We are living in strange times and as a result more of us are baking at home. Since I first posted my sourdough bread recipe my understanding has developed and I have made the process even simpler. Photos will be added to this post later – for now I wanted to put up a quick step by step guide to assist those using a sourdough starter for the first time. This process assumes you have a sourdough starter ready to use, and that it is stored in the fridge before feeding. If you don’t have a starter check out my earlier post. You will need:
80g sourdough starter (see step 1)
560g bread flour ( I tend to use 200g of wholemeal and 360 of white but you can vary this according to preference/ what you have available)
1tbsp oil ( optional but makes the crust easier to cut)350ml water (you may prefer to use slightly less if using all white flour)
Remove your starter from the fridge (I keep a very small amount), and add 40g each of flour and water ( I usually feed my starter rye flour but you can use bread flour). This means you will have an additional 80g to use in the recipe later. I do this either in the morning or around lunchtime then it is ready to use in the evening.
Leave it at room temperature until the starter in your jar has approximately doubled in size. Placing an elastic band around the jar can help you tell when this is. Don’t worry about it exactly doubling – the important thing is that you can see it is rising and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how warm your home is – anywhere from 4-8 hours but don’t worry if you leave it longer.
Mix all the ingredients in the order listed. Remember to only use the 80g of starter and put the rest back into the fridge for next time. I use the pizza dough programme on my bread machine to mix for me. You can use a dough hook on a food processor, knead it by hand , or the more traditional way of making sourdough is to stretch and fold the dough at intervals over several hours. I usually mix mine just before going to bed. If you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may want to refer to the Foodbod Master recipe at: https://foodbodsourdough.com/about-my-recipe/
Leave to prove. This first proof is known as the ” bulk proof” and you want the dough to almost double in size. I leave mine on the kitchen counter overnight in a bowl covered with a pan lid but if it is warm this may be too long.
Once the dough has approximately doubled you can shape it into a boule. Bake with Jack has some really useful videos on You Tube to show you how to shape the dough (links at end of post). I usually do this first thing in the morning. I don’t have a banneton so I put the shaped loaf straight into the casserole dish/dutch oven that I will bake it in. This also means you don’t need to transfer the dough again.
I then transfer the dough, in the casserole dish, to the fridge for a ” cold retard” This slows down fermentation so you can leave it until a convenient time to bake. I usually bake my loaf mid afternoon ( because that’s when I finish work) but you can leave it to the next day.
Remove the dough from the fridge and carefully slash the top with a knife or razor blade. This helps contro where the loaf expands.
Then place the casserole, with the lid,straight into a cold oven turned to the hottest your oven goes (mine is 230 degrees C) for 25 mins, turn down to 200 for 15 mins, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20 mins. Keep an eye on it because ovens vary. Once ready it should sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
Leave to cool fully ( ideally overnight) before cutting into the bread.
If your house is warm and it is proofing too quickly you can reduce the amount of starter you use. Remember that the starter is made of equal amounts of flour and water so for each 10g less of starter you add you should add an extra 5g each of flour and water. Experiment with small increments to see what works for you.
You can add extras such as seeds and nuts to the recipe. I often add pulp remaining from making nut milk.
Other useful links:
Using my bread machine is convenient for me but if you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may prefer the Foodbod master recipe
I’ve also found Bake with Jack on You Tube really useful for technique.
The Facebook group Sourdough Bread Baking is a friendly forum for sharing your successes and failures and asking questions.
I’ll say right out that I have only been making sourdough for just over a month. If you want to know how to bake perfect looking artisan style loaves of the kind you might see for sale for £3.50 or more at a Farmers’ Market then you are in the wrong place. However, if you want to know about a simple way to make decent, totally plastic free, bread to feed your family, at a fraction of the price, I may be able to help. All you need is flour, water and salt. Plus a little bit of planning ahead.
