Sourdough bread is probably one of my favorites so far. Back to my study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, there we only use the fresh yeast for baking and the fresh yeast is something that we can’t buy in the shop in Paris, to get it we need to know someone who works for “boulangerie” (bread baking store). So, the only thing we have is the dry yeast, until I decided to make my first sourdough starter. Actually my very first starter was the Sun-maid golden raisins, it was ok until I make a very good one with the whole wheat flour. It takes at least 7 to 10 days.
How to make our own sourdough starter
50g whole wheat flour mixed with 50g water. Place the flour and water into a clean bowl and stir together until fully combined. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight. Don’t use tap water, better use the bottled one.
Add to the sourdough starter 30g unbleached all purpose flour and 30g water. Stir together until fully combined. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
Usually we can discard some of starter before “feeding” another flour and water but I decided to feed a bit less by adding only 30g unbleached all purpose flour and 30g water to the starter each day, so I don’t need to discard some starter every day.
Feed another 30g flour to the starter and mix in the 30g water. Cover and leave overnight. The starter should start to smell pleasantly sour with small bubbles appearing on the surface.
The starter will rise very much and then fall down, that’s ok. After the first two or three days the starter has unpleasant smell but after a week the smell becomes much nicer like fermented wine.
Day 5 same as day 4
Day 6 same as day 5
Day 7 The starter should be quite active now and be full of little bubbles and smell slightly sour. Do feed the starter with either 20g or 30g flour together with 20g or 30g water.
Day 8, 9, 10
The starter should now be very active and full of bubbles and is now ready to use. Remember when making your sourdough bread, always keep some sourdough starter as leftover which will be fed later to ensure you have some sourdough starter for the next dough.
If you don’t bake everyday, you can keep the starter in the fridge and feed only once a week. The sourdough starter is a bubbling living collection of friendly bacteria that will be used to make the dough rise.
Cheesy herbal sourdough bread
- 800 g bread flour
- 10 g salt
- 460 ml cold water
- 340 g sourdough starter
- 50 g grated cheese (any cheese up to your taste, I did once with blue cheese)
- 5-7 g of mixed herbs
- Add the flour to a clean mixing bowl. Mix the salt through the flour. Add the water and sourdough starter to the flour. Combine all the ingredients together to form a rough dough.
- Turn the dough out on to a clean surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes or until the windowpane effect has been achieved. The dough should be smooth, soft and elastic. Or you can use Kitchen-aid instead of hand kneading.
- When hand-kneading, you surely find the dough wet, sticky but try to resist the temptation to add extra flour or minimize it.
- Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover and allow the dough to prove for 4 hours at room temperature.
- After 4 hours turn the dough onto a clean work surface and knock the dough back, then divide into two pieces.
To prove by using a proving basket
After divide the dough into two pieces now time to prove in a proving basket. Lightly dusting with flour and place the dough, seamed side facing up, into the proving basket. Loosely cover the proving basket with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for another 4 hours.
In my case I always prefer to keep the dough in the fridge and leave overnight, so next morning we can bake it. Using a fridge reduces the temperature of the dough allowing it to prove slower and longer which allows for a greater development of flavour.
Next day, after a night in the fridge, we leave the dough back to the room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 230°C, and as I got a beautiful “Le Creuset” which is very good for bread baking, so I just turn the dough out from the proving basket into my beautiful French iron pot, I do butter the pot a little bit with a parchment paper on the bottom to avoid the bread stick to the pot (it may happen). Using a sharp knife cut the surface of the dough, just before the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes with lid on.
And here you go my cheesy herbal sourdough bread, crispy from the outside and the smell is fantastic! Enjoy!