Sourdough is a strange and wonderful thing. There’s something strange about choosing a method of baking that requires such a lot of time and patience, and yet something equally wonderful about exactly that. I hadn’t even realised you could make a sourdough starter from scratch with just flour and water until a couple of years ago. I thought I’d give it a go, but it didn’t seem to work and so I gave up and moved on. That is until this summer, when I found myself being drawn back to the mystique and history of sourdough baking.
I wanted to try again, but this time was going to be different. I set about reading blogs and articles about sourdough, trying to decipher what was meant to happen, why had mine been so flat when people online had such bubbling pots of active starter, how could I get it right this time. I found a blog with all the answers I could have hoped for and more: The Perfect Loaf, a blog by a chap called Maurizio from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every inch of detail about sourdough baking, all the factors that influence it, everything that you could possibly need to know is covered in Maurizio’s blog and made me feel much more confident about starting again.
I started with Maurizio’s 7-step guide to making a sourdough starter, and was amazed when my sourdough started to bubble and rise in a way that I’d never seen with my previous attempt. I felt like I finally understood what had gone wrong, and felt more confident than ever that I was going to get a solid starter after the seven days. I even named by starter Sebastian, because that’s what you do with sourdough starters right? I plan for Sebastian to be a part of my family for a very long time!
Obviously, nobody goes to the effort of making a sourdough starter without at least an inkling that they might want to get a loaf of bread in return for their troubles. I was pretty nervous about making my first loaf. I mean, my starter was going great guns, but it didn’t necessarily mean that my first loaf was going to work. I used Maurizio’s Beginner’s Sourdough Bread recipe which I felt should stand me in good stead. The blog post is super detailed and took a bit of reading over and processing in my head (I actually wrote it out in a way that laid it out a little better for me), but I find it’s better to have more information than less so that you can understand why something works or doesn’t work, or better predict when things might not work so you can alter something. I didn’t quite have all the gear needed for the recipe, so I had to improvise with bowls and saucepans where necessary. I used a tray of water in the bottom of the oven as well to create steam that would give the loaf that beautiful crispy crust.
The process was long, required a bit of patience, trust, and I was worried throughout that it might not work, but the result was amazing – I couldn’t have wished for a better first loaf from my little Sebastian! The crust was crisp and although it took on quite a dark colour, it didn’t taste burnt. The inside was soft and perfectly sour – absolute heaven spread with some yummy butter. The recipe actually makes two loaves, but it freezes really well for toast so that wasn’t a problem at all.
I definitely want to try some other recipes with my sourdough starter, like rye bread, Maurizio’s new pretzel recipe, and lots more. I love spending a bit of chill time over a weekend following the process of making a beautiful sourdough – I just wish I had a few more free weekends! But hey I can’t complain.
It’s been so nice enjoying homemade sourdough with some of my favourite recipes. Some that work really well with a good sourdough are:
- Toasted or fresh sourdough topped with these Argentinian Pickled Aubergines;
- Spinach & Mushroom Bruschetta;
- Using some of our garden tomatoes for this Tomato Bruschetta with Porcini Salt.
If you’ve ever fancied trying to make your own sourdough starter, I urge you to have a go. The Perfect Loaf is such a fantastic blog for anyone with a desire to work with sourdough. Feel free to share any sourdough stories or recipes that you love in the comments!