I’ve never made sourdough bread before, but after a meeting of the south-east london tribe girls last week, I thought it would be fun to try out this ancient form of breadmaking.
7 am: First, I flirt with the idea of putting off the whole experiment until I have a beautiful crock, or at least a picturesque Consol jar in which my little sourdough creature can start its life. I mean, isn’t there something downright historically nostalgic about breadmaking? The impulse take the most basic of ingredients – milled flour, water – and enter into the near-alchemical process of magicking it into something that breathes and rises and eventually becomes bread. But if I wait til I find that lovely crockery urn or fatly rounded jar, I’ll simply put the thing off forever. Apparently it’s important to avoid metal containers (and metal utensils) when you work with sourdough, as the metal can react with the yeast and interrupt the fermentation process. So. Here we are with a bog-standard plastic container (lid missing, so I’ll just have to use a bit of cling wrap to cover it).
1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
I mix them up into loose grey slurry, and try to work out the best place to leave my little science project. On top of the boiler in the cupboard seems a happy home – just warm enough to coax fermentation along. Or so we hope. I stir it up with a wooden spoon, cover it loosely with some cling wrap. You don’t want it airtight, so if your container has a lid, put it on loosely or make some holes in it.
11 pm: By evening, the mixture has a few bubbles and some of the liquid seems to have separated. I give it another stir before going to bed.
7 am: Ooh! It’s all bubbly, and there’s a distinct (though not strong) sweet-sour fermenting smell about it. As I’m giving it a happy stir, I remember that I’ve forgotten to take a photograph. Damn. Oh, well. Time to feed it. I scoop out about 1 cupful of the mixture, and throw that away. Then I add another cup of flour and another cup of water, and 2 teaspoonfuls of dark brown sugar. I guess I could have added the sugar yesterday. I could also omit the sugar, if I were going for the barest approach to sourdough, but I have a fondness for brown sugar. Stir it up again and put it back in its warm position on the boiler.
The principle of cultivating the starter seems to be that you feed it once or twice a day for about 5 days, or as long as it takes to get a good volume of bubbling, fermented starter. More updates tomorrow on the progress of this project!