Showing posts with label Rye Flour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rye Flour. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Successful Sourdough

We've tried to make a sourdough starter in the past, but couldn't quite keep it going. I'm not sure what got in the way, maybe it was three kids or an overambitious garden, but we weren't too successful.

A couple months ago, our friend Volker from Brant Flour Mills introduced us to Bread Matters, a new book dedicated to the issues surrounding modern wheat and how you can make healthier bread at home. With the onset of winter and a few short minutes to spare, we were inspired to finally dive back into sourdough.

Sourdough is simply bread that is leavened without adding commercial yeast. In fact, the only thing added to the flour to get it moving is water. There is wild yeast all around us, and making sourdough is simply a matter of creating an environment that allows it to thrive.

When you look at a grape, it's usually covered in a dusty coating. This "bloom" contains a lot of wild yeast, which would hitch a ride into any juice made from that grape. The yeast would give it what it needs to ferment into into a "wild" wine.

Our last starter involved putting an organic or wild grape into the flour to kickstart the fermentation. This makes some sense, but Bread Matters argues that just like a wine yeast has naturally found and coated each grape, the best yeast for sourdough has already found and coated each grain.

So we started this sourdough successfully and easily without a grape, and without leaving it on an open windowsill to go shopping for yeast in the air.

Our production starter bubbling away after being topped up.

We mixed some whole rye flour and water to begin a four day process to make what is called the "sour". Each day we added a bit more rye flour and warm water to feed the yeasts that were quickly multiplying. The strong-smelling, bubbling mixture was kept on a plant propagation mat during this process to keep it at a constant 30 degrees.

The sour itself isn't added to a dough to make bread, it's simply used to get the culture thriving. It's very strong smelling and only a small scoop of it is added to new flour of your choice and water to make the "production starter". Once you make your first production starter you can discard the sour or put it in the fridge as a backup.

The production starter becomes the soul of your sourdough. It's allowed to ferment and then most is removed, mixed with flour, water and salt to make dough for a loaf of bread. What's left of the production starter is topped up again, and allowed to re-ferment and the next day it's ready to be divided again to make another loaf.

It's a lot like making yogurt. Once made, you don't eat it all, you save a little bit to add to milk to make some more.

The main ingredient that commercial bread producers can't afford, and the one that makes bread healthy and delicious is simply time. Think of anything "instant", it usually comes at the expense of flavour. Fermenting the bread allows yeasts and beneficial bacteria time to break down a lot of the flour, making it easier to digest and helping make more of the nutrients available to your body.

It takes a few days to get everything humming, but after that, maintenance is simple. Yes it takes many hours to ferment the production starter, and then many hours again to let a loaf rise, but they overlap, and only take a minute to prep.

Sourdough turned out to be not as daunting as I once thought, and it's not at all like an extra child as some people suggest. If we are going away and unsure of when we're coming back, I'll just stick the starter in the fridge and forget about it.

We feel lucky to have fresh homemade bread every few days, and we're saving money while we do it. And we look forward to each loaf's unique flavour every morning.