An introduction to sourdough with Elaine Boddy
Hi, I’m Elaine from Foodbod Sourdough, I am a sourdough baker, cookbook writer and teacher, but mostly a sourdough ‘simplifier’. The key focus of everything I do, and share, is to show how truly simply sourdough can be made. I remove the complication and unnecessary steps, and often the fear, that can come with making sourdough. I show bakers all over the world how they can easily make their own healthy, tasty bread, week in, week out, in their home kitchens, to suit their lifestyle and timings. And that is what I will be doing now with delicious. magazine, sharing my simple sourdough ways with delicious. readers. Welcome to my sourdough world.
What exactly is sourdough starter?
It’s the magic that makes our bread, it’s a bubbling, gloopy thing that hides in the fridge…yes, it’s all of them, but what it REALLY is, is the liquid that we need to make our sourdough creations, it’s what lifts and aerates our loaves, and gives sourdough its texture and flavour.
The key difference between a starter and other bread raising agents is that a starter is in liquid form and lives and lasts forever, rather than being in dried form and added straight from a tin or package.
And it is truly simple, to make and to use. Flour and water, that’s all it is, flour, water and time.
What you need to know to keep your sourdough starter in good condition
- Use good flour. You can use any wheat flour to make a starter, but for a learner I would highly recommend using strong white bread flour or wholewheat/ wholemeal flour. And choose the best quality that you can, it does make a difference and is worth the investment in your starter.
- Water. In most places tap water is fine, but if you’re not sure, try filtered water.
- Use digital scales. Weighing your flour and water accurately makes a huge difference to its strength.
- Keep it small. I only ever use small quantities for making and maintaining my starter. This saves on waste, and keeps it lean and healthy.
- Give it time. Starters don’t work to a clock, they’ll be ready when they’re ready. There are some ways that you can encourage it along, but patience is key.
- Be consistent. When you find what works for you, stick with it.
- And if you’re new, don’t read too much. You can easily get overwhelmed with a flood of information. Choose a single source of knowledge, and stick with it while you learn how sourdough works.
- Most importantly, starters are very resilient, they are rarely dead unless they get mouldy. Starters don’t need constant tending or feeding for the sake of it, once your starter has been made and established, you only ever need to feed it to use it. It doesn’t matter if you use it once a week, once a fortnight or once a month. It will survive in the fridge when you go on holiday, no one needs to come and tend to it. And never assume you need to chuck it out and start again, starters can always be tended back to health, unless, as mentioned before, they get mouldy.
While making a starter, always sit the lid on your jar so that it is well covered, but not firmly pressed closed; as part of the fermentation process your starter will release gasses which need to be able to escape.
How to make a sourdough starter
A sourdough starter is basically fermented flour and water; by mixing them together, allowing them time to ferment, managing how much we keep, and watching the consistency, we can easily create a happy working successful starter.
What you need:
- Digital scales
- A container, preferably a glass bowl or jar with fitted lid, around 600ml. I use a 580ml Weck 744 tulip jar.
- Good quality strong white bread flour or strong wholemeal flour. I use Matthews Cotswold Flour’s strong white bread flour or their stoneground wholegrain flour.
- Water, typically tap water works fine, the best thing to do is to try it and see.
How do I know when my starter is ready to use?
Your starter is ready to use as soon as it routinely grows and becomes active several hours after being fed. If you’re not sure whether it is ready by Day 7, repeat the same process again from Day 4 onward until this happens. You’ll know what this means when you feed your starter and after a few hours it’s grown and become texture, bubbly and lively.
Once it’s ready, keep the lid firmly shut tight and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. From this point on, you no longer need to keep discarding and feeding – only feed it for making your dough when you’re going to use it.
How to use your starter
When you want to make your dough for your sourdough loaf, feed your base amount of starter with 30g flour and 30g water to generate the amount of starter you’ll need for a single loaf using my master recipe. Stir it well, it should be a thick batter-like consistency, replace the lid and leave it to respond and become active. Once it has, remove the quantity you need for your dough, replace the lid, fit it firmly, and return your starter to the fridge until next time.
You can’t beat the classic, and this recipe will walk you through how to get the perfect loaf, step-by-step. The magic moment when you bring this out of the oven is pretty unbeatable…
When you’re looking for ways to use up sourdough discard, this banana bread comes through with the goods. The starter brings a distinctive tanginess to the cake that’s usually provided by yogurt.
The possibilities for sourdough waffles are endless, and here the waffles are flavoured with the irresistible mix of jalapeños and cheddar. You can also use the batter to make pancakes if you do not have a waffle maker.
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