First off, you’ll need a sourdough starter. You can buy one, or get one from a friend or via a fermenting group online. However, it is easy to make one yourself from scratch. I followed this method from Allinsons
What it doesn’t mention is that if you add 70g of flour and 70ml of water every day, unless you are using a really big jar, you’ll soon run out of space. And if your starter begins to be quite active in that time, it will overflow. You can use a much smaller amount of flour and water – the key thing is to use a 1:1 ratio. It is also a good idea while your starter is getting going to ” refresh” it by discarding some. Of course I don’t mean throw it away. Instead transfer about 80% of your starter to a separate jar and pop that in the fridge while you continue to feed the remaining 20%. Some sites say to do this every day but I didn’t discard until I began running out of space and mine still worked fine. You can use the “discard” to bake pancakes, crumpets, crackers, pizza and lots more – about which more below.
After a few days of adding flour and water to your jar you should begin to see some activity – it will start to bubble and smell yeasty. Don’t worry if it takes longer – it depends how warm your kitchen is. I put mine in the warm airing cupboard to speed things up. This is how it looked after 5 and 7 days:
After a couple or weeks you should be able to try making a loaf. There are a couple of ways to tell if your starter is ready. After you feed it with flour and water it should double in size in a few hours and then fall back – you can put a rubber band around the jar to mark the levels to help you tell. Another way is to drop a bit of the starter into a cup of water and it should float. Being a newbie I didn’t know about either of these so I just got baking, but when I tried the float test later it worked.
Once your starter is established you can keep it in the fridge and just take it out to feed a day or two before baking, or once a week unless you are using it often – in which case keep it out on the counter and keep feeding at least daily. You can also just replace the amount you use to keep it refreshed rather than needing to discard any.
I didn’t realise when I made my first loaf that the dough really needs to be contained while rising or it will just spread out. This started off nicely shaped into a baguette but soon spread out to fit the baking tray. Oops. However once baked in still tasted good – and looking back I can see it had some quite good bubbles.
I’m not sure now which recipe I used for that first loaf but I picked up a copy of Hugh Fearney Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday in the British Heart Foundation shop in Leighton Buzzard while visiting family at half term. It has a section on bread making, including sourdough, and I’ve been using the straighforward recipe in there ever since with some minor tweaks. I also joined a Facebook Group on Sourdough Bread Making – this has lots of complicated sounding stages to making sourdough which I’m leaving until later on but have incorprated a couple of things into the way I make my loaf. I say complicated sounding because they probably aren’t really – and the folk there are very helpful.
Basic Sourdough loaf:
Step 1: Making the levain/ pre-ferment/sponge:
This step goes by several names but is essentially creating a larger amount of starter to use in your loaf. Put 85g of your starter into a large bowl and add 250g of strong white flour and 275 ml of warm water. Note that if weighing 1ml of water weighs 1g which makes life simple ( other liquids are not the same). Mix, cover with a damp teatowel, and leave overnight or all day depending on when you want to make the dough. On a weekday I like to make this before I leave for work and then make the dough when I get home but at the weekend I tend to make this in the evening and leave overnight ready to make the dough in the morning.
Step 2: After step 1 you should have a bowl of bubbly thick liquid.
Add 300g of bread flour to the levain and mix. Add 10g of salt. You can add 1tbsp of oil if you want but this is entirely optional.
At this stage some recipes tell you to stretch and fold the dough 4 or 5 times at hourly intervals but this doesn’t work timewise for me so I’m sticking with Hugh’s approach which it to just knead it once at this stage. He does however describe kneading it in a stretch and fold kind of way. The important thing is to knead until you achieve the “window pane” effect. Essentially if you lift the dough and stretch until you can almost see through it, it should still hold together rather than tearing. The suggested approach here is to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or oiled surface and push it away with the palm of your hand, then fold it back on itself, turn by 45 degrees and then repeat until it comes together in a smooth dough. Entirely up to you whether you do this all in one go or in several bursts but it really isn’t as complicated, or necessary to do it a specific way, as it sounds. I’ve found an alternative which works very well is to use a dough programme on my bread machine. I use a 2.10 hour dough programme.
Edited to add that when mixing in the breadmaker I now add an extra 50 -75g of water ( higher end if using wholemeal flour or adding seeds that will absorb more liquid)
Step 3: First proof
Once your dough is made, leave it to rise, still covered with a damp teatowel, in a warm place until roughly doubled in size. How long this takes depends on how warm your kitchen is – the original recipe I followed suggested overnight but Ive found 2-4 hours works better for me now we are into summer.
