I’ve put together the recipe and instructions for how to make sourdough bread from scratch. That’s making the sourdough starter and then baking your first loaves. It’s all easy to do, but takes time – this is true slow food and believe me, your patience will be well rewarded. I’ve tackled the recipes and instructions separately and you can follow the links to both straightaway:
In praise of sourdough
Now if you’ve not come across sourdough by name before you’ve probably tasted it and thought what fabulous bread this is (think artisan, paysanne, rustique). OK, so I’m biased… but really, whether I’ve eaten in Paris, San Francisco, Copenhagen or New York, the bread that’s really captured my taste buds is sourdough.
It’s ancient (literally in some cases), it’s totally natural and it’s delicious. I could go on about what sourdough bread has going for it: no commercial yeast which may, as some believe, be more of an irritant than the bread they thought they were reacting to; its firm, chewy texture is utterly satisfying and brilliantly toastable; it’s very cheap to make (though expensive to buy) and making it is a labour of love that you can share with your friends and family.
It’s the characteristic tang that is the sour in the dough that flavour-wise, makes this wonderful bread so moreish and its firmness that makes it so versatile to use.
That tang is the result of fermentation. Rather than relying on (often) chemically derived commercial yeasts, sourdough relies naturally occurring yeasts which then multiply through fermentation. The long, slow fermentation also creates the classic slightly chewy texture of sourdough.
Making your own sourdough
It’s very different to baking bread with commercial yeast. It begins with a starter, using just flour and water and a few organic grapes. Your starter is the living and (quite literally) breathing ferment which, if you look after it, can last for years.
I made my starter in December 2010 and we’ve not bought bread since. Have a go – it’s one of the most satisfying things you can bake.
You probably already have most of the things you need to get into making sourdough bread, but if not, we’ve found a great supplier of all things to do with making artisan breads: Bakery Bits. If you get into it, then you’ll realise that things like dough scrapers, special dough whisks, stones and peels are actually very useful.