Sourdough breadmaking has seen a real revival in recent years; so popular, in fact, that in Sweden you can now check your Sourdough starter into the Sourdough Hotel to keep it alive while you’re on holidays.
In a previous interview with Malin Elmid from Berlin Bread Exchange, Malin told me that a good sourdough bread only needs three ingredients: flour, water and salt. But I never got to the bottom of how you actually make a sourdough bread.
How is the sourdough bread made? Dench Bakery in Melbourne, describes their process as “starting the day before with the mixing of the leaven (sourdough culture) which ferments for almost nine hours. Then it is at least another six hours from mixing everything together to the first hot loaf of bread; most of that time is resting, allowing the yeast cells to do their work and to develop as much flavour as possible. The time invested in the process is the only way to achieve a loaf with body, flavour and a crust that acts as its own preservative.”
When making your dough, remember to keep a little starter so that you don’t have to make more. A starter will respond best to a bit of regular attention (food) and will have the most activity if it is fed every day. A starter will survive in the fridge for days or even weeks without feeding but you can keep it lively by feeding it once a week. Here are a tips on how to feed your starter.
I knead you Bread dough when fully developed is malleable, stretchy and smooth but to get it there, you need to knead it to maximise gluten formation and create air pockets in the dough. Traditionally dough is kneaded by hand for maybe 10-12 minutes or more, however Dan Lepard popularised a short knead approach: kneading for no more than 10 secs, interspersed with resting the dough
Kneading is simply repeating folding and compressing of a dough. Sourdough Companion recommeds that the “simplest way of doing this is to push with the heel of your hand in the middle of the dough, stretching the far side of the dough away from you. Grab hold of the far (stretched) side of the dough, and fold it back towards you. Turn the whole dough by 90 degrees. Repeat this process about 10 times”. See their pictorial lesson on how to knead.
Show me the proof The proving process is extremly important for the creation of a great sourdough. During the process the yeast multiply by feeding on the tiny amount of sugar present and carbon dioxide is produced which fills up the tiny gas pockets generated during the kneading of the dough. The sourdough flavour develops during the proving and you can actually intensify the flavour by manipulating the time and temperature during this process.
Shape Me For a variety of shaping techniques, go no further than this beautiful video by Madison Sourdough.
After shaping, certain types of sourdough are slashed before baking. The pattern of slashes where previously used to identify a person’s bread in the communal ovens, however, the slashing is important in allowing the dough to rise in a defined way and lessen the resistance to expansion by making weak points in the crust. When slashing, slash the top firmly, quickly and decisively with a very sharp knife – it is a slash not a cut.
And now to see all this in action watch master artisan baker Dan DeGustibus’s abriged Sourdough lesson here.