Sourdough: mother of bread
Here at Poor Hungry Student we LOVE bread. Any carbohydrate has our support.
There’s something about sourdough that just makes the world better. Are we exaggerating? No way!
In this article we will give you the Best Sourdough Recipe as well as some useful tips for flavours and other exciting things!
But what is sourdough? Why makes it so deliciously special?
Let’s take a quick history lesson to understand what and why sourdough is the way it is!
The Beginnings of Bread
Bread is used all around the world, and has been for thousands of years.
The first proof of bread (excuse the pun), was discovered in Egypt all the way back to 3700 BCE.
Bread is made from three key ingredients: water, flour and yeast.
The yeast lives in the air around you (weird to think of it that way, I know). Sourdough captures this yeast by mixing together water and flour, leaving it out for several days, until a stable yeast culture is created. In sourdough you make a starter that you continue to keep alive for as long as you’ll need it. It requires little looking after and is very reliable.
The oldest known starter is over 122 years old!
Over the past couple centuries sourdough went out of fashion, particularly with the invention of instant (packet) yeast. It was faster, easier and gave a fluffy loaf.
But sourdough is coming back! It has a richer and tangier flavour than conventional bread. The crust is often so crispy, yet the inside soft and dense. Once you get hooked onto sourdough – there’s no turning back!
Make your own starter
If you’re going to make sourdough, you’ll first need to make your own sourdough starter (the live yeast). Every Saturday at Poor Hungry Student we get baking. If you’re gonna have a sourdough starter, it’s best to feed it every week on the same day and bake with your starter in the same manner.
So if you haven’t already, check out our article on How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter.
You’ll find all the info and tips you need, in how to make and keep alive, your sourdough starter!
Make Your Own Sourdough Loaf
Over the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with a variety of recipes, cooking techniques, cutting styles and flavours for our Sourdough loaves.
- Strong white flour
- Sourdough starter (that has been fed and is ready to use)
These four ingredients are critical in making sourdough bread!
Feed your starter prior to baking
What does it mean to have a ‘ready’ starter?
It is important to take some starter from your permanent starter to make fresh bread. This means feeding both your permanent starter (to put back in the fridge) and your starter for baking (to be kept out at room temperature). You can do this weekly for an easy routine. Your permanent starter will need feeding at least once a week to keep it alive.
For example, if you want to have bread on Sunday afternoon, do this feeding process on Saturday evening. This way your starter for the bread will be hungry and ready to use on Sunday morning.
- Take 3-4 ounces from your permanent starter, to be used for baking. Leave 4 ounces of permanent starter (throwing away any extra), to keep.
- Feed both starters 1 cup of plain flour and 1/2 cup of water, mixing well.
- Put your permanent starter back in the fridge, covered.
- Leave the baking starter in a covered container. Leave for 10-12 hours for the yeast in the starter to wake up and become hungry.
- When the baking starter is ready, use it for making sourdough bread.
We’ve been experimenting with a few flavours but these are our ultimate favourites.
Candied citrus peel sourdough
The sweetness of the raisins with the tart sourness of the peel makes for an amazing sweet bread. Similar to a hot cross bun, they make a perfect sweet treat!
Walnut and pumpkin seed
Who doesn’t love a nutty and seeded loaf? It goes great with soups, or just toasted and smothered in butter!
If there’s ever a crime against bread, it’s not putting enough butter on your toast.
First you need to master the basic sourdough recipe. Once you’ve got that down- the sky is the limit with flavours!
The Best Sourdough Recipe
This recipe makes 1 loaf of sourdough bread. If you want to make 2 loaves, simply double the recipe. That way, you can experiment with flavours and or slice and freeze your loaves. Sourdough is great out of the freezer and toasted!
You also have to give yourself time to make this recipe. A sourdough loaf from start to finish takes about 4-5 hours (2 hours for 1st proofing + 2 hours for 2nd proofing + 26 minutes baking).
- 400g white strong (bread) flour
- 230ml water
- 5g salt
- 180g sourdough starter (fed 10-12 hours before and left at room temperature)
- What you need:
1 medium-large bowl for proofing, it can be made of china or glass
1 large bowl for mixing the ingredients together
1 pyrex or casarole dish
flour for scattering on the work surface (you can use bread flour or plain flour for this)
A couple tea towels or cling film
Knead your dough until it’s soft and elastic
- Combine all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. If you have a mixer with a dough hook- use that (trust me, it’ll save you time and effort!). If you are using a dough hook, beat the mixture for 10-15 minutes until soft and elastic.
- If not using a dough hook, make sure to thoroughly mix your ingredients together in the bowl. Scatter a sprinkling of flour over your work surface, just enough so that the dough won’t get stuck, and transfer your dough to it.
You’ll have to knead for at least 15 minutes, stretching the dough as much as you can. I recommend pressing down the dough with one hand and pushing it forward with the base of your palm.
Your goal is to stretch and form the gluten structure that will hold your bread together. You can tell when it’s ready by holding the dough to the light and letting it stretch as it falls. If you get a little window pane effect (where the dough looks thinner but doesn’t tear right away) then that’s perfect!
Don’t worry too much. Knead as much as you can and your sourdough will turn out okay, I promise!
The first proofing
Now roll the dough into a round ball and place it in a large bowl or dish (it’ll need space to expand). Leave it with a tea towel or cling film covering it for 2 hours.
The second proofing
- Lightly flour the work surface beat the air out the dough, using the same kneading technique as used earlier.
- If you want to add flavourings this is also the time, whether that be a handful of chopped nuts of raisins!
- Heavily flour (you can use any time of flour you want, I normally use plain), a deep bowl. If you don’t flour it enough, when the dough rises it will stick to the bowl and it’ll be a nightmare to get it out (trust me). The bowl also needs to allow for a little growth of the dough, so around 1/3 extra space.
- Once you have transferred the dough into the (heavily floured) bowl, cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave for 2-3 hours.
Baking the bread
Before you bake the bread, preheat your oven to its highest possible heat.
- Next, heavily flour the bottom of your pyrex of casserole dish and place the dough ball in it (upside down- to get a good crust). Rub a little flour around the edges of the ball, otherwise it’ll stick to the dish (trust me).
- Score your bread. And by that, we mean slash your bread deeply to allow it to expand properly in the oven. We find a large square on the dough usually works best!
- Place the lid of the dish ON and place in the oven.
- Leave to bake for 21 minutes. Then take the lid of the dish OFF and bake for another 6 minutes. This makes an AMAZING crust on the loaf.
- Once done, transfer to a cooling rack.
Try not to cut into your bread until after the bread has had time to cool down. This is usually at least 1-2 hours. Otherwise the texture of the bread won’t be as good. But we won’t blame you for eating it fresh out the oven- sometimes bread is too good to resist!