The aroma of baked bread filling our kitchen is nothing short of delightful. We attended an organic sourdough beginner’s class a few months back with Yoke Mardewi and since that class, we have not bought a single loaf of bread. Not one.
If you’re like us and love eating sourdough bread, have a go at making it at home. If you are not familiar with bread making, I recommend attending one of Yoke’s beginner’s classes. The class really helps you to understand what is involved and on top of that, Yoke gives away her sourdough starter culture as part of a take home pack – that is one handy shortcut!
Yoke advocates using only biodynamic or locally grown organic ingredients. This is back to basics stuff: unbleached flour, water and salt. No commercial yeast, additives or preservatives of any kind are used.
Life with home baked sourdough has been very exciting. We’re certainly not experts at it yet and find ourselves still referring to our notes from Yoke’s class frequently. In saying that, the whole process isn’t overly complicated. The tricky part lies in the planning and fitting in all the steps around your day.
All you need to prepare a sourdough starter at home is flour and water. Our sourdough starter is like liquid gold. You can leave it alone for a few weeks at a time in the fridge in-between feeds and neglected starters can generally be saved by a process of purging. A well-cared-for sourdough starter can live for many years.
This is what our starter looks like after being fed with rye flour and water to activate it (rye flour tends to produce a more reliable starter than wheat flour). It has been left with a lid on in our warm kitchen for around 8 hours. The lactobacilli bacteria in the rye flour combined with the water cultivates the natural yeast causing the mixture to bubble and grow.
For a white sourdough bread (or a pain au levain for you fancy folk) here are the steps involved.
Firstly, measure out the ingredients starting with 200g of the activated starter, 600g of filtered water, 1kg of organic unbleached white wheat flour and 20g of fine sea salt.
Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until it forms a compact mass.
Rest the dough in a bowl for 20 mins. It will start to relax and loosen which is essential for the activation of gluten.
This is the fun bit – air kneading. Rub some olive oil on your work bench and hands to help prevent sticking. Pick up the dough and throw it hard onto your bench. Do this for 2-3 mins for it to develop some elasticity. It’s surprisingly therapeutic slapping a dough around.
Let the dough rest for 2-3 hours in a bowl at room temperature. This is a good time to go out for a walk, watch season 6 of Mad Men (again) or pick up that novel everyone’s been saying you have to read.
Add some more olive oil on your work bench and hands. Take the dough and stretch it towards you gently then fold it over itself. Turn the dough 90° and repeat a few times.
Rest the dough on your work bench for 20 mins. Then divide the dough in two and shape each mass into tight rounds by tucking the dough firmly at the base whilst turning it so it becomes smooth and taut.
Place the dough in the tins and leave for 3-4 hours at room temperature for the final rise.
Once the dough has risen to just over the top of the tin (roughly doubled in size), spray the tops with some water to help form a crust and then bake in the oven for 235°C for 10 mins. Reduce the oven to 225°C for the next 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the loaves in there for 10 mins.
Remove the tins from the oven and tip them slightly so the loafs come out, letting these cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Baking bread from scratch really is satisfying and attending a class like Yoke’s will make it less daunting if you are new to bread making. Her website is very informative and you can purchase her ebooks, hard copy books as well as her rye starters (she also has gluten-free starters) from her site too.