For the past couple years, I have been cultivating a sourdough bread starter. My locally-sourced wild yeasts, so to speak, have helped created many delicious dough products, including whole wheat loaves, naan bread, pizza dough, and cinnamon buns. The sourdough starter is truly a versatile and delicious yeast to use!
The bowl in the second image below is, in fact, one that we have inherited from my great-grandmother. She was a farmer’s wife, and cooked everything for her family from scratch—pies, bread, preserves, even ketchup! I don’t make nearly as much bread as she did, but I like to think that her years of using this bowl have perfectly “seasoned” it for the task!
The recipe that I use originally came from BBC Good Food. Their suggested starter recipe is pretty simple, though I admit that when I first started cultivating my yeast, I cheated and added a bit of quick-rise bread yeast to help “kick start” the starter.
If you are not intending to make a fresh sourdough loaf (or even feed your starter) every day, keep it in the fridge. Refrigerating the starter allows you the luxury of only needing to feed it once every week or two. It will separate in the fridge, so make sure to stir the starter before each feeding.
In addition, I often add a bit of regular yeast to my loaves—in part because it cuts down the potent flavour of the sourdough, but also because it lessens the amount of time the loaf needs to rise.
The loaf shown is an oatmeal sourdough, so follow the option below for wholewheat flour, substituting oatmeal for the wholewheat flour.
500g all-purpose flour (to make a whole wheat loaf, use about 100g whole wheat flour and 400g A/P flour)
1 tsp fine salt
225ml warm water
1 tsp quick rise yeast
1 tbsp honey
300g sourdough starter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cornmeal
1. Combine warm water, honey, and yeast. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast becomes foamy.
2. Measure out flour into large bowl using a kitchen scale. Add salt. Mix together, and make a well in the centre. Re-set scale to zero, and measure out the sourdough starter. Add yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, or on a slow setting in a machine (using a dough hook), until combined, adding a little extra flour if it’s too sticky or a little extra starter if it is too dry.
3. Tip dough onto a work surface and knead for about 8-10 mins, or until dough soft and elastic, if using a mixer, turn the speed up a little and mix for 5 mins. The dough is ready when it bounces back when gently pressed with a finger.
4. Use the olive oil to grease the inside of another large, clean bowl. Place the dough in well-oiled bowl and cover with an oiled sheet of saran wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hrs, or until the dough is doubled in size. Depending on the time of year and the temperature, this could take as little as 2 hours or as long as 6 hours.
5. Tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust it with flour. Place the dough, seam side up, in another bowl that has been floured, cover with a sheet of oiled cling film, and leave for 1-2 hours, until roughly doubled in size. This second rise will be quicker than the first.
6. Preheat oven to 385F. Fill a small roasting tin or loaf pan with some water, and place this in the bottom of the oven to create some steam. Grease a large baking sheet, and sprinkle the cornmeal in the center, roughly the size of your dough ball. Carefully tip the risen dough onto the sheet. You can slash the top a few times with a sharp knife if you like.
7. Bake for 25-35 mins until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 mins before serving.