I’ve been playing with sourdough since making my starter at the beginning of June. She’s called Bonita Applebum inspired by the hip-hop classic from A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. It’s all part of the nurturing and feeding process, giving her a name, you respect her and she respects you, well that’s the plan.
Bonita was started by mixing half strong white flour and half strong whole wheat flour with an equal amount of lukewarm water. She was then hand mixed to get the consistency of thick double cream with no lumps! She was then left in a cool, shaded part of my kitchen with a clean tea towel covering her for three days. Bonita was now bubbling away happily, in other words she was fermenting and ripe like a strong cheese, ready for her first feeding.
To feed her, around 80% of the wild culture is discarded (You can make sourdough pancakes with this) and replaced with equal amounts of lukewarm water and the flour blend mentioned above. I then fed Bonita every day at roughly the same time, the morning is a good time for me. I could see the balance of the yeast and bacteria establishing themselves with the rise and fall of Bonita. She also had a very distinctive aroma, sharply acidic and then sweet just after the feeding.
My first sourdough bake was three weeks later when Bonita was rising and falling in a predictable pattern. I now keep her in the fridge with a loose lid and feed her every fourth day and get her out two days before I’m planning to bake!
Just an important note about the type of flour I have been using – it’s organic, stoneground, unbleached, strong bread flour from Doves and Marriage’s in Essex. This is to ensure my bread is full of nutrients, often lost during roller milling and the spraying of pesticides, environmentally friendly and unadulterated unlike most of the bread consumed in Britain today.
My current sourdough bible which was recommended by a friend of mine is the distinguished Tartine by Chad Robertson. The sourdough country bread illustrated recipe is about twenty six pages long, but don’t let that put you off, there are lots of other recipes which I’ve yet to try! Although, real bread does take time, so don’t rush it. If you’d like to experiment I’m very happy to share Bonita.
As you can see my loaves have come out rather flat, although with a decent crumb, I’m working on getting a better structure and final rise. The below loaf is a country rye, with twenty percent of the flour being a light rye flour. It was delicious but also a bit flat and not the best shape. Today I’m trying out Chad’s baguette recipe which uses part sourdough leaven and some dried active yeast with a mix of plain white flour and strong white flour.
**A starter is a mix of flour and water in which natural yeasts and bacteria grow to produce a bubbly mixture that is regularly fed with more flour and water**