Sourdough Adventures

Lookee, I have a cute little bubbly sourdough starter! I have been meaning to make sourdough bread for, oh about two years now. I believe that slow and steady wins the race. Or, at least turns up at the finish line eventually, generally when everyone else has gone home.

The tipping point for actually starting my starter was discovering that though I don't have Coeliac's disease, I do have the gene for it, which would seem to indicate that there is something about gluten that my body isn't really happy about, although I currently have no gluten intolerance issues at all, and hopefully never will. I have been doing lots of reading about gluten, and what do you know? Baker's yeast is a modern invention, no more than two hundred years old. Traditional societies all soaked or fermented their grains, legumes, nuts and seeds before using them, which neutralised the phytic acid in them. Phytic acid can block the absorption of all kinds of good nutrients, such as zinc and iron, by bindigng to it molecularly and taking it out of the body (you know, all that good wholegrain fibre that is supposed to keep us regular?).

Traditional societies world wide have developed ways to use grains without being nutritionally compromised by them - think of the Scottish tradition of soaking oats overnight before making them into porridge. Before the invention of baker's yeast and raising agents like baking powder, the only way to make bread, biscuits or cakes, or anything that wasn't flat as the proverbial pancake, was to use sour dough. The way that we now use grains - puffed and heat treated (breakfast cereals), dry roasted (granola, muesli bars) or in quick rise breads and baked goods - is possibly causing us all to be nutritionally compromised. Ooops! Another own goal for the modern food industry.

Does this mean that I have thrown out all the bread and muesli in the house? No, but in my usual slow way I may be making some changes to the way we eat. Quietly, without telling anybody. Because they already think I'm a bit mad. They have noticed that there is a sourdough starter on the bench, but I have promised that no-one has to eat the bread unless they really want to. I'm hoping I can make a really nice loaf that the family may actually want to eat.

Here is the method I am using to make the starter. I like it because there are plenty of pictures! I am on Day 3 today. I started the starter with rye flour, because that seems to be a generally accepted wholesomely good flour to start with, then yesterday discarded half of it into the compost, and added organic plain white flour. Today it is bubbling like mad. There is also an unfortunate ant, who will no doubt add a certain je ne sais quoi to the mixture. Thankyou, ant.

Tonight, I will discard most of the starter and feed it again, maybe with half rye, half white this time, because I like to make things up as I go along. And I won't discard the extra starter, I will be making these yummy pancakes with it. I will call them Only-Slightly-Ant-Flavoured Pancakes, and then maybe the children will leave lots for me.

Actually, having just read the instructions again, I have just realised I was supposed to feed the starter this morning as well as tonight. Ah well, I'm sure it will be fine. I am really not a details person. The recipe also mentions the importance of steady warmth for starter success. Well, it is your typical freezing cold Tassie spring here. We have heating on a couple of hours in the morning, and at night, but right now I am dressed in my winter parka as I type. I popped the starter on the bench right over the dishwasher, which warms up nicely during the drying cycle, but that is the only extra heat it has received and it seems to be doing fine so far.

Anyways, be sure I will keep you updated on the sourdough adventure. It might turn into a saga actually. It may take some time...

And I have another string to the old bow on the fermenting front. Monday morning I met lovely fellow blogger Fran in our local whole foods shop. It was so exciting to meet her and her very sweet, funny daughters in person. She is madly busily making bread as well, whipping up a vegan kefir milk as the fermenting agent for bread. Fran gave me some kefir grains, which aren't grains, but some kind of mysterious lacto bacilli (maybe - I could be making that bit up!). When I have another spare bit of brainspace I will read all the information she sent me, and work out what to do next with them. My plan is to rehydrate them in milk, and use the milk for baking, as I have a recipe (somewhere) for baking cakes using flour soaked in kefir. Somewhere...

