Some of you have recently obtained a sour dough starter from the food hub as part of signing up as a seed member.
But baking bread using a starter is not at all common practice these days and many people have asked how exactly to use this little living pet consisting of a million + bacteria and yeast.
A sour dough starter is what is going to make your bread rise, just like commercial yeast. It contains wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria, typically present on the grain that they feed on. By taking some flour and adding a bit of lukewarm water and a bit of sugar, the resulting paste will make a perfect environment for the colony to flourish. As the chewing begins, the yeasts produce carbon dioxide (the rise), and the lacto bacteria alters the flavor and texture by excreting lactic acid. The yeasts and bacteria also transform the sugars and proteins in the flour and make it more digestible and make more nutrients available to us.
Fabulous. Unfortunately, baking sourdough breads require a bit of time, routine and patience to get it right at first. But when that has been achieved, it could end up with a life long relationship involving many happy baking adventures.
Searching for recipes on the world wide bread web can be daunting, but I have found this website which has been a real help in my own search for ‘The Perfect Loaf’. Besides beginners guides and recipes, the website includes a Weekend Baking Schedule to help get a routine going for you and your new friend. As all pets it needs feeding and watering and the schedule makes that very easy.
If you are wandering if sourdough can be used on non-gluten grains, then that is yes, it can! At this very moment, a batch of buckwheat pancake batter is souring on my kitchen counter for my breakfast tomorrow. Most foods can and have traditionally been fermented for nutritional, storage and flavor benefits.
My sour dough starter was made by myself using whole grain organic fresh wheat flour (I call it Tamagotchi) and is the one you as a seed member have obtained a culture from. I have also made starters in the past using some very bloomy garden grapes (its the bloom you want to domesticate), and this gave a wonderfully fruity culture, as well as using whey from a yoghurt adventure which too had a powerful bubbling effect. So if you have a forgetful month and managed to starve your starter until it drowned in its own excrement (as I have many times), a new starter can easily be made.
Now, I am just an amateur baker, but Graham Craig of Llansadwrn is a proper sour dough bread maker we have talked into supplying the food hub. He gets his flour from a welsh mill in Ceredigion and is a member of Welsh Grain Forum. Here you can read about grain sovereignty for Wales and why choosing your flour with care can be a powerful political action. If you are able to pick up your Food Hub order from Llansadwrn on a Saturday or swing by his bread honesty box near the village center, you should try Grahams bread for that wonderful sourdough experience.
I wish you all many happy moments with your sour dough starter!
By Sara, a baking enthusiast.