No sleep ’til b(r)e(a)dtime

Hey y’all. So here I am, back with a post on my mind and an ear on the baby monitor. As I mentioned in my quick place-holder message the other day, we’ve been having a busy time with our favourite little teething insomniac…

I’ve been able to cook a few projects here and there, and I have been working in tiny increments on my sewing projects-the orange bag is at a standstill, but I have 3 pairs of jeans in progress. But the going IS a little slow when there is only time to sew a seam here and there. It’s ok though-this is a phase and it won’t last forever-so we’ll just ride it out and do the best we can.


What I HAVE been doing regularly is baking bread-I decided I didn’t want us to buy commercial supermarket bread any more, and I’ve been busy keeping a sourdough ‘mother’ alive, feeding it every day and baking from it weekly-with pleasing results! I’m quite excited about this. I’ve started sourdough cultures before and either not been able to get them going, or found that they got ‘polluted’ by unwanted organisms and had to be thrown out, or-most heartbreaking of all-I had one or two that thrived and looked to be working well, but then fell prey to my forgetfulness in feeding them, or to a holiday when they didn’t get fed, and they died. Tragic!

Now, I hear you say, what exactly is a sourdough mother? It is a live culture that is grown from the wild yeasts found naturally in flour and the air in your environment. You feed these yeasts with water and flour every day, they multiply and eventually there is enough ‘oomph’ in your starter culture to bake bread without the need to use commercial yeast-you just use part of your sourdough culture, or ‘mother’. The natural fermentation of the yeast as it does its’ thing is what gives the culture its sour flavour.

The culture, ready to bake from-check out all of those lovely bubbles. It's alive!

The culture, ready to bake from-check out all of those lovely bubbles. It's alive!

The cool thing about a sourdough culture is that the flavour of it is peculiar to the environment it is grown in. So even if I were to give you some of my sourdough mother to take home and grow at your house-and even if we lived next door to each other-the flavours of the resulting bread would be different, be it subtle or more pronounced. In fact I think that I can detect a difference in flavour in my own sourdough with each baking, as the culture matures further and the depth of sourness in my culture changes.

So-want to start your own sourdough culture? Remember, you need to be willing to feed it every day…

You can either purchase a sachet of dried starter culture from a site like this. But you still need to go through all of the steps to build the starter up to a stage where you can use it, and feed it every day. Or you can build one from scratch, using directions like these.

Once your starter is active, you can bake from it. This will be about a week or so after you start it, depending on the temperature of your kitchen, your remembering to feed it, the activation of the cultures etc. Yippeee!

I love kneading the dough by hand and feeling it transform from flour and water to a beautiful, smooth, elastic mass.

I love kneading the dough by hand and feeling it transform from flour and water to a beautiful, smooth, elastic mass

My current basic recipe for sourdough bread (there are many recipes and ways you can use your culture) is:

375grams of active sourdough culture

710 grams of breadmaking flour

10 grams of diastatic malt mixed well through the flour ( this is optional, but DON”T use bread improver when making sourdough.)

385 mls/grams of lukewarm water (it is a good idea to weigh ingredients when baking bread. Including liquid.)

20 grams of sea salt (I feel this is a lot so I use 3/4 of this amount-but any less and I’ve found the flavour to be a little lacking.)

Dissolve the salt in the water. Put the culture in a large mixing bowl, put the flour in the bowl, pour the water in and mix well. Rest the dough for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is lovely and smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease your bowl (I use canola oil spray) and pop your dough in there, cover with clingwrap and a towel, and set in a warm place to rise for around 2 hours-or until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C-and be sure to put your pizza stone in the bottom of the oven if you have one-you’ll see why in a minute.

Turn your bread out onto a lightly floured surface, divide it as you please (this recipe makes two loaves or about 14 rolls. You pick.) and shape the dough. Pop your loaves or rolls onto a baking tray lined with non-stick paper, and cover them with another sheet of baking paper lightly sprayed with oil, then cover this with a teatowel (to prevent the outside from drying out and skinning over-which will make it rise strangely) and leave in a warm spot to rise for another hour.

A loaf after slashing, ready for the oven

A loaf after slashing, ready for the oven

Just before you put the dough into the oven, boil the kettle with about 2 cups of water inside. Then, using a very very sharp knife or razor blade, slash the top of your loaves and put them in to cook. As soon as the dough goes into the oven, pour about 1/3 of a cup of water (I do more actually) onto your pizza stone and close the oven door ASAP. This creates a lovely steamy environment to ensure you get a beautiful chewy, slightly shiny crust. I wait a few minutes and then repeat this process to get the crust just as I like it.

Bake for 10 minutes at 220, then reduce the oven temperature to 190, crack the door for 5 minutes, then cook for a further 25-35 minutes. (less for rolls-check regularly.)

To test if the bread is cooked, pick it up and tap the underside-it should sound hollow.

(This recipe comes courtesy of Greenliving Australia)

And that’s it! I’ve been raising a double amount of mother and cooking 4 loaves at a time, letting it cool, slicing it and freezing the loaves, so we can use them a slice at a time. Like most bread, this is most delicious shortly after baking, but it also makes fabulous toast for a few days after.


Now all we need is some more sleep. Send me your recipes for this, people!


~ by Little Red Hen on July 21, 2009.

6 Responses to “No sleep ’til b(r)e(a)dtime”

  1. mmmmm I LOVE a good sourdough, it scares me though, I really am not good with pets…

    • Don’t be scared! I’ve seen your recipes-you are a baking whizz, you’ll be fine. Just don’t forget to feed it…

  2. great looking bread! If you need sleep baby, I’ll lend you my biography of Stalin – I’ve been trying to read the bloody thing for four years and never get past the first half page without passing out from sheer boredom.

    • Yep-that certainly sounds like it could work. I’ll read it as a bedtime story to Little D so she also gets the benefit of the written-word-as-anaesthesia!

  3. “well it was ’82 when I joined the boys…”
    jc just saw your bread photos and asked if you could send us some by express post. do you think the plastic auspost sack would make it sweaty? or sweaty in a good way?

    • hmm. Maybe simpler if I just give you some of ‘da mutha’ and you get crackin on makin’ it yo’self, eh?

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