Step 4: Shape and second proof
Now you can ” knock back” your dough and shape it into a loaf. I’m not yet very good at shaping but as I have learnt the dough spreads out I at this stage put it straight into the vessel I intend to cook it in. But you can use a bowl or a special bread proofing basket called a banneton. I just use a casserole dish, spraying a little oil inside to make sure it doesn’t stick although you can instead sprinkle a little polenta or rice flour. As you practice you should be able to shape it in such a way that it will retain its shape – I’m not there yet but there are videos on You Tube. At this stage you can leave it at room temperature for 1.5 to 3 hours until it has doubled again. Any longer than this and it is likely to overproof. At this stage it should be ready to bake. If this timing doesn’t fit with when you want to bake you can instead do the second proof in the fridge, where you can leave it several days or more if you wish. I find this approach easier timewise. This is also supposed to improve the flavour.
Step 4: Bake your loaf
Before you bake your loaf carefully score it with a sharp knife or razor blade. This tradition apparently dates back to when there was one shared bread oven per village and people marked their loaves to know which was theirs. I definitely haven’t perfected this technique yet. After my first flat loaf, I have been baking my bread straight in the casserole dish. If using a cast iron casserole you can put it straight into a hot oven, but if using Pyrex, or as I am doing, a non stick casserole with a glass lid, you might want to put it into a cold oven instead if you are baking straight from the fridge, to avoid risk of the glass cracking. I put my casserole straight from the fridge into a cold oven turned up to the highest temp (230 degrees on my oven). I baked it for 20 mins at this temp then turned down the heat to 200 degrees. I removed the lid after another 10 mins and then baked for a further 15 making 45 in total but do keep an eye on it as ovens vary. When it is cooked through it should sound hollow when tapped. If you start with a hot oven it might take a little less time. Then leave to cool fully before slicing.
You can also use your bread machine to cook the whole loaf – I’m still experimenting with a couple of different methods so will report back on that in another post.
Ways to use your ” discard” or excess starter:
Actually the main reason I started sourdough was to make crumpets rather than bread, and rather than finding I have excess to use up, I’m finding I need to make extra starter for these recipes. These need less rise than bread so can use a starter that hasn’t been recently fed.
We found you can use 1 cup of starter to 1 egg if you prefer less eggy pancakes. These have become an expected weekend breakfast now so I have to make sure I have enough starter. The Zero Waste Chef has lots of other recipes I’m yet to try including sourdough crackers.
I’m still waiting on some crumpet rings aquired from an online sell/swap/gift group (circular economy in action) so no photo of these yet although the splodge like attempt without any rings was given a thumbs up by son in taste terms. Crumpet recipe
There are loads of recipes out there but I liked this one for its simplicity, although I ignored the bit about kneading it after letting it to rise which sounded wrong to me:
Edited to add – I have now gone back to using my breadmachine to make pizza dough. I follow the recipe in the manual but omit the yeast, add 100g of starter, and then use 50g of flour and 50g of water less than the recipes requires. Son said it made the best pizza base ever!
Even if you still think sourdough is complicated please give it a try – I was put off trying it for ages but it is a bit more of an art than a science and there is no one right way to do it. Choose the way that works for you and fits around your lifetyle. Whichever way it make tasty bread that uses fewer ingredients and with no need to buy plastic lidded tubs of yeast. It’s good for you too. And I reckon a loaf costs me about 50p to make compared to £3.50 to buy one from the Farmers’ Market.
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When we switched to making chips with unpackaged sweet potatoes from the market instead of buying bags of ready made potato fries ( the sweet potato cooks much quicker and produces no waste – only wish we could manage to grow them successfully here) we also discovered the child loves them covered in cajun spices. As we got through the second jar hubby was sprinkling on liberally I read the label – do you know how much salt is in this? ( A lot). And actually, do you know we also have all these other spices already in the cupboard. So now I make our own. It’s dead simple, means one less spice jar to buy and dispose of, is cheaper, and, yes it’s also so much healthier without them realising.
So, start by finding yourself a lovely empty jar to reuse. Then depending how large it is, fill it with the appropriate multiple of these lovely spices ( please feel free to vary the proportions to taste – we like it spicy so usually add extra chilli and smoked paprika).
