I’ve been inspired by the Real Bread campaign recently, and #sourdoughseptember… Those of you who know me, know I have a real ‘bee in my bonnet’ about bread. It’s a staple, and it’s massively exploited for that reason. Unfortunately the bread we buy from the supermarket shelf really can’t call itself bread. Yes it’s derived mostly from wheat, but after that it’s packed with preservatives, stabilizers, sugar… anything to give it a longer shelf life. It’s a convenience food.
So what can call itself bread? It’s four ingredients: Flour, Water, Yeast, Salt. That’s it… Now go and read the list of ingredients on your supermarket loaf and decide what you have? Is it a chemical concoction? Or a nutritionally valuable food? And what is it for? To nourish or to ‘fill a hole’?
The whole point of this blog is to share a passion for whole food. That’s three times a day nourishing the body, after air and water, its the most important thing we do for ourselves, and what we eat builds who we are. Every cell of our being is made of this stuff: Air, Water and the chemical elements of food.
There are as many reasons as there are people for why we choose convenience foods… Time & money are certainly two of the biggest reasons I’ve heard. But what is the real cost? I’m not sure I’m willing to take that gamble…
But here it is. Slow food (albeit no slower that putting a ready meal in the oven), takes thought and preparation, in that we have to decide what to eat, and buy it… we’re all doing that anyway, so what else stops us? It comes down to the 20 minutes that the ready meal is in the oven… what are we doing? Spending that time chopping onions, boiling rice, seasoning a ‘Quick Vegan Chilli’, or something else? Sometimes It’s just a matter of calling halt on the demands of whatever else is going on and immersing ourselves in the sensual pleasure of creating food… And as far as I’m concerned it pays dividends.
Back to bread then! I do make bread, but I also buy two sliced loaves a week for morning toast, beans on toast or sandwiches. I buy ‘authentic bread‘, I freeze a loaf and use one up. When it’s stale its ‘wholemeal breadcrumbs‘… The last two weeks I’ve been working on my first Sourdough loaf. Yes it’s taken me two weeks to make a loaf of bread! Actually, that’s mainly the starter, but here’s the result, the process and the picture… and its absolutely 100% worth every second of investment, because the result is delicious, easily digestible, nutritious, healthy living food.
1kg wholemeal spelt flour
filtered water (or spring water)
Salt Rapeseed Oil That’s it, that’s the lot… the flavour develops from the fermentation process (which is why it takes so long).
Method for the starter:
This comes from Vanessa Kimbell’s ‘Sourdough Starter‘ recipe.
1. 200g flour, 200g warm water, mixed thoroughly in a clean bowl set aside in a draft free space and covered with a damp tea towel.
2. Feed every 24 hours by removing 200g of the mixture and mixing in 100g of flour and 100g of water.
3. Continue the process and eventually bubbles will start to form. This is all the lovely bacteria starting the fermentation process. Keep feeding. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says at least 7 days. Mine took about 9. I think it depends on the temperature of the room.
4. Mine went through a very smelly bubbly phase, and settled down a little.
5. At this point I reverted to Vanessa Kimbell and fed with white spelt flour instead of wholemeal to boost the yeast production. After the first feed I did the float test: 1 tsp mixture dropped in a glass of water… if it floats its ready, if it sinks keep feeding. Mine was ready so I fed one final white feed, repeated the float test and went on to make the sponge.
6. At this point I had 200g of bubbly starter. 50g was put aside in the fridge for future recipes. 150g was used to make a loaf.
Method for the sponge:
This was back to Hugh’s recipe.
1. 150g starter mixed with 250g white spelt flour & 275mls warm water.
2. Leave over night in a bowl covered with clingfilm.
3. In the morning it will be bubbly again. Now its ready to make bread!
Method for baking the loaf: Again, following Hugh’s instructions.
1. Add 300g white spelt flour, 10g salt and 1tbsp Rapeseed oil to the sponge and mix. Mine was too stiff so I added 50mls warm water.
2. From experience I know the stickier the dough the fluffier the loaf and on reflection mine was probably still a little stiff. It makes a slightly dense loaf, which is still tasty but next time needs to be lighter! (**ADD MORE WATER**)
3. Knead the dough until the gluten develops, it should be smooth and springy.
4. Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for Several hours. Mine took around 6 hours to double in my boiler cupboard.
5. Once it’s doubled in size, give it a punch to deflate it.
6. line a mixing bowl with a floured tea-towel. Put the dough in and cover with cling film. Leave to rise again for several hours, again mine was about 6 hours.
7. Once it’s risen turn it on to a baking sheet.
8. My oven only goes to 240C so I turned it right up, put some water in a baking tray and placed it on the oven floor. Once heated i put in the loaf for 15 mins.
9. After 15 mins turn the oven down to 200C and bake for a further 25 mins.
That’s it. Enjoy the loaf… What an amazing process… I have absolutely loved every second of it. Nurturing the yeast, watching it bubble and grow, feeding, mixing, caring about the room temperature… it’s not unlike caring for a new born baby!
My starter became known as Lupa, named after the immortal Roman wolf goddess… it seemed apt as the starter (as long as well cared for), could be immortal, and of course the Romans were keen real bread makers! So Lupa is enjoying a week of in the fridge…She could be frozen, but I might call on her next weekend to reproduce her second offspring… And for those of you still reading… THANK YOU! Here is a picture of my first Sourdough Loaf…
With love, and enormous gratitude for the whole process…