I have always been fascinated with the art of making yeast based doughs. My experience started from a young age (I was 8 or 9) when I made a proper pizza dough. My aunt attended a course hosted by Snowflake flour kitchen and I used some of the recipes she got from the course. My Dadi also had an old Anchor Yeast recipe book and from there I learnt many techniques and continuously perfected my doughs. I preferred making yeast based doughs to anything else and spent my teens making pizzas, parathas, Swedish tea rings (remember these?) and even croissants from scratch. Nerd ALERT!
I have a no fail yeast dough recipe that has never failed me and a recipe I shared many times before.
It is essentially 3 cups of all purpose flour, 1 packet of instant yeast, a 1/4 or half a cup of olive oil (depends on what you are making), salt and sugar.
Fast forward to the last year where I was mesmerised with YouTube videos, and images of bakers making sourdough bread. I immediately knew this would be my next culinary project. Having spent many years in the kitchen I am continuously trying to teach myself techniques to get better at cooking and baking. My current obsession is trying to recreate authentic recipes using authentic ingredients. I did plenty of research before starting but I was still apprehensive about embarking on this project. Cultivating yeast from scratch seemed like such a daunting task and I procrastinated for months before getting started.
Eventually, I was fed up with my post op recovery and desperately needed a distraction and finally decided to start my sourdough baking chronicles. The process has been save as a highlight on my main Instagram page (@safeerakaka).
I want to mention that baking this bread was not easy, I am by no means an expert and my breads still need perfecting. Due to the positive feedback I received on instagram I decided to simplify the process slightly and present you with my tips and advices.
How do you start baking sourdough bread?
Start with doing lots of your own of research. I thoroughly enjoyed www.frenchguycooking.com sourdough series on YouTube, I highly recommend you watch his videos before getting started.
You also needs lots of time, this a process that cannot be rushed
I would also recommend getting the following:
A wonderbag (more on this later)
A digital kitchen scale
Good quality flour, I used the Eureka Mills flour (Alex breaks down the flours you would need and protein contents etc in his video)
A spray bottle
A bench scraper
A cast iron pot or pizza stone (optional)
A blade that you can (carefully) thread on a skewer
Lots of patience
If you are feeling extra, you can pick up a proofing basket
What the… is a sourdough starter?
A sourdough starter is simply flour and water that is left to ferment. The bacteria present in our environment will react with the ingredients to produce wild yeast. This serves to leaven and flavour the bread.
I wanted to make a starter with little to no waste and no additional ingredients like pineapple juice or raisins.
I started with 100g of flour and 100 of water (try using filtered water). Stir well an leave uncovered for 24 hours. The next day stir again, and top up with 50g of water and 50g of flour (wholewheat or all purpose, I use whatever I had on hand). The mixture initially took a while to bubble up but on DAY 3, I put it covered in a mini wonderbag and got the most glorious bubble activity. I stalled the process by putting it in the fridge and bringing to room temperature before feeding on a particularly busy week. I actually found a steady rhythm with my starter, it wasn’t fed meticulously at the same time everyday. When I saw the rise and then the fall I noticed it was time for a feed. I even forgot to feed it a day or two and it was surprisingly very resilient. At the moment a portion of my starter is in the freezer and the rest in the fridge until I’m ready for a fresh batch of bread.
Making the bread
The actual baking process should take you around 24 hours. I found this process to actually be the most fun and relaxing. I started of by feeding my starter 12 hours before I was to start baking.
The portions I used for the dough were 1 part starter, 2 parts of water and 3 parts of flour.
Mix into a shaggy dough and allow to rest for 30 min
Next proceed to add some salt and water and knead the dough well until smooth and elastic, I had a bit of issues here as my dough was very sticky so I used and gave the dough a spin in my stand mixer.
Allow to rise for about 4-6 hours
Now proceed to fold the dough like an envelope.
Sit on the counter covered loosely with plastic wrap
The next step is to begin the shaping, you build tension into the dough surface so it retains its shape while baking, this step I actually relied on my roti making skills. Keep folding the dough under itself as if you’re making a ball of ready to roll roti dough. The dough is ready when you can touch it with your finger and it will lightly spring back.
Lastly line a colander with cheese cloth and dust with flour. Transfer the dough, seam side up into the basket and tuck in for the night.
Baking the bread
The next day, preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Put your cast oven pot and lid in the oven.
Bring the dough to room temperate, gently score the surface of the bread with the blade
Remove the hot pot from the oven and transfer the bread to the pot. Spray abundantly with water (like a-lot!)
Top the pot with the lid and transfer to the oven
Bake for around 2o min then remove the lid and lower temperature to 180 (at this point I added some ice cubes to the oven)
Allow to brown evenly before removing from the oven
The dough should sound hollow when tapped
Slice and serve with butter.