One of the best parts about making homemade bread is that it only takes four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and leaven. That’s all!
The use of baker’s yeast is the most frequent method of leavening a loaf of bread, with the loaf rising due to the strength of fermentation.
Baking soda, on the other hand, is used to add volume by combining with an acid to produce carbon dioxide and breathe life into the loaf.
Nevertheless, bakers yeast and chemical leavening ingredients like baking powder or baking soda are not the only methods to make bread, and are in fact relatively new inventions in the baking business.
For thousands of years, bakers used naturally occurring microorganisms such as wild yeasts and bacteria to ferment their bread. In other words, they utilized sourdough.
The Wild Ones
There are several reasons why you would wish to make bread without using yeast or artificial leaveners. Maybe you or the person you’re baking for is allergic to baker’s yeast (speaking of food allergies, did you know you can create macarons without using almond flour? ), or you’d want to avoid unneeded chemical additions.
Yet, as you will soon discover, there are several more benefits to creating sourdough bread.
Just combine flour and water and let the natural strains of yeast and lactic acid bacteria existing on the flour to build a stable culture inside the mixture to make sourdough.
These microorganisms are maintained active and may proliferate endlessly by feeding the sourdough on a regular basis, offering a small powerhouse of activity to kick-start your baking.
The wild yeast, like baker’s yeast, will give the bread bulk, while the bacteria will serve to produce extra flavor in the loaf. They create lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the sourdough and protects it from assault by other, potentially harmful microorganisms.
This is why it’s called sourdough. But don’t worry, a sourdough loaf doesn’t have bread taste sour; it only adds another level of flavor!
Working with Sourdough
After you’ve established an active sourdough starter, baking with it involves just a few modifications to your regular baking routine and some forethought.
You may create your own sourdough from scratch, buy a dried sourdough online, or attempt to find one in a bakery.
Most local bakeries that produce sourdough bread would gladly offer you a tiny portion of their starter to feed at home; just remember to carry a small container with you to make it easy for them!
Caring for your sourdough is straightforward, but keep in mind that you want it to remain active if you want to bake with it (heres how to tell if your starter is bad). If you bake bread more than once a week, keep your sourdough at room temperature and feed it every day.
If you bake less often, store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week, pulling it out and giving it a few of additional daily feeds before baking to keep it fresh.
To feed it, remove most of the starter, leaving approximately 10-30%, and add an equivalent weight of flour and water, or a bit more water if using wholemeal flour.
These are recommendations, and you may manage your sourdough by modifying them. A wetter sourdough will ferment faster, but a stiffer sourdough will allow you more time to capture it at its prime. Explore until you discover a rhythm that works for you.
If you’re accustomed to making bread using yeast, you’ll notice that sourdough takes a bit longer to rise. This may be utilized to your advantage, since you can direct the different phases of the bake to suit your needs.
For example, a sourdough may be refreshed in the evening, combined into a dough and formed the following morning, let to rise throughout the day, and then cooked in the oven when you get home in the late afternoon.
Instead, you might use a cold proof by refrigerating the moulded dough overnight and baking it first thing in the morning. Excellent for freshly baked bread for morning!
Lastly, since sourdough is less active than dough prepared with baker’s yeast, you must be extra cautious while handling the dough.
While it may not accept being beaten back as aggressively as a traditional dough, a delicate folding of the dough is an excellent option. This may result in French or Italian loaves with a lovely open crumb.
Sourdough bread’s delayed fermentation provides several extra advantages.
The extra time allows enzymes in the wheat and microorganisms in the sourdough to develop flavor in the dough and release vital nutrients locked up in the flour.
The lactic acid increases the bread’s preserving characteristics, while the protracted fermentation makes the bread more digestible.
Several individuals who previously battled with store-bought bread are switching to home-made sourdough after learning how much better it tolerates and tastes.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
It’s a lot of fun to make your own sourdough starter from scratch. It’s incredible to think that you’ve developed and fostered your own colony of wild yeast and bacteria from simply flour and water, and that all of the delicious loaves you’ll make from it are descended from this first starter.
