a nice little round up of the quarantine diaries
Oh my! A month passed by, work got busy and I hardly realised where time went. It’s time to round up the quarantine diaries, with a good sourdough bread, cheese, olives and tomatoes. And a lot of details on making your own sourdough starter.
I feel this unstoppable urge to go and hug every single one of you. Thanks so much for participating in the quarantine diaries, comfort food series. You made this weird and quiet time so much more enjoyable. I loved reading your very own lockdown experiences and your comfort food recipes, your long and short messages and keeping in touch online when meeting with another soul was impossible. I loved even more sharing your food, the elaborate recipes as well as the simple, quick and resourceful plates of food that we all put on the table without a second thought. To this, I can think of no better epilogue than a sourdough bread.
Yet, another sourdough recipe. Sourdough making is possibly one of the most popular pass times during this mad and maddening period of lockdown. Perhaps more than the quarantinis and iced dalgona that we saw coming and going on our social media feeds.
I was hesitant to start on the bread. Lack of flour and no close acquaintances, in Shipton mills, Dove’s farm or the guy that stashed the last of the stock from my local supermarket made me think more than twice to enter into this commitment. With ample time on my hands, a healthy dose of encouragement from a couple of friends and a lot of drooling over their homemade loafs, the decision was made on the first instance I glanced at a pack of bread making flour in the local supermarket.
I am by no means an expert baker, but as with all recipes, I would love to share this little adventure of mine. This recipe of sourdough starter & a simple sourdough loaf are here to encourage you to go on your own adventure, learn from my mistakes (of course I made a lot and possibly still am) and give you all the information in the most concise way possible.
There are many seasoned bakers out there that go into every detail you might ever need. This post is not about the geeky side of sourdough. It’s the Greek grand-ma style eye-balling everything side of me (which I seldom do for recipes I write here, as you can perfectly do it yourselves).
What do you need to make a sourdough starter?
- 450 gr of strong flour,
- 450 ml of water
- 5-6 days to nourish and develop it.
- A large container to keep it in.
For the sourdough starter you begin with low quantities and almost double on every other day adding equal amounts of flour and water. Over 5 days this means: Day 1: 50 flour – 50 water, day 2, 50 flour 50 ml water, day 3: 100 flour, 100 water, day 4 100 flour – 100 water, day 5 150 flour – 150 ml water.
Combine well and leave aside with a loose cover on top. Remember that you are creating a culture, it’s alive, it needs daily care and air to ‘breathe’ so it can get going.
When is your sourdough starter ready?
It has bubbles. A lot of bubbles. It also has a pleasant astringent smell, a bit like hops or grape must or vinegar. It should not smell of something rotten though.
What can go wrong with your sourdough starter?
You forgot to feed it – hmm not good, try feeding again, it might just take a little longer.
If you really forgot (like 2 days or more) start again
If you don’t discard the starter as I did (goofy moment no1) it’s ok you will just end up with a huge amount of sourdough starter.
Don’t forget that it is doubling in size as it feeds, plan big.
How to store your sourdough starter
You can leave it on your kitchen counter and feed daily. Every feed is the equivalent of its weight in flour and water. So a 100gr starter needs a feed of 100 flour and 100 water.
This however makes more sense for a baker to pursue than a household. It’s an expensive pet and you are human and you might forget.
You can leave the sourdough starter in the fridge and feed every week with its equivalent weight of flour and water. Or more often if need arises. It will smell hungry.
I give it two feeds before I start my sourdough bread, just to make sure everything is in good order.
Let’s make a (small) sourdough loaf
- 400g strong white flour
- 5g salt
- 230ml water
- 160g sourdough starter
Making a loaf
In a bowl, add the flour and salt then follow with the sourdough starter. Using your hand combine it all together to form the dough.
Turn in a clean lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 min. Your dough should be smooth and elastic. It will be a sticky dough.
Place back in the mixing bowl, cover and allow to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature.
Come back to the dough to knock the air back. At this stage, you do not thoroughly knead ; you are getting rid of some bubbles so it can bake evenly.
Form the dough into a ball, turning in and tucking the sides underneath it. Then, prove again.
To prove your loaf, dust with flour your basket or bowl, in lack of any of the above. use a large pot. Place in the dough ball and cover with a clean tea towel or cling film. Leave it alone for another 3 1/2 – 4 hours. The more you leave it the better it will taste.
If tight for time, place in the fridge overnight. This will reduce the temperature and slow down the process, 8-9 hours should be fine. That said, I have woken up into a very sticky fridge, cling film defied and fridge door saluted with sourdough as I opened.
Baking the loaf
To bake, preheat your oven, 210C fan assisted or 8 gas.
Dust a tin baking tray with flour and move your dough on it.
Score using a really sharp knife. You need to score your loaf so you can help it rise where you want it to rise. Added bonus: you can also have fun with aesthetics, flowers, leaves and the like.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a good crust has formed. When tapped on the base it should sound hollow. It normally does 😉
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a seasoned baker. I just thoroughly enjoy the process. The recipe below has links to experienced bakers whose advice I found clear and straightforward and definitely recommend if you want a robust introduction to sourdough and further your skills.
Plus don’t get stuck if you have no tools like baskets or scoring blades. I hardly had enough flour when I got started and it all worked out fine.
And now the fun bit. What will you have your first sourdough slice with? Well, you can enjoy it as it is. The smell of warm bread will fill the kitchen and this is gratifying enough in itself. I normally grab some olives, feta cheese and tomato paste to accompany my quick bites. Psomi, tiri k elies.
From London with love,
For English: A beginner’s guide to sourdough, Patrick Ryan
For Greek: Σπιτικό προζύμι και τα μυστικά τουby