punch the dough down and put it into an oiled bread tin, or on a oiled baking sheet. There is no need for a second rising.
- Bake for 10 minutes on high (225 or gas mark 7), then brush the dough with a little milk and water, or just water to give it a good crust.
- Then bake for another 25 minutes at 180 or gas mark 6.
A sourdough loaf is crispy and not at all sweet. I know the purist may not agree with this method of baking sourdough, but as long as you give the loaf a good long time to do its initial rise then the resulting bread is very good. Why not give it a try?...it's great to eat toasted oozing with butter and jam for Sunday tea.
Edit: I forgot to say that apparently the starter will keep indefinitely if you keep "feeding" it. Adding a quarter of a cup of flour and a quarter of a cup of hand-hot water every other day should do it.