Since making a beginning is not an exact science, the amounts indicated are estimates. It does take some time and patience, but as long as you maintain your sourdough fed on a regular basis, this is a one-time operation. Your starter might stay with you for the rest of your life!
Several sourdough starter recipes ask for unusual ingredients like raisins, grated apple, dried apricots, and so on.
The idea is that these fruits produce their own populations of microorganisms, assisting in the kick-starting of the starter and providing novel taste combinations.
Although there is nothing wrong with this, as long as you make your starting with fresh, ideally organic flour, there should be enough of natural yeast and bacteria to get it started. Any tastes produced by the fruits are likely to be diminished after a few feedings.
Since there are more microorganisms on the wheat bran, wholemeal flour, particularly wholemeal rye, will ferment quickly and vigorously. You may use whichever flour you like for your starter, but keep in mind that times may vary.
Read more about the functions of baking ingredients.
In a jar with a cover, combine 150g flour and 250g water at about 35C (95F). Plastic or earthenware are good, but if you use glass, don’t cover the lid too tightly, since pressure will build up while the starter ferments.
Avoid using metal containers since the acid created may react with them. To allow for further feedings and growth, the container should be around four times the capacity of your original combination.
Stir the mixture vigorously to include as much oxygen as possible into the batter, then loosely seal the lid and set it aside in a warm location (around 30-35C or 86-95F is ideal).
Once or twice a day, check the starter and whisk it a bit to bring additional oxygen in. Continue this mixing until little bubbles develop on the surface of the starter, indicating the start of fermentation. You’ll also notice that the scent begins to shift.
Day 4 (or as soon as fermentation has commenced) (or as soon as fermentation has begun)
After the starter has begun to ferment, you may feed it for the first time. Add the same quantity of flour and warm water as on Day 1 and set aside for another 24 hours.
Remove half of the mixture and replace it with the same quantity of flour and water, but this time it should be cool.
Your starter should be fermenting strongly at this time, with huge bubbles emerging and the liquid expanding in size. The scent should have likewise ripened, becoming less harsh and more agreeable.
Your starter is ready to use at this point, but a week of daily feedings (removing half and replacing with fresh flour and water) will ensure that it is highly active before its first usage.
Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe
Like with any bread making, so much depends on your own conditions, materials, and equipment, with plenty of potential for experimenting.
Still, a sample recipe might help you get started on your sourdough bread making adventure. The rhythm of baking with sourdough is shown here; feel free to alter it to your favorite baking manner.
Although this recipe does not call for the use of a bread machine, you may be interested in learning when to use one.
Ingredients (makes 2 loaves) (makes 2 loaves)
- 200g sourdough starter
- 300g wholemeal flour
- 700g strong white bread flour
- 650g water
- 20g salt
In the evening, replenish your sourdough starter. 120g flour and 120g water will enough for the following day’s bake, with sufficient left over for the next refresh.
Make a dough using all of the ingredients and knead it until it becomes elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add extra flour, but a wetter dough will provide a softer and airier crumb. Let to rest for approximately an hour, covered with a plastic bag or a moist towel.
Fold the dough every 30 minutes, gently raising the edge of the basin and folding it over towards the top, turning the bowl in quarter turns and repeating four times.
Alternately, lay the dough on your work area and stretch and fold it in the same manner before returning it to the bowl.
Fold the dough until it is light and airy, which might take several hours depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the activity of your starter. When the dough is done, split it in half and shape each half into a circle.
Put the dough in a floured banneton (or an equivalent), cover with plastic wrap, and leave it rise until it has risen in size by approximately 50%. Let the loaves to rise until they feel light and delicate before baking, or place them in the refrigerator and cold prove overnight before baking the following morning.
Preheat your oven to 220°C (428°F) and place a baking stone or baking tray inside. Remove the loaves from the banneton and transfer them to the stone using a peel once the oven is heated, or remove the tray and lay the loaves straight on it.
To help the loaves rise in the oven, gash them with a knife or lame. Lower the temperature to 200°C (392°F) after 15 minutes, then bake the loaves for another 30-40 minutes, or until done to your liking.
Let it cool fully before slicing and serving.
Now that you’ve mastered bread making, learn about the many forms of pastry.