You may wonder who Boris is. Let me explain. Before you meet him there is a back story (there always is I hear you say!) But bear with me.
In conversation someone recently said,
“Anyone can make a loaf of bread. But sourdough. That’s something completely different.
You need to teach people how to do that.”
Well, I’d already thought of that. Sourdough takes a fair bit of advance planning as you have got to make a sourdough starter before you even begin the baking. And you need a lot of time when you do bake. For this reason I have avoided it. But,
I think that we have become too used to a fast pace of life. We want our information fast. We want to get to places fast. We want our food fast. If we have to wait for something we grow impatient. We are needy. I’m not so sure we tell our children that good things come to those who wait. Patience is not really one of my virtues. Being essentially a little bit lazy the thought of taking 5 days to make a sourdough starter makes me cringe with boredom already. That said, once made it will last years if you don’t kill it.
“How is this going to turn out?” I ask myself. “What if it doesn’t work? Such a waste of time! But no. I shall make a starter. I shall name it, actually name it. It will take on a life of its own and from it shall come fantastically delicious bread!”
And so I did. This is Boris – slightly bonkers, fizzy with fermentation, in need of careful containment and actually, once made very easy to bake with, and very tasty.
The magical process of bread making draws you in – turning flour and water into food from heaven, adding seeds, or flavours, raisins or apricots. Plaiting it, knotting it, shaping it….oh yes….eating it!
So, bread is one of the oldest forms of food. It dates back thousands of years to Neolithic times when lumps of dough were place in the embers of a fire. (Dampers – yet to make but on my list!) Apparently the new fad is black pizza dough (as in black because it has added charcoal in it. “What? Someone dropped it in the fire and then though Hey! From this I can develop a new fad?!” )Wheat, rye and ancient grains have been combined with water to create sourdough starters. They have been put near fire and have been transformed by heat into crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside puffs, rolls, flatbreads, plaits and loaves. The recipes for Middle Eastern, Greek, American and Indian flatbreads have barely changed.
With sourdough, you leave a mixture of flour and water in the open air to rise and ferment… the science of bread begins….the magic happens. You do this and you have formed your starter. If you look after it and treat it carefully you can use it for years. Indefinitely. You get a complex, interesting flavour unlike anything that is commercially produced. I thought I hated sourdough until I made Boris and used him to bake.
How to make your sourdough starter (Or, How I made Boris)
There’s no mystery or magic here. I am shocked to see how much people are selling this for £6.99 for 25g! Maybe I should open a blogshop!!
Day One: Begin by taking 3 tablespoons of strong white flour/ wholemeal flour
Mix this with 3 tablespoons of water in a large mixing bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside.
Day Two: Feed your starter with 3 more tablespoons of flour and water. Mix, cover and leave.
Day Three: As before – do the same.
Day Four: You should now begin to see bubbles forming on the surface, indicating that the wild yeast (which is everywhere) is beginning to become active and multiply. When making Boris I added a tablespoon of honey at this point.
Day Five: Feed your starter dough again. It should now be frothy and billowy – if not then you need to keep it out and continue the process.
Day 6: In a large bowl mix 1 tablespoon from the starter dough with 150g flour and 5 floz warm water. Cover and let it ferment overnight. The next day use the quantity of starter needed for your recipe and discard the rest. Next post will be a sourdough recipe.
Storing your starter
Add 1 tablespoon flour to the remaining mixture and put it into a jar, seal and refrigerate for use another time. If it is left for a long time, it might become dormant. If it does, throw away the acidic liquid on the surface, stir in 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons water, mix it, seal it and let it stand overnight.
Treat your starter dough with care. Label the jar and keep it in the fridge. I have heard of people forgetting their jar is at the back of the fridge for 5 years, finding it and still being able to use it!