Pandemic Sourdough Revolution

You all might have heard about the pandemic sourdough revolution.  I have been following it – sort of – on a facebook group. A friend of mine recommended it. She has jumped in the deep end and bought a starter. That is decades old. Passed down the generations. The flavour is going to be out of this world! And yes, she has promised to give me some.

What has piqued my interest and curiosity is that people have developed a deep love and passion for their starters. They nurse them like babies. Feed them by the clock. Give them names. And post photos of the end product. But what amazes me even more is that while the starter is doing its thing, half of it gets discarded!!  Why???? As far as I can work out it’s because the daily feeding makes the starter too big. Just make more bread!!

I grew up on sourdough bread. It’s like mother’s milk to us. In fact, until we came to Australia I didn’t know there was such a thing as white bread. But I never, ever remember mum telling me you had to discard half the starter. I have made sourdough on and off over the years many times. Usually having to start from scratch because I didn’t have a starter.  I don’t remember feeding it. Well, not often anyway. It just did it’s thing somewhere warm till it smelt right.

We went without home made sourdough bread for many years. Until himself discovered that the cafe in Finlandia Village, in Queensland, makes and sells sourdough flat bread. We call it rieska. It’s round, flat and has a hole in the middle.  That was traditionally so the bread could be hung in the rafters. Whenever he visits his dad he brings home a suitcase full of it and we are in sourdough heaven till it runs out.

Mum told me that the best way to keep a starter is to never wash the bowl the dough is made in. The bits left in the bowl provide  the starter for the next batch. You simply sprinkle flour over it, cover it up, and tuck it away for next time. I did that for a long time.  Works.

My dough doing it’s thing

Which brings me to now. I have joined the revolution. In my own way. A family friend of ours posted a photo on Facebook of her no knead sourdough bread. You could almost smell and taste it just by looking at the photo. Himself asked for the recipe. Then sent it to me.  I took the hint. He wanted me to make some sourdough bread. The no knead bit got to me. And the no starter.  A few messages back and forth, and the link he didn’t forward to me,  left me armed with all the information I needed. I was ready to bake sourdough bread.  This is the Finnish recipe for those who are literate in this wondrous language of ours.

Bear with me a bit longer while I regail you with some info about why sourdough bread is soo good for you. Apart from tasting A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Historians seem to think it’s discovery was an accident that dates way back to probably Ancient Egypt if not beyond. A forgotten dough that was happily bubbling away until the baker discovered that it actually tastes good.

As the starter is merrily doing it’s thing, it actually builds its own little community of wild yeast and bacteria. From the air and the flour. These happy little vegemites work IN HARMONY to change the sugars and starches in the flour. It bubbles and brews and develops natural acids. This gives the bread its gorgeous flavour, texture, and aroma.

The bacteria  are good guys.  They feed on the carbohydrate. Produce lactic and acetic acids. This creates a low GI bread with a longer shelf life.

It’s good for people with diabetes. Keeps you sated longer, is digested more slowly so blood sugar levels are lower and rise more slowly after eating.  There is more good news. It breaks down gluten so it is good for people who have food intolerances and irritable bowel.  AND it reduces the phytate content of bread, which means those important minerals like zinc and magnesium are more easily absorbed. Converted to try sourdough yet?

OK. Let’s get to the nitty gritty of this no knead no starter sourdough bread.

Here’s the translated recipe.

Hot out of the oven. Crust is SO crunchy

Basic recipe is 700 gm flour, 350ml lukewarm water, 1/2 tsp dry yeast, 1 tsp salt. Mix dry ingredients. Add water, quickly stirring into dough. Leave covered in warm place 12-24 hours. Turn dough onto a well floured surface, moulding into round shape. Leave 30 minutes. While dough is resting, place a heavy casserole or cast iron dish in oven, 220 deg

Lift dough into hot container. Sprinkle with flour and score. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Remove lid. Bake a further 30 minutes at 200deg.

Here’s what I did.

Sliced and ready for butter to drip. Note the air holes

 I used a blend of 600gm rye to 100 gm plain flour. This mix needed a lot more water. Probably as much as 200ml to create a firm dough. I added a bit at a time. I left the dough to prove for 48 hours. It doubled in size merrily bubbling away. It was a very sticky sloppy dough, so you need plenty of flour to stop it sticking to the surface.

If you have ever worked with  rye flour dough you will know what I mean.  I used disposable gloves when working with it. It’s just a quick minimal handling. I left lots of flour around edges. It slowly oozed into a flat blob of dough. When it was time to lift it, I used a clean pair of gloves, quickly moulded it into a liftable blob. I had the casserole dish right next to me so I could quickly move it. It started rising immediately. I used a heavy casserole dish and two oven trays for a lid.

Oh – don’t forget to grease the container. I oiled mine but it was still a little stuck on the bottom.  You can use a ss saucepan. You need a container of 2 -3 litre capacity.

It has all the hallmarks of a good sourdough bread, Texture, taste, aroma, little pockets of air holes.

You can chop and change the recipe. Add rolled oats. But don’t count that in the weight of the flour. Use  different flours. Add seeds, nuts, olives, sundried tomatoes. In other words, unlock your creative sourdough genius just waiting to burst out.

Can’t you just smell it? Yummmmmmm!!!

Raili Tanska


19 thoughts on “Pandemic Sourdough Revolution

      1. Same here. Perhaps online?
        Googled yeast substitutes – perhaps you could try this. Use the potato water instead of normal water in the dough.
        Potato Starter

        ‘It is amazing the things that we throw away that are more useful than we know. In this case, that water you boiled potatoes in for dinner is one of the fastest ways to make a starter for your bread. Simply take a cup and a half of the potato water, add a tablespoon of sugar, and stir in flour until stiff. Cover and leave overnight in a warm place. If it is nice and bubbly the next morning it is ready to use. If not—start over.

        Alternatively, if you do not usually boil your potatoes, or just want to try something different, cheat a little.Use one packet of yeast (1 tablespoon), mix with a cup of water, a half-cup of sugar, and three tablespoons of instant potato flakes. Let it stand for 24 hours, then put it in the fridge. Feed every four days, but instead of the usual flour and water combo, use the same amounts of sugar, potato flakes, and water that you used to create the starter.’

  1. So – back when I was in my teens, I went through a bread making stage. Since mum always baked our bread I decided to do something different. I found a recipe for sourdough bread and as you couldn’t buy it around here back then, that’s what I chose. Can’t remember the recipe for the starter, but I remember the result. I put it in a warm place for the required length of time, but it didn’t look right, so I left it… and left it, until – though it still didn’t look right, and smelt very strange – I made the bread. It was vile. Nobody could eat it except dad, who couldn’t bare food, however unpalatable, to be wasted. He didn’t look well for a day or so, but gained strength in time for my next culinary disaster which involved a large quantity of rice…

      1. Erm…. can;t… bit busy… you know… the garden… cataloguing Paul’s poems… painting the flat… and… stuff. (Rough translation: I don’t feel like cooking) 🙂

  2. Hey! I passed this along to his Nibs! I think he’s bored enough right now to try anything. He loves sourdough bread! Thanks for pointing it out. ❤

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