Cheers Fran, and please tell me, have any of you baked sourdough bread before, or made a starter? Send me all your tips, and tell me about your projects that you have been going to start for two years now (please tell me that I am not the only person who procrastinates indefinitely..).


what a lovely post to read before i get my head back into work :-)
i never make ANY bread (except for pizza) - yeast and i don't go well together. so i admire people who can! i had a chuckle about the cold - my kitchen is on the 'cold side of the house' and is the reason i only make pizza in the summer months. keeping things warm is a trial.
good luck!
ps finally found the floradix today.
Unknown said…
You are so funny and yes, you cook like i do, making it up as i go along. Problem is that when they want a repeat performance, its never quite the same, even if i try. Lucky you meeting Fran. She is so so into healthy and eco stuff her knowledge frightens me. Im sure to put my foot in my mouth when i comment on her blog. Cheers, happy baking.
Jo said…
Hi e, I know you would be brilliant at making bread, it's just the same as making pizza dough. In fact, I use the same recipe for both. Sourdough is a whole different kettle of fish though. Whether it rises at all will be the first test!
Our kitchen used to be on the cold side of the house (good old Tassie architecture!). We moved it to the sunny side, which is great - when there is sun! Hope you like the floradix, and it makes you all bouncy!
Lynda, Fran is just as lovely and gorgeous in person as she is on her blog. When I left she was busy planning the dog's birthday party with her daughters :) That will be one happy dog!
Anonymous said…
My first starter "Herman" named after my wayfaring "any port in a storm" great uncle "from the war" was pure vinegar. I made the mistake of only feeding him once a day and he developed too much lactic acid and not enough yeast. I was later told by some baking experts (of which I am NEVER going to be representitive of ;) ) that if you want to develop more yeast you need to feed your starter twice a day as that encourages the yeast. I use the kefir to bake cakes all of the time Jo and Steve loves the results. Its like yoghurt and softens the flour amazingly and if you soak your flour overnight, the kefir breaks it down and makes it more easily digestable so it might be a win-win situation for you :). I used to use my excess sourdough starter along with kefir to soak flour overnight and then made cakes the next day with it. I had a great recipe for Chocolate cake and carrot cake. Here they are if you would like to try them. Sadly "Audrey" died a lonely death in the fridge not so long back. She is resting in peace in the compost heap as I type this and I still feel guilty about not feeding her enough :( so I haven't baked either of these cakes in a while.

and this one looks AMAZING! I might have to start Audrey 2 now!

Let me know how you go and any prob's with the kefir, I am just an email away :)
Jo said…
Wow Fran, you are a mine of information. Right, twice a day feeding from now on. Those cakes look AMAZING, will get on to them.
I must say, I would feel just terrible about making sourdough if I didn't have a compost bin to put all the scrapings in. Now I know why the pioneers all had pigs. They were fed on sourdough and whey!
Never tried to make sourdough 'mother'... though my friends have and do! You're so adventurous! I hope your kids get on board! Add olives, that's what sold me on the sourdough in my mother's house!
Tammy said…
I tried making a sourdough starter once, and it didn't work out. Then again, it was probably me and not the starter's fault. You have encouraged me to try it again, well maybe without the ant.

(I do love that you left it in the picture!)
GretchenJoanna said…
I'm awfully happy that you are starting a Saga of Sourdough, now that I (think I) am retired from that business. But just tonight I took a loaf of sourdough bread with teff out of the freezer for dinner (I had to make room for tomatoes) and it is SO yummy. I'm looking forward to lots of vicarious adventuring on your blog!
Anonymous said…
I love baking sourdough although I must admit I suck at it. lol I keep Bertha and Andreas (my starters) in the fridge and use them mostly for pancakes but also for bread. You can make sourdough pasta, crumpets, well anything really. Dr Google for recipes. :)
Kefir in cakes is also wonderful. I don't mind the cream cheese you can make from kefir either. I usually overferment mine and then strain off the heese, add whatever to it and yummy healthy dip or if you hang it to drain longer, healthy cream cheese. I reckon the possibilities there would be endless.
I tried making a kefir bread the other day and aside from overfermenting it (I kept forgetting about it) and it needing a little more cooking it was brilliant! I will be making that one again. :)
My only advice with your starter is either be religeous about the feedings or keep it in the fridge. And in Summer when it is warm you may need to increase your feedings again. You will get to know how it should look and should work and when it isn't.
Anonymous said…
OoOooooo how exciting. I've been wanting to make any sort of bread especially sourdough for years and years but fear I will never get off my backside. Good for you! I bet your family go mad for it and start demanding it daily.
Way to go Jo
Jo said…
Sarah, olive sourdough, oh yes!
Tammy, I can't resist the oddities of daily life. Poor ant.
Oooh, Gretchen Joanna and Jessie, I am looking forward to hints, tips and good recipes from you ladies in the know.
Libi, you really are a kindred spirit - two years it's taken me. Some days, something snaps, and suddenly, there I am doing something that has been simmering forever...
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