Homemade Sourdough Step by Step (plus video)

Homemade Sourdough Step by Step (plus video)

I started trying to make sourdough a couple of years ago with mixed results. With a bread that takes as long to make as sourdough does, mixed results isn’t a great outcome. I absolutely love the taste of sourdough and the idea that you can make a delicious bread with just flour, water, and a little salt was too good to give up.

There are so many recipes out there, some knead, some with no-knead, some with a stretch and fold. Which is the right one? Two main recipes I studied were the ones from www.perfectloaf.com and the Rustic Sourdough from Homegrown Kitchen. I mention these two as they both produce a-m-a-z-i-n-g sourdough breads but one has many more steps than the other.

In the recipe at The Perfect Loaf, the temperature is mentioned a lot, there is a levean that needs to be made first (a mixture made of the initial sourdough starter and a little water and flour), an initial autolyse (a mixture of the water and the flour) and the levean is added afterwards. In the Homegrown Kitchen book there is no levean and the sourdough starter is added with the flour and water at the autolyse stage. Water temperature was mentioned a little but not as much as on The Perfect Loaf.

Phew! If you’re a beginner it’s no wonder this can be overwhelming. After initial copying of both these recipes and a little tweaking and adapting of my own, I’ve made my own recipe of a sourdough that works every time and is easy to follow. I’ll document the steps I’ve taken and I’ve made a little video so hopefully, you’ll see how sourdough isn’t as daunting as you may have thought.

A quick note on flours: A strong flour with a protein level between 12% and 15% is necessary to create a nice sturdy loaf. The flour I mainly use is the organic white flour from the bulk bins at Commonsense Organics in Wellington and that happens to have a protein level of 12.4% so it’s perfect to use. Most wholemeal flour will have a high protein level too. I also use rye and wholemeal flour in my bread but use mainly the white flour and the wholemeal to provide the protein and structure. If I make it with too much rye, it makes a denser bread.

Step by Step Sourdough

Before you start, you’ll need an active sourdough starter (naming him something cool like Orlandough bloom or Breadly Cooper is completely optional). Nicola Galloway from Homegrown Kitchen has a great sourdough starter recipe here, which is from where my Orlandough starter was born.

Step 1:

In a large bowl, combine the water and the flour to start the autolyse stage. Use wet hands to mix it into a rough dough, then cover with a towel and leave to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 2:

Now it’s time to add in the salt and the active starter (one that has been fed in the last 6-12 hours)

Use wet hands to mix this into a sticky dough.

Step 3:

I use a stretch and fold method to work my dough. You’ll need to stretch and fold your dough around about every 45 minutes for three hours to develop the gluten strands in the dough. At the start of this step your dough will tear when you stretch it up. By the end of all your stretch and folds, you should be able to stretch it right out and it won’t tear quickly, in fact it can get really thin, almost see-through. This is called a window pane effect.

How to Stretch and Fold.

To stretch and fold, scoop a wet hand under the dough and stretch it up, then fold it down. Turn the bowl and do it again for at least 5 turns each time.

Here is my dough at the start of this process, it rips very easily.

And here it is after 3 hours of stretching and folding.

Step 4:

Now it’s time for the bulk ferment which is when your dough will proof in the refrigerator for anywhere between 8-20 hours. I usually start my bread at about 4 or 5 pm so that it’s ready to proof overnight when I go to bed and I can bake it in the morning.

You’ll need some sort of basket or bowl for the dough to hold its shape while it proofs. I use a traditional banneton basket. Whatever you use, flour it well so the dough doesn’t stick. Place it in the refrigerator, covered with a damp tea towel.

Step 5:

Fast forward at least 8 hours later and it’s time to get baking! Preheat your oven and a large pot with a lid to 220 Degrees Celsius. If you have a dutch oven that’s perfect to use but I just use a large stainless steel soup pot with a lid.

Tip your dough out onto some baking paper and slash it. It doesn’t really matter how you slash or score it, your bread just needs somewhere for air to escape. I use a razor blade for this job. You can brush the dough with some extra flour which will create a pretty effect when you slash it.

Then place the bread in the preheated pot and pop in the oven, with the lid on for 40 minutes for its covered bake. Capturing the steam inside the pot is what helps create that delicious, iconic sourdough crust.

After the covered bake is done, remove the lid and place back in the oven for 15 minutes to brown up the crust.

Now here’s the hardest part: let the sourdough cool before cutting it.

Want to see me actually make it? Here’s a video!


Happy baking!

July: A Walk Through My Garden

July: A Walk Through My Garden

Hey all,

I  wanted to do a more personal post today. It’s a lovely winter’s afternoon, super mild and not a breath of wind. I’ll take you for a wander around my own garden and show you what I’m growing right now.

First up, a little about my garden. The part I use for my vegetables is small, about 200m squared and it’s split into three terraced sections. I don’t get much sun in winter, about an hour, so naturally, this impacts how much, and how quickly things grow. I try not to let this stop my enthusiasm to try to grow as much as I can though, it just takes a bit more planning and inventive uses for all edible parts of the vegetables I grow.

My whole vegetable garden, minus two built planter boxes is a no dig-garden. We started with the two boxes but it was so limiting. I found no dig gardening made so much more sense for me and it meant I could use the entire space available (plus not to mention how AWESOME it is for the soil.)

