discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A kneady sour dough

It all started with two kind offering of organic flour and a 14 year old sour dough starter that got me on the journey of making my first sour dough loaf.  
I met the ladies from Bluestone Magazine at one of the local Made by me markets and a gesture from me in the spirit of giving at Christmas landed me with a gift from them of my very own sour dough starter and organic flour, one of the kindest things I think anyone has ever done for me.  
I was also tickled pink as I have wanted to try making sour dough since starting my bread making last year.
The offering came with instructions but as my regular readers will testify, I am one for not following a recipe to the letter and creating my own spin on things.  I was told in no uncertain terms, this was where that kind of philosophy would be my undoing if I were to succeed....ok, I'm going to follow this to a T!
Lets talk about "The Mother".  A mother sour dough starter is a cherished kitchen commodity that if treated kindly can potentially stay in your family for decades.  This one I was given is over 14 years pressure Jan, no pressure!!
          Caring for a sour dough mother/starter is quite simple once you get your head around it.  
It's consistency and loving vibes that keep Mum happy, bit like myself really!
When she arrived I tucked her up into the fridge as she had just kindly been fed by Louise, so I had around a week or more or less before I had to do a thing.  
I will admit, every time I reached into the fridge, I looked at her and silently whispered these words "Please don't die, Please don't die, I'm sending you lots of healthy sour doughy vibes oh beautiful one" crazy, I know, but I'm sure it helped.

To keep Mum fed, she needs to be taken out of the fridge for an hour to get to room temperature.  You then need to weigh out just 50gms worth of her, torn into little pieces as it helps the mixing process.  Into that carefully goes a weighed 50gms of plain flour and 25gms of weighed filtered water.  Don't be tempted to use water from the tap, Mum won't be happy and there will be tears and blood on your sour dough-less hands.

This is then kneaded for a minute or so until a stiff smooth dough is formed.
This is done around once a week, but you can best tell when she needs a good binge as during the week she will be bloated and lively, by the end of the week she has deflated some and it's time to revive her spirits.
Above is a picture of the new starter just fed.  As the days pass, more pockets of air develop and the starter rises, then falls when ready for a feed.
Pop her back into the washed out and dried air-tight container and get ready to start the nurturing game all over again.
Seeing as you throw away any starter that is over the 50gm's, you can easily make a gift and share the Motherly love to a friend who wants to also join the bake club.  
But be warned, I've been told of appointments cancelled, dinners with friends rescheduled and holidays avoided just to keep the Mother going!
Now comes the time when you actually want to use the starter and go forth and make bread...the exciting part!  
There are 4 steps that span around 26 hours (I know....). I've been making my no knead bread for over 6 months now with resoundingly easy success, so this seems like an epic adventure!  My instructions are for starting the bread on Friday morning to bake on Saturday night but you can start it whenever suits your schedule...are you ready for the ride?
Step 1  allow 6-8 hours proving time                                    (Friday morning)
  • Tear off 25gms of your mother starter and break into pieces into a bowl.  Place remaining starter back into the fridge to start the feeding process again as discussed above.
  • Into the 25gm starter mix in 50gm of flour (I used Kialla organic plain flour) and 25gm filtered water.  Mix until all the flour is absorbed.  Knead for 3 minutes.  I did this all in the bowl.  The picture above is the dough just before covering.
  • Lightly brush with oil (I used flaxseed oil) and cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place to rise 6-8 hours (Ideally 25 degrees c)
Step 2  allow 6-8 hours proving time                                        (Friday night)
  • Measure out 100gm of dough and add 200gm flour and 100gm water.  Mix and knead as for step 1.   
  • Lightly brush with oil, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 6-8 hours.
Note: You can leave this for over 20 hours before you continue to step 3.  Just pop it in the fridge to prove and bring out of fridge an hour before you start step 3. 

This was after step 3 before leaving to prove for 4-5 hours
Step 3  allow 3-4 hours proving time                     (Saturday morning ~ early)
  • Tear off 300g of your dough/starter.  Discard any over that amount.  
  • Break into pieces and then add 300g of tepid filtered water.
  • Add 400g flour and 12gm salt
  • Mix and knead for 5 minutes ~ the dough will be very sticky, you may need to add a little extra flour, try not to add too much though.  (I did some looking on youtube and found a wonderful tip to help with this. Into a jug or bowl, pour some filtered water and dampen your hand before you touch the dough. Not too wet though as you don't want to add too much more moisture to the dough. I left the dough in the bowl and kneaded it with one hand, turning and kneading away.  Wet won't stick to wet, so you don't need to use any extra flour.  Try it, put your dry hand onto the wet dough and see where you end up :D)
  • you can add 150gm of dried fruit, nuts etc at this stage if you want.
  • Rest for 20 minutes than knead again for 5-10 minutes.
  • Lightly cover with oil and cover with cling wrap and let prove in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  • Knock the air out/deflate the dough and give 2 business letter turns although it is quite a wet dough so just do your best at folding it for this kind of turn.  Let rise, covered, for another hour.
  • Knock the air out/deflate the dough and give 2 business letter turns.  Let rise, covered, for 4-5 hours.
Step 4  allow 3-4 hours proving time and 30 minutes cooking time 
                                                                                (Saturday afternoon)
  • Shape and let rise in the tin or if doing free form on a tray, leave to rise again in bowl for 3-4 hours.
  • Pre-heated a fan forced oven at 220c for approximately 30 minutes before you are ready, placing a baking dish into the bottom of the oven for the last 10 minutes of pre-heating.  This is to drop a good big handful of ice into to create steam.
  • Cut slits into the top of the dough with a pair of scissors or a sharp blade and bake for approximately 30 minutes and finally you should have something that resembles sour dough!!

This loaf was really wonderful, and best toasted.  I'm looking forward to my next loaf, although my no knead bread has alot to answer for, it is so easy!!

Have you ever made sour dough or cared for 'The Mother'?

Ciao, Jan

* read here for an update on the baking of the sour dough :)


  1. What a lovely gift! I've never seen a starter that looks like that before. Mine were very liquid and bubbly but that's so interesting to see :D

    1. It has been such a lovely experience all round. Shame you can't call round and grab some!! :D

  2. No never! I make bread most days, but never sourdough. I would really like to try it though. Yours looks great!

    1. I think I can get it better and looking more rustic, ones in the oven as we speak! :D

  3. Fab post, Jan and for your first go it looks amazingly good. I have a rye starter that is much more liquid and bubbly as Lorraine says... but the recipe is very different. I'll bring some over if you are interested.. and that recipe only takes a morning to do (I often use it when I'm busy).

    1. Thanks Louise I'd love that!! One mother is better than 2 xxx

  4. Yikes... that's a big responsibility! I have always wanted to make sourdough properly but as we have a three-week holiday happening this year, I don't think it's a good idea to make this the year to do it. Somehow, I doubt the 18-yo male housesitting for us could cope with the dog, the chooks AND The Mother!!
    Fantastic step-by-step instructions though, one day I will be able to say that they helped me out a great deal :)


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