Sourdough bread is the original food upon which the Western civilization was built. The granaries of Southern Europe and North Africa supplied Phoenicians, Greek and Romans with wheat and barley that was transformed into delicious loaves of bread for the masses， to go with the games.
Today, “sourdough bread” has a healthy connotation and makes us think of acid, dark, maybe dryish loaves from an ecological hippie shop. However, before 1850’s, all bread was made using some kind of sourdough, even sweet breads and buns. It is possible to bake out all the acids if you do it the right way. Even baguette, which is a sweet and flavourful bread is made from sourdough.
Göran has been making sourdough bread every week for ten years, and this is his story:
“My favourite sourdough bread recipe:
200g levain = sourdough starter (see below how to make this)
300g wheat flour (wholewheat if available)
5g salt, 5g oil, 5g honey
Mix, knead and let rise for an hour at room temperature.
Knead again and form a loaf (e.g. in a silicon form)
Rise again until double volume (2-4 hours, depending on temperature). Pre-heat your oven as hot as you can.
Just before putting the bread in the oven, do two things:
1. spray or use a brush to paint the dough with water (this gives a stronger crust)
2. cut slices in the top of the bread with a sharp knife (this gives a nice expansion pattern on top of the bread)
Into the oven until center temperature is 96 degrees C (if you have a thermometer) or until the weight drops. After five minutes in the oven, you can reduce temperature to 180 degrees C.
When you take out the bread, let it rest for ten minutes on a grille, to ooze out the humidity inside.
Enjoy with a slice of cheese.
How to grow a sourdough starter (levain)
The word “starter” – levain – is a name for a water-flour mix where you cultivate your yeast (a fungus) and a lactobacillus (bacteria) together. If your cultivation is thriving, the levain smells like fresh apple cider. I mix a tablespoon of old levain + 50g water + 50g flour, and wait for a day for the yeast to have grown into the whole mix (at room temperature – in a fridge it takes a week).
When the levain is bubbly and nice smelling, use it in the recipe above.
The yeast is exhaling CO2 and needs O2 to live, so make sure that the lid of your box gives ventilation. You do not want to suffocate your fungus!
How to start a sourdough starter (levain)
Well, you also need to start a starter. Either use a tablespoon of a friends’ levain, or start your own from scratch. Depending on your local climate, this is easy or difficult.
What worked for me: Mix 10g water + 10g whole wheat organic flour. Place in a jar with not-tight lid in room temperature. Add every day 10g water+10g flour and mix. After a week or so, the mix is starting to form small bubbles. Throw away most of it and keep one table spoon for the levain-feeding as described above.
I would love to share my levain with you, just let me know and we will see how to share it in the best way.
For more reading, see the “Sourdough FAQ” from Usenet News.”
(Of course, we must not cut too many trees to grow wheat, but a small field here and there should be no problem…)