This is not a bread I ever used to rave about. But since learning its benefits and actually making authentic sourdough from scratch myself, I have a whole new appreciation for it. I made my own starter and only use stoneground flour which still includes the germ and the all important fibre which make whole grains so good for us. I choose organic also, which I really recommend if you can afford it. Rye seems to be a reliable flour, so that’s all I have used, but I am told you can make it with any flour.
The starter is simple to do, all you need is a nice clean jar, some flour and some water- preferably filtered as tap water has chlorine in it which can affect the ferment. Once your starter is established, you feed it regularly with more water and flour and keep it refrigerated when you’re not using it. If you neglect it too much, it may ‘go bad’ like one of mine did. But usually, if there is no white mould or anything, you can start it up again. There is a wealth of information on the internet about sourdough starters, and I highly recommend ‘the Art of Fermentation’ by Sandor Katz.
In terms of health benefits, all fermented foods are pre-digested, a process that makes nutrients more available. As natural pro biotics, fermented food can be wonderfully beneficial to our digestive system. I know I always feel better if I regularly eat fermented food of some sort.
A note about gluten. I am intolerant and yet I have no issues with authentic sourdough bread. I cannot say if all people will be able to eat it, but it appears to be a common experience among gluten intolerants. It is known the fermentation process results in ‘diminished presence of gluten’.
- stoneground rye flour, organic if possible
- water, filtered if possible
- 2L glass or plastic jar, no metal containers
- cling film or container lid, like Kilner jars have
- measuring jug, or scales
- clean mixing spoon
- Place 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup cold water in your jar, stir really well. It should be a fairly thick paste-like mix.
- Scrape down the sides of the jar and cover with cling film or lid. I always use cling film even though I have a jar with a lid.
- Leave this mix 24 hours.
- Check your starter, it will likely have bubbles and have become active. Depending on your room temperature, it may not be active yet. Don’t panic.
- Add another 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, stir well again and cover as before.
- Leave another 24 hours.
- Check your starter, it should smell a bit yeasty and sweet, and there should be bubbles- see photo.
- Add another 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, mix well and cover as before.
- Leave another 24 hours.
- At this point mine has always been very active and ready to use. You may want to add another 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water and leave again before using. There are variations on the recipes for a starter.
- If not using immediately, cover with a lid and store in your refrigerator which will stop further fermenting. You must look after your starter and feed regularly, recommendations vary but if I don’t feed mine every week a white mould forms and it smells far too vinegary to use. Before feeding with more flour and water, you must take out some of the starter, I generally take out as much as I intend to add. I usually feed it a higher proportion of fresh flour and water, apparently this encourages more yeast growth and it seems to work for me. When I feed it, I leave it out overnight so it can do it’s thing before refrigerating again, or using. If I am using it, I will feed it twice before using. I leave it at least 3 hours before the second feed and I use it when I see lots of activity.
Spelt Sourdough Bread
I find this simple, even though made over a few days, it takes no time to prepare. Just watch and wait! I actually only made sourdough once from a recipe, before having to make it up when on holiday. Turns out this is quite different from a recipe I had followed! But I much prefer the loaf I make here.
TIPS AND UPDATE
I have now started using a slightly different method than my original. A dutch oven is recommended to cook your bread in, but I don’t have one. I have instead used a Pyrex glass casserole dish with a lid, this works brilliantly and the bread is so crunchy. Another adaptation, I put the dough in the fridge overnight ( or at least 2 hours, which still works great ) for the second rise. It still rises, but it stops the spreading. I have altered my instructions to reflect my new method, it seems a bit fiddly, but you just need to be around for a few hours to do the rising parts in stages. In total you need 4.5 hours roughly before being able to leave it for the final overnight rise. I did this in the evening as I did other things. It’s definitely worth the trouble, but if I was short on time I would leave out the middle rise and just pop it in for the final rise after the first 2.5 hours ( also called fermentation time). I also really liked the mixing of it in a mixer, rather than by hand. But it can be done either way.
This makes a medium loaf.
- 180grams sourdough starter
- 450g Stoneground Spelt Flour
- 60g Stoneground Rye Flour
- 300ml of warm water
- 10g real salt- I use himalayan pink salt
- Place the starter in a large clean bowl if hand mixing, or in a mixer with paddle attachment is using.
- Add flour and 300ml water. Stir really well or mix on a low speed for about 1 minute until combined.
- Rest for 30 minutes.
- Add salt and mix again, either manually or in your mixer, for another few minutes.
- Transfer to a well oiled bowl which is large enough to fold the dough in later. Cover with a cloth, leave for 50 minutes and fold. Leave another 50 minutes and fold again. Leave for another 50 minutes ( 2.5 hours total ).
- On a well floured surface shape your dough into a nice tidy ball. I really didn’t knead this, I literally just shape it as lightly as possible.
- Layer a bowl with parchment/baking paper and flour that well. Place your dough ball into this and cover with a towel and let rise for another 1 and 1/2 hours at room temperature before covering tightly with a well oiled piece of cling film- so the dough doesn’t stick as it rises, and placing in the fridge overnight ( no longer than 12 hours).
- Preheat your oven to 230C, place your dutch oven or a glass pyrex dish inside to warm.
- Remove your dough from the fridge and place on a baking sheet or similar which has been dusted with polenta or even flour. Shape a little if needed and slash with a bread knife.
- Take the pyrex dish or dutch oven and carefully try and slide the dough into it.
- Bake in the oven, lid on for 25 minutes. Then remove lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes, in my oven it only needed 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack, try and leave it for about 20 minutes before cutting so it can cook some more inside. I NEVER do that because I am greedy and it smells too good! Don’t leave bread cooling on a board or the bottom will steam and go a bit soggy.
This bread keeps really well if it is wrapped in paper, at least a week but usually much longer.