As it’s winter, I’m growing a lot of cold hardy brassicas at the moment. I have about 20 broccoli and 15 cauliflower plants growing, all planted at different times to stagger the harvest. The ones that have heads on them at the moment where planted all the way back in late Feb/early March. I eat the leaves and stalks as well as the actual florets, as I don’t like wasting any food. The leaves are delicious sauteed when they’re young, but if they get too old and tough, or bug-bitten, I dehydrate them and blitz them into a greens powder. This powder I use in smoothies, breads, soups etc.. Once I have harvested the main heads of the broccoli, I let them keep producing mini broccoli shoots.

In between my broccoli and cauliflowers, I have planted lots of leeks. They’re good companion plants for each other and space wise, leeks can fit nicely in the gaps and maximize the planting space I have.

My cabbages and kale are slowly but steadily chugging along. The cabbages are forming heads but they won’t be ready to eat until well into spring. I have cavolo nero kale, purple kale and curly kale growing too. They’re slow but there are enough plants of each of them to provide us with a steady harvest.

Next to them is my garlic.

I use a mix of hay and pea straw as my mulch layers. I pile them on super thick to conserve all the nutrients under the soil and protect it from the harsh winter elements (though, today there’s no harsh weather to be seen!) When using pea straw, there’s the added bonus of free pea seedlings popping up! As well as the self seeded peas, I’ve sown some of my own, including a blue shelling pea. I’ve built a wee frame for them to climb up which well help keep the peas under control and it’s a great way to maximise space.

In summer I’m a big fan of vertical planting. Cucumbers, melons and pumpkins can all climb up and leave plenty of room on the ground to plant non-climbing plants. Near the peas I have selection of rainbow chard, silverbeet, spinach and celery.

At the very top terrace there is a bed of lettuce, more spinach and silverbeet.

Broad beans are spread around in lots of different pockets around my garden. The lot pictured below is around my brussel sprouts. Once they’re done producing, I’ll chop them down at the roots and they can return all the nitrogen they’ve collected back into the soil. The soil will need it too after hungry brussel sprouts have been there!

I like to continuously sow seeds such as pak choy, turnips, carrots and radish in spots that are empty. Pak choy, radish and baby turnips can be ready to harvest in 1-2 months, but carrots take a lot longer. I have to try extra hard to remember to keep sowing those so I’m not caught out when the current lot is all gone!

When thinning my carrots, I let them get to a decent size so we can still eat them. If I thin them too young it’s so fiddly and I find myself just throwing them on the compost! By letting them get just a bit bigger, there’s still a delicious snack that comes from thinning.

My blueberries are coming along nicely too. These are just grown from cuttings so they haven’t produced much fruit yet. I have a couple of strawberry patches, raspberries, and currents growing too. Those are spread around the edges, along with dwarf feijoas, along another veerrry thin terrace that has quite a steep drop, so they’re an edible fence!

Then lastly, there are quite a few fruit trees around the property too though I am unsure of some of their futures. One can get a little carried away in the fruit tree shop and temporarily forget that one does not own enough space for a huge orchard. 😉

My dwarf varieties can stay, some are in pots, some in the garden. I have a dwarf orange, mandarin, nectarine, cherry, and lemon. The other, larger fruit trees on my property (plum, apricot, and peach) will just be a wait and see to see how they do and if I can keep them pruned back small enough to fit. Half the fun is in the trying!

So that’s my little slice of heaven. I’m learning every day about what works, and what doesn’t, but one thing stays the same: it’s the place where I’m truly myself.

Thanks for reading. Happy gardening!

Winter in the Garden- July To Do List

Winter in the Garden- July To Do List

To sow this month: broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower,peas, snow peas, radish, rocket, onions, lettuce, swedes, turnips, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, carrots

To plant from seedlings this month: asparagus, Chinese cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce, onions

If you’re keen on the idea of homegrown fruit, it’s still a great time to get some fruit trees planted. Here’s a link to Edible Backyard’s post on fruit tree planting. It’s brilliant and straightforward. One day I hope to have the space Kath has to plant fruit trees galore but in the meantime, I just live vicariously through those posts.

Consider planting comfrey underneath your fruit trees as these provide mulch when their old leaves drop off. Comfrey leaves are packed with nutrients as comfrey’s long tap roots bring up nutrients from deep in the soil and into their leaves. As the leaves break down around the tree, the tree will receive these nutrients. There is a Russian variety called called ‘bocking 14’ that only multiplies via root division, so if you’re worried about comfrey self seeding everywhere, try this one.

It’s getting to that time to plant potatoes. You can start chitting them now, to force seed potatoes to sprout. This takes about 4 weeks. Place them in a single layer in a cool light place, but not in any direct sunlight. Once the sprouts have long and strong shoots, keep the strongest 3-4 shoots and rub off the rest. Then they can be planted out.

It’s still time to plant strawberries! They can be planted all the way up to spring but planting them sooner rather than later will ensure larger roots grow and a strong plant means more strawberries! Read more on growing strawberries here.

It’s been cold, wet, raining and even in some cases hailing so our soils are taking a beating. Keep them well mulched to retain those nutrients. I find deep mulching my vegetable patch also stops it from turning into a bog as the rain can be soaked up by the thick layers of mulch.

It’s still cold out there but start sowing peas and broad bean seeds if you haven’t done so already. They’ll slowly establish their roots now and then as the weather warms up and the flowers appear, the bees will come and pollinate the flowers. Add in some quick growing crops such as baby turnips, radishes and more lettuce for something fresh to eat late winter/early spring. Onions can be sown now too, inside in trays or directly onto a prepared bed, as they need about half a year of growing time. 

What’s going on in your winter wonderland?

Happy gardening!

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