Tag Archives: sourdough baking

Baking with sourdough starter

Baking with sourdough starter

Sourdough starter is just wild yeast. As most bakers would use commercial yeast for baking, I use sourdough starter instead. Whether you bake professionally or at home, you will be familiar with commercial yeast usually sold in dried, powdered form. This yeast is saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast, man-made in a laboratory to control the activity of yeast so as to produce a consistent result at all times.

sourdough pizza base
sourdough pizza base

The problem with this is that our bodies are missing out on the variety of bacteria and wild yeast that are made up of many different strains and not just one. This rich diversity cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

Many people use both sourdough starter and commercial yeast but all my bread recipes use ONLY sourdough starter. I also use starter in some of my cakes and anything at all that requires grains/flour [Please read “Why Sourdough?” to learn the health benefits of doing this].

To bake with sourdough starter, obviously you need to have some starter. Click here for guidance to make your own starter. If you don’t have the time or find it is too much trouble, you can buy a starter from those who have already established theirs. I will be giving out my starters FREE to those who sign up for bread-baking classes with me. Otherwise you can purchase the starter.

sourdough starter
An active starter should look like this. Bubbly with some holes and about double in volume after feeding

For loaves that are about 800 gm to 1 kg, use about 200 gm of dough starter. Dough starter is a starter that has one part water to two parts flour. It is more stable, stores longer between feedings and develops more fully in taste over time. As it is also stronger, you get a better rise in the bread.

Using the sourdough starter

Once you own a sourdough starter, you will need to maintain it with regular feedings. Click on the same link above on how to make a starter to learn how to maintain one. The starter should remain in your refrigerator when not in use. I would say a dough starter can keep comfortably for a month or month and a half without feeding in the fridge. Having said that it takes a lot to kill a starter[but that’s another article in itself 🙂  ]

There are techniques to knead a bread properly to get the best rise. I will teach this in my classes or you can watch video tutorials posted by others online.

For all the sourdough bread recipes I give you on my website, these are the key things you need to remember:

1. As this is a website for healthy food I never combine commercial yeast with wild yeast

Nutrients in Wheat

2. All my flour is freshly milled as grains quickly lose their nutrition from the moment they are milled. The milling process is also very important. Commercial milling usually heat the flour destroying vital nutrients. They also remove the bran and germ which contain valuable nutrients because it gives the flour a longer shelf life. The flour you buy commercially that has been transported over days weeks and sitting on supermarket shelves has actually very little, if any, nutritional value.GrainParts_300x338_WGC

3. You start every bread recipe by mixing the starter with the liquid and then add the flour. Just loosely mix without turning it into a dough yet. Leave it to sit for an hour before you add salt and then knead into a dough.

4. Dough should be allowed to prove for a minimum of 4 hours. Advanced bakers like to extend this period through what is called retardation or slow fermentation in a fridge overnight for longer hours to develop the complex flavors of the bread.

5. Contrary to popular belief, sourdough bread need not be sour at all. Only if you leave it to prove for a long time will you get this sour taste.

6. You can bake bread quite successfully in a conventional home oven but ensure you have a tray of water in the oven just above the bread to allow for steam and moisture while baking.

 

Sourdough Bread Baking Workshop

Sourdough bread baking workshop

It was off to Mooladhara, for a sourdough bread baking workshop. Mooladhara, nestled in the tranquil foothills of the Watagan mountains is the rustic abode of Warwick Quinton.

Warwick is an artisan baker. A master craftsman of bread in a world that doesn’t know what real bread is anymore due to corporations’ greed to bulk produce, cut out the time needed for fermentation and I won’t even go into the unethical agricultural and milling methods of grains.

sourdough workshop
sourdough workshop at Mooladhara
sourdough workshop
Outside the bakery trailer, Gypsy which holds Luna the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has contributed to much modern day woes such as gluten intolerancy, irritable bowel syndrome, candidiasis, Crohn’s disease, bloating stomach and many other diseases.

