This month of breadmaking has been pretty much non-existent as I have been occupied with NaNoWriMo. However, I made another spelt loaf, which wasn’t perhaps as good as it could have been because Harry came in during my final shaping of it and decided he wanted to help. But, it is probably my favourite flour to use so far – just so amazing to knead.
As I knew I wouldn’t be doing much breadmaking this month, I decided instead that I would restart my sourdough starter (wild yeast). The first one I made had been from the back of a bread packet and once I’d done the recipe, I was just playing with my starter over a few weeks until it looked – well, disgusting. It had formed a skin and did not look like anything I wanted to EVER use in my cooking. So, I went back to my bible: River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread by Daniel Stevens. And, I have been able to appreciate the process and the growth and smell so much more!
11th November 2012
One cup of flour and one cup of warm water
I used rye but Stevens recommends rye, spelt or wheat as wholemeal flour ferments sooner and more vigorously. For the first stage you just need to whisk the flour and water together vigorously to let it more air, and thus more yeast spores. I then put into into a container (he recommends at earthern-ware or plastic one with a lid) and left it somewhere warm.
12th November 2012
When my starter had begun to ferment, as shown in the photo (this can take anytime between 3 hours and 12 days depending on the flour, warmth, verocity of whisking, etc), I ‘fed’ it for the first time – another cup of warm water and another cup of flour – and left it again overnight.
Day 3 and subsequent feedings
13th November 2012
16th November 2012
I discarded half of the starter (this can always be using in baking) and then whisked in another cup of water (this time, cold) and another cup of flour. I continued doing this for a week, just to let the starter get established and now, I am storing it in the fridge.
Storing it in the fridge slows down the fermentation which means I do not need to feed it so often. As I am only baking every week or two, it would cost me an awful lot in flour if I were to feed it every day! Being kept it the fridge, it only needs to be fed around every week. However, it needs to be brought to room temperature a couple of days ahead before using it.
It is also possible to freeze the starter if you will not be using it for a while and cannot keep looking after it. There are starters at bakeries around the world from anywhere from 3 to 12 to 30 years old! If properly nurtured they can live forever!
Sourdough starters can be used in specific sourdough bread recipes which do not use dried/fresh yeast, but also a ladleful can be added to any basic bread recipe. This, or even a piece of dough held back from previous baking, is a common practice in artisan bakery as it adds depth and character to your bread because the dough has had a chance to develop more flavour from the yeast activity (smelling the starter is like rotten-ish apples – although not unpleasant – and reminds me of experiments in school when we grew our own yeast using apple juice; making the starter has been like science lessons all over again!).