Sourdough for everybody

Making Sourdough starters

Real bread, here we go again. Bread, it’s the one thing that people will hold on to for dear life, in fact, just writing this is making me want to go and make some toast right now. In my bread bin a few things reside, nut bread that I make all the time, a yellow packet that my youngest son lives out of (yes we are humans) and a brown paper bag that keeps the remains of my sourdough. I bake two loaves once a week and when they are almost gone, I start again. I’m now down to the heel of the second loaf as I gave one away to a friend who cradled it as if it were a newborn, such is the power of good bread. As gluten free is now as normal as veganism which is on the rise at such a degree that I’ve become tragically unhip by eating eggs, organic chicken, turkey and fish again. You can take anything away from me, but never my sourdough. As someone with a thyroid problem, a condition that’s rife on our little island, the first thing a doctor who knows their stuff will tell you is to give up gluten, another doctor who appears to know their stuff will tell you to give up dairy and another one will tell you that none of this matters. If you are living in your own body, which you are, only you know how you feel. Sourdough raises questions and eyebrows about all this gluten business. The starter ferments the grain which breaks down the carbohydrate and reduces the amount of gluten in the grain. When you mix up your dough, the longer you leave it to ferment, the more the gluten is broken down. Technically there is still gluten but the reactive part of the protein (gluten is a protein in the grain) has been eliminated so you don’t have the bloating and discomfort that you get with regular bread. I have come up with an accidental and lazy method of baking sourdough that requires no kneading. As I want to leave the dough for as long as possible so that my bread is good for me and it has fermented for long enough that it actually feeds my good gut bacteria.

Sourdough in pots 2

Follow these instructions and you will have a loaf of good height, strength and lightness, and it’s a real thrill when you do it all without added yeast. Organic flour is essential with sourdoughs as all the essential enzymes are still in the wheat. The better the flour, the better the bread. This recipe uses quantities from Joe Fitzmaurice who bakes at teaches amazing classes at in Cloughjordan, sign up for a treat and a life lesson that will feed you for years to come. The lazy instructions are my own doing, enjoy.


Make a starter


Day 1

In a jar put 75g white flour or rye and 75ml tepid water, stir well and leave, covered for 2 days


Day 3

Add 75g more white or rye and 75ml water, stir and leave


Day 5

Add 75g more white or rye and 75ml water, stir and leave


Day 7,8 & 9

Add 50g flour and 50ml flour and water each day as before


Day 10

Make your bread


Once your starter is established, keep it in the fridge and give it a feed at least once a week to keep it alive. When you want to make a loaf, take it out of the fridge and give it a feed for one or two days to bring it back to life.


The day before you plan to bake


Take your starter out of the fridge and take 120g from the jar and add 120g rye flour and 120ml water, stir it well and leave overnight or for 12 hours minimum under a cloth in a warm place.


After a minimum time it should be nice and puffy. It doesn’t matter if you leave it longer.


Now add 720g strong white bread flour – organic only, Doves Farm do it, it comes in a green paper bag, and 480ml spring water, do not use tap, it has chlorine and fluoride in it. Mix this up well with your hand and leave it for several hours, if you time it right you can leave this part overnight.


In the morning sprinkle over some more flour and punch back the dough, add 15g sea salt, don’t forget this! and mix it in well. Do not forget the salt or your bread will taste of nothing but sadness and regret!


Divide you dough into two and pop the pieces into two well oiled or buttered tins or ceramic casserole dishes, I use whatever is handy but the dishes give a great crust as the bread as it’s own extra oven within an oven. If using tins, dust over some flour and cover the loaves with a clean cloth, is using the casserole pots just put the lids on.


Leave these for about 4 hours to rise and during the last hour turn on the oven to 220degreesC


Bake the bread loaves in the oven for 40-45 mins.


If you are using tins pop them in and throw in about half a cup of water to the tray in the bottom of the oven, this will create a lovely steam and a nice, shiny crust. Check on them after about 30 mins but let them get nice and dark.


If you’re using pots just fire them in with their lids on. After about 30 minutes check on them by removing one of the lids, if the crust is beginning to crack them take the lids off carefully, they will be very hot, and leave the bread in the oven uncovered, to brown. I like a nice, dark crust on my loaves.


When you take the bread out of the oven, pop one out from the tin and tap it on it’s bottom, it should sound hollow. Leave the loaves to cool on a wire rack or on top of the tins so they don’t get all sweaty. Enjoy the bread with tons of butter and an air of untouchable smugness.


P.S baking your own sourdough will save you about €3 per loaf!

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