When I mentioned to my neighbour Luke that I am was sourdough from scratch, he looked at me funny and said, “Why? We have one of the best bakeries down the road.”
He is right, of course we do. One of the many nice things about Melbourne is its love affair and obsession with food. Not just any food but beautiful wonderful fresh delicious food. Melbourne is the foodie capital of Australia. Every Melbournians will attest to that.
So, why do I bother with making sourdough from scratch? Because I can and because I have always wanted to and because “one of the best bakeries” might close shop and move somewhere else and more importantly because I don’t want to have to rely on some heavenly baker to give me my daily bread, so to speak.
Besides it is fun! The starter takes about six to seven days to prepare, depending on whose recipe you use. In his book, The Handmade Loaf Dan Lepard made his in five days and by the 6th day the starter is ready for use. Yoke Mardewi’s Wild Sourdough – the natural way to bake suggests a time frame of one week.
My starter is based on both. Dan instruction is a bit more hands-on but he is based in the northern hemisphere. Being Perth-based, Yoke is kind of relatively local.
I omitted the raisins and yoghurt (sorry Dan), and made my first sourdough with the starter on the 7th day. As for the actual sourdough recipe, I decided to experiment with various proportions of different flour.
For my first sourdough, I used 2.5:2:1 of wholemeal, rye and barley. To that mixture I added 250g or the started and 275g of lukewarm water and a teaspoon of fine sea salt. And that’s it.
The dough went through a series of kneading ad resting: 4 sessions of 10 minutes, 1 session of 30 minutes, 2 sessions of 1 hour and a grand finale of 4-hour resting period before it got baked for 1 hour.
In total, you would be looking at a minimum of 8 to 8.5 hours from start to finish. If you are planning to have dinner at 19h00, you need to start making the dough by 9h00 at the very latest. And that one hour baking time is for one loaf, unless you have access to a professional bakers’ oven or traditional to a wood oven.
This is not for the time-pressed highly stressed people. Sourdough baking is time consuming to put it mildly, but it is also rewarding knowing that you have created something from conception to end product. It engages your senses; sight, smell and texture. It brings out a sense of wonder and amazement at the complex chemistry of flour and water and naturally occurring yeast to create something edible like a loaf of bread.
The soothing beauty and rhythm of kneading itself is something to marvel at. The feel of the soft warm dough against my palm, the pushing and pulling and shaping, last but not least the act of slashing the dough. During the baking process, the dough tends to expand where there is the least surface tension. Slashing also enhances the aesthetic of the baked loaf. Bet you didn’t know why your loaf comes with a slash or two on top. But now you do.
Here are some final photos of sourdough making: