Sourdough Bread – A Beginner’s Guide

 My Sourdough Journey

My first attempts at re-invigorating a dried starter failed abysmally and it was clear that it was well and truly dead.

A couple of days into the process, I had added some fermenting blackberries and although there were a couple of promising bubbles, they soon popped and there was no further activity. I decided to try again, this time using fermenting grape juice.

We had picked the grapes to make wine towards the end of September and the must was about 10 days old when I used it. I followed Elly’s everyday low-waste method for making the starter and substituted the grape juice for the unsweetened pineapple juice that she used. This was the process I followed: 

Day 1 morning: In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup juice and 1/2 cup strong white flour. Cover with a plate. If the temperature drops below 20ÂșC, wrap the bowl in a towel.

Day 1 evening: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 2 morning: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 2 evening: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 3 morning: Start the feeding process: In a new bowl, mix
together 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons water and 3 tablespoons
of the starter. Stir well and then cover with a plate.

Day 3 evening: Repeat feeding process.

Continue feeding starter twice a day until Day 14

By this time, the starter should be quite bubbly and doubling in size by feeding time. It should be ready to use by Day 12 – Day 14.

On Day 14, I attempted my first loaf of bread using Teresa Greenway‘s Sourdough Test loaf method.

As I was still feeding my starter, it wasn’t necessary to take it out of the fridge and reanimate it from hibernation.

DAY 1:
If you have starter in the fridge, then take the starter out of the fridge at 17:00 two days before you will be baking bread  and leave to warm up for 2 – 3 hours.

Feed in the evening at 20:00.

DAY 2:
Feed the starter again in the morning at 8:30
15:45 Start making bread

The ingredients for the bread are as follows:

  • 120g sourdough starter at 100% hydration (half white flour and
    half whole wheat flour)
  • 250g water
  • 400g bread flour
  • 9g sea salt

Put the water into a large, bowl and add the starter, stirring thoroughly to break up the starter.
Add the flour and the salt and mix well.

Use you hands to bring the dough together, checking that there are no pockets of flour.

Cover with a plate and leave for an hour.

The stretch and fold process: by stretching and folding the dough, you are working and stretching the gluten strands in the dough. You stretch and fold each of the sides, then turn the dough over and repeat on the other side.

17:00 stretch and fold, 8 times in total and then cover the bowl with a plate
18:00 stretch and fold, 8 times in total and then cover the bowl with a plate
19:00 stretch and fold, 8 times in total and then cover the bowl with a plate

20:00 by now, the dough is no longer sticky and so you do the
fourth and final stretch and fold.

Cover the bowl with a plate and let the dough rest for 30 minutes

Pre-shape the dough into a ball, pulling it from the bottom towards you to increase the tension on the surface.

Let the dough relax for 15-20 minutes.

Use the same technique to shape the ball of dough.

Lay a tea towel over the top of a colander and dust the surface with cornflour.

Turn the ball upside down and drop it into the colander. Dust the top with cornflour and then cover with a plastic bag. Place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, get the dough out of the fridge and leave for 1.5 – 2 hours to come back up to room temperature.

Turn over and dust off any excess flour.

Put into the breadmaker tin.

Score the top with a sharp blade. The idea of scoring is let any gases escape and ideally the cut should be about 1/2 deep.

If you want a soft-crust loaf, spray the top with water.

Bake.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so and then turn out onto a baking rack.

Parsnip Fritters

We’ve got a lot of large parsnips at the moment and although I love roast parsnips, we don’t often light the wood-fired oven and cook a roast dinner. I’ve therefore been looking for new ways of cooking them. This recipe is similar to a bhaji and uses oregano instead of spices. You could substitute parsnips with butternut squash or sweet potato. This recipe with no eggs but with potatoes is very similar to a potato rosti. 

PARSNIP FRITTERS

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g coarsely grated parsnip
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkle oregano
  • 2 small eggs
  • splash extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

  1. Mix all of the ingredients well in a bowl.
  2. Heat some sunflower oil in a large frying pan.
  3. Put spoonfuls of the mix into the frying pan and fry on a medium heat for 6 minutes, covering the pan with a large saucepan lid.
  4. Turn and fry for a further 6 minutes, covering the pan.
  5. Remove the lid and fry for another minute or so until the fritters are golden and crispy.

The recipe makes about 8 fritters.

Bhindi Bhaji – Okra Curry

Okra or “ladies fingers” as it is also known is commonly used in Indian, Asian and African cooking. Although okra is typically grown in tropical or warmer climates, we are able to grow it here in the summer at 1,300 metres above sea level. By picking the pods when they are tender and not cooking it for too long, it is possible to avoid the slimy texture that many people associate with okra and find off-putting.

 

Bhindi Bhaji


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 bowl of okra, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • a splash of water

METHOD

  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and then add the chopped tomatoes.
  2. Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spices and heat for another minute or so.
  4. Add the okra and coat well in the spice mixture.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for 10.15 minutes on a low heat, adding a splash of water as necessary to prevent the mixture drying out.

Blackberry Mousse

blackberry mousse

The year 2020 was THE year for blackberries. We cut the buses back at the beginning of the year and once they started producing, they didn’t stop. The challenge now was what to do with them so we started experimenting with everything from dried blackberries for the muesli, to blackberry jam and blackberry cordial to mix with gaseosa (the Spanish version of a slightly sweetened soda water or not-so-sweet lemonade) as a non-alcoholic summer drink, but possibly my favourite was blackberry mousse. John told me about the mousse his mum used to make with jelly and evaporated milk so by trial and error I worked out the quantities for this delicious mousse recipe.

I prefer to make the mousse by blitzing the berries first with a stick blender and then passing the liquid through a Moulinex food mill to remove the pips but it is entirely up to you whether you blitz or not. At the moment, I am experimenting with heating the fruit liquid before making the mousse to see if there is any difference.

The quantities of gelatine and sugar will vary according to the amount of juice you get from the berries. The quantities shown below are based on 500g blackberry juice (without the pips).

 

BLACKBERRY MOUSSEblackberry mousse

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium bowl of blackberries
  • 10g powdered gelatine
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 225ml evaporated milk

 

METHOD

  1. Blitz the blackberries with a stick blender and then put through the food mill to remove the pips.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the water, gelatine and sugar.
  3. Heat gently until the mixture has dissolved and remove from the heat.
  4. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then pour into the berry juice, stirring all the time.
  5. Whisk the evaporated milk until soft peaks are formed.
  6.  Spoon some of the berry juice into the evaporated milk and continue to whisk.
  7. Gently incorporate the rest of the berry juice and continue to whisk until the mousse is thoroughly mixed.
  8. Leave to cool in the fridge overnight.

Picking and Cooking Sweetcorn

A corncob

Success with growing Sweetcorn
2020 has been a very good year for sweetcorn. It is now mid September and we have been eating fresh sweetcorn regularly since the start of July and we should be eating fresh sweetcorn until at least mid October.

How to grow sweetcorn.
It is now possible to buy super sweet varieties of Sweetcorn seeds at any seed shop. I plant my seeds in a big flower pot or just any container which has soil at least 10cm deep. I put the seeds about 1cm down and about 5 centimeters apart.  I plant them out when the little plants are  about 12 cm high. Sweetcorn does not like the cold so it is best if the average temperature is over 14C when they are planted out. I doubt if they would survive a frost.

This year I made extra effort to fertilize them well using only organic fertilizer. Under each plant I have put a 3 double hand fulls of cow manure and one double handful of chicken manure. I prepared the ground using a small fork. Once they started growing well I put a thick mulch of leaves to suppress the weeds. Sweetcorn grows best in a group of plants rather than a line  so I have planted rectangular groups of about 20 plants.

To be able to harvest sweetcorn over a long periods of time I grow 3 or 4 patches. When one clump of sweetcorn gets well established I plant some more seeds. This year, eating sweetcorn every couple of days for months on end has been heavenly.

When to pick sweetcorn.
Each sweetcorn plant grows 2 or 3 corncobs.  People say that you should  open up a corncob and push your thumbnail into into a kernel. If you see a milky liquid it means they are ready. What happens if they are not ready? You have just ruined a corncob. The best indicator of being ready is when the beards go brown. Each corncob has a lot of strands coming out of the end they eventually turn brown. When almost all of the beard is brown they are ready.

How to cook sweetcorn.
The big problem with sweetcorn is that the fibrous kernels get stuck in your teeth. This problem gets worse as you get older because as you get older there are more gaps in between your teeth. This year we seem to have solved this problem. Either after cooking or before we cut the corncobs into bite sized pieces. The incisors at the front of your mouth cut the kernels of  the corncob without getting stuck in your teeth.

To cook sweetcorn put it in cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for between 10 and 15 minutes. Leave in a water for 5 minutes. We are at 1300 metres high here so water boils at 95C, your cooking time might be less. 

How to store sweetcorn.
If you don’t manage to eat all your sweetcorn fresh then you can leave it to go dry. Just pick the corncobs, take off the outer coverings and put them in a dry airy place. The best way to use dried corn kernels is to make sweetcorn fritters or maize fritters. There are loads of recipes on internet. The other way to store them is by canning/bottling them and the result is the same as canned sweetcorn that you buy in the supermarket. You will need a pressure cooker to get the temperature very high because sweetcorn does not have much natural acid. There are lots of instructional videos on internet.

Sweetcorn cut into pieces

Here is a video of one of our sweetcorn patches.