This word “artisan baker” has been exploited so much for marketing purposes today that the true meaning of the word is lost on the world until… you meet the real deal.

Warwick Quinton is the real deal. He ventured into sourdough baking in 1985 when there was no internet. He had to scour bookshops, libraries, health food stores and hippy kitchens to learn more about sourdough bread.

For centuries bakers have used nothing but sourdough starter to bake bread. The starter is nothing but flour and water that combusts over time into a bubbly blob caused by the voracious appetite of wild yeast and bacteria which are present all around us.

sourdough sciatta

 

sourdough workshop
pre-prepared dough

The problem with using nothing but starter is the difficulty in obtaining consistency in the end result because there are so many variables.

So commercial bakers look for shortcuts which will eventually hurt your health. But a Master baker knows how to work with these variables to consistently produced not only great tasting bread but bread that is good for your health.

Warwick’s “school” is a rudimentary, outdoor, makeshift classroom. We all gathered onto an elevated wooden platform for our sourdough bread baking workshop. There, prepared dough inside rectangular plastic containers awaited us, on long tables.

“The dough you see have been left in the fridge to ferment for 8 hours now. In my house we usually eat bread that has been fermented on average 14 hours,” Warwick informs his students, many of whom have traveled down from Sydney to learn from this sourdough guru.

Ever since Warwick turned his back on the corporate lifestyle of trying to bake in bulk while still staying true to his conventional methods, he has been happier as he has been able to concentrate on the craft rather than the “business”.

We had two dough to work with that day. One that Warwick had made and let rest for eight hours which we were to shape and slash and bake and take home by the end of the day. The other was the dough we had to prepare from scratch.Sourdough class

It was a very hands-on workshop with everyone getting a chance to knead, shape, slash while at the same time concentrating on his vigorous scribbling of invaluable information on the blackboard from pre-ferments to the various types of ovens and even how to modify your home kitchen oven for the best bread-baking experience!

Speaking of ovens, there was Luna, looming over our class eagerly waiting to devour our hand-crafted balls of dough. It seemed so surreal having a bread-baking class surrounded by nature and sounds of wildlife. Yet so apt as that was why we were all there.

Sourdough workshop
Adding the soaked wheat berries

To salvage the reputation of this “staff of life” that commercial industry has ruined to the point many people don’t even know what true bread tastes like. As Warwick said, “And that’s what I’ve learned about bread-making -it’s a confidence trick. But it’s so much harder now – we’re surrounded by ‘food porn’ on every newsagent’s window and our TV screens. We are spoilt for choice through the proliferation of Artisan Bakeries which seem to spring up in every town and suburb. Everybody knows what great bread looks and tastes like. Or at least they think they do. That’s until they try just one loaf of amazing home-made sourdough bread.”

I found several students at the workshop were not just there for the rustic allure of a bread-baking course in the wilderness. Not even for serious concerns about health, but those who actually liked the taste of rich, elemental sourdough bread. So much for the over-rated phrase, “Something that tastes this good, can’t be good for you.”

sourdough baking
Loading the dough into Gypsy the oven

One student was an old client who unabashedly admitted he follows Warwick wherever he moves his bakery. The workshop was a birthday gift from his children (probably because he is a big fan). He finally got to see what it takes to produce the loaves he loves so much. It takes a lot of time and care which the profit hungry bakeries of our era have replaced with production-line-factory-bread.

Finally it was time to fire up Luna while we added pre-soaked wheat berries to our dough and gave it a last round of thumping…oops, kneading 🙂 although Warwick did demonstrate a slap and twist technique I found quite appealing to relief stress.

Luna, the grand princess seated inconspicuously in her carriage, or rather bakery trailer, waiting to wave her flaming wand over plain dough and turn them into incredulous bread.

Ever the environmentalist, Warwick even uses old, stale bread as fuel for Luna. Yayyy! Thumbs up for Warwick.

Warwick’s only passion that can be said to rival that of sourdough baking is his love for building woodfire ovens. Luckily, they complement each other 😉

Check out his sourdough bread ovens; and for a quick oven demonstration.

At the end of a full day’s workshop we all went home with one still warm bread birthed from Luna’s belly and dough we made from scratch to bake at home.

Bell pepper on toast1

 

Orange Raisin Bread

 Orange Raisin Bread 4

Orange Raisin Bread

Ingredients

All my bread uses only wild yeast. So please read Baking With Sourdough Starter if you are not familiar with starters before you follow any bread recipe on this site

Mix sourdough to orange juice
Mix sourdough to orange juice

200 gms active sourdough starter

250 ml orange juice ( 1 cup)

125 ml water (1/2 cup)

600 gms wholemeal flour (4 cups)

150 gms chickpea flour (1 cup)

1/4 – 1/2 cup raisins as you prefer

Method

Mix orange juice and water together. Add active sourdough starter to this. Knead the dough. Incorporate the raisins into the kneading until it is properly distributed into the bread. Leave at least four hours to prove. After proving you are ready to shape it. Leave the shaped dough anywhere from 30 mins to an hour [depending on how warm your kitchen is] for the final rise. Upon the final rise, place it in a very hot oven with a temperature of 230°C for 10 mins. Then reduce the temperature to 200°C and allow to bake for a further 15 – 20 mins. Bakes an 1 kg loaf.

Orange Raisin Bread 2

 

Peanut Biscuits

peanut biscuits
peanut biscuits
Redskin peanuts
Redskin peanuts
Honey flour sourdough starter
Leave honey flour and sourdough starter to rest for a few hours

Peanut biscuits is a traditional Chinese New Year cookie in Malaysia. So around this festive time you will find these sold at the stores. When I was a little girl most of these traditional cookies for all the main festivals in Malaysia, Hari Raya Puasa, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, were all made at home by families. It was a fun time pitching in with relatives and friends to bake traditional snacks and cookies. Alas today most of them are store bought.

ground peanuts
ground peanuts

I’ve created my own healthier version of these peanut biscuits by using honey instead of sugar and reducing the oil. If you want a more crumbly version you will have to go back to the traditional way of making it with sugar instead of honey and add another half cup of oil and two tablespoons of butter.

Grind peanuts in a processor
Grind peanuts in a processor

When you use honey it becomes more moist than crumbly and less sweet. But when it is less sweet, the rich peanut flavor is exemplified. This is why i prefer not to overwhelm everything with sugar as too much sugar hides the beautiful flavors of the other ingredients not to mention unhealthy.

Shaping peanut biscuits
shaping peanut biscuits

Notice also that I have used bright redskin peanuts which has a dramatic visual effect and the skin is said to be highly nutritious. So I didn’t remove their skins but roasted and ground them in their skins. It is said the same heart-protective chemical found in red wine, resveratrol is also found in the red skin of peanuts.

indenting with chopstick

However, all peanuts red or no is rich in Vitamins E and Niacin which protects against Alzheimers and other age-related diseases and said to have more antioxidants than fruits. it is also a rich source of plant based protein and fibre and minerals such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. It is also becoming a weigh loss dream as it increases the body’s metabolism.

Remember to use sourdough starter always whenever using flour to allow the nutrition in the flour to be easily absorbed by the body.

indenting

 

Peanut Biscuits

Ingredients:

4 cups ground roasted peanuts

1 cup honey

1/2 cup peanut oil

2 cups wholegrain flour

1 tablespoon dough sourdough starter

1 egg yolk, beaten slightly for egg wash

Method:

Mix the sourdough starter, honey, oil and flour together until well combined. Leave for two to four hours before adding ground roasted peanuts. I left mine overnight in the fridge. Then shape into small balls. Press one end of the ball onto a wooden board to flatten that end. Brush the top with the egg wash and then use the tip of a chopstick to make a tiny square pattern at the top. Then bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes or until brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.