5tbsp ground cumin or cumin seeds
5tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2tbsp black pepper
1/2 to 1 tbsp chilli flakes
1tbsp ground ginger
And if you wish a little salt – I usually just add a sprinking of Lo-Salt to taste.
If you happen to have dried garlic I dare say a little of that would be jolly good too.
Then give it all a good shake.
To use on sweet potatoes, cut them into chips, then roll in a little olive oil and in some of the spice mix. Then roast for approx 20 mins ( 200 degrees C)
I used up some leftovers to make this chunky soup/stew for our lunch yesterday, mainly to use up a couple of very soft parsnips that I’d bought in anticipation of a mothers’ day roast last week, but which had been forgotten (we still had a huge roast without them).
Amazingly, at this time of year, I did manage to get something homegrown into the mix, by way of some garlic and a very small leek – a second crop of leeks seems to have appeared by itself in the garden this year. Unfortunately our efforts at growing parsnips didn’t produce a single one this year.
I also included some coriander which, despite being 2 weeks old, looked pretty much as fresh as the day I bought it, having been stored wrapped in a damp teatowel in the fridge.
Plus half a jar of Thai paste, some powdered coconut milk, half a pepper and some chicken stock – my first attempt at home made stock which I was really please with. If I had noticed the ginger in the fridge I really should have used that too.
Slice small leek (or you could use an onion) and fry gently.
Add chopped garlic and red Thai curry paste to taste ( we used half a jar but it was a rather mild one)
Fry gently for a couple of minutes until the leek or onion starts to soften and then add the coconut milk / stock. I think I added about 500ml which as you can see makes a very thick soup so you may want to add more.
Add a couple of peeled and chopped parsnips.
Bring to the boil – after about 10 mins add a chopped red pepper.
Continue to simmer until the parsnips are tender. This took around another 20 mins.
Add some of the coriander close to the end of cooking, saving the rest to add as a garnish.
Either blend to make a smooth soup, or simply use a potato masher as I did for a chunkier texture.
Serve with the remaining coriander.
Zero waste tips:
I was able to get the parsnips, coriander and pepper unpackaged from the market, keeping the coriander fresh in a damp teatowel.
The paste was in a glass jar – but you could substitute fresh ginger, lemongrass, and chilli.
The chicken stock was homemade after we had friends round for a roast a few weeks ago. I used this chicken stock recipe although minus the celery as I hadn’t planned the stock making so didn’t have any. I reduced it to a concentrate and stored in the freezer.
Cooking in a Wonderbag:
To cook this in a Wonderbag extend the cooking time at step 5 to 15 mins and then transfer to the Wonderbag for an hour. For more about the Wonderbag see my earlier post: Vegetable Curry in a Wonderbag
I have been lusting after a Wonderbag for ages. This year one arrived under our Christmas tree. Hurrah!
With this new piece of equipment I thought it was about time my I posted a recipe as I haven’t done one for ages, having got really engrossed in reducing our household waste and otherwise reducing our environmental impact. Which is where this fits in quite neatly. The Wonderbag, if you are not familiar with the concept, does not require electricity. You do still need a heat source to start off the cooking process, but once it is piping hot through you pop it into the Wonderbag which is so well insulated that it keeps in enough heat to continue the cooking process for around 4-5 hours ( maybe longer depending what you are cooking).
This suits us well as we have solar panels producing electricity in the middle of the day but we don’t get a chance to eat until quite late. As I work part time I am able to get the dinner going when the sun is out on those days I am home, and still have it hot when we are ready to eat .
For our first go at this I thought I would play it safe with a vegetable curry. The recipe is approximate – feel free to substitute in whatever spare veg you happen to have and vary the spices and quantities to taste, but this is (roughly) what I did. This is enough to serve 4 – as there were only 2 of us eating I just froze half and reheated in the microwave another day.
Start by getting your Wonderbag ready in the place you want to leave it cooking – the instructions suggest you place a trivet or pot stand inside to put your casserole on but you can also line with tea towels – actually I did both this time.
Sweet potato – diced ( I used half of one as that was what we had)
Cauliflower – broken into florets ( depending on size half to one)
Broccoli – broken into florets ( again I used about half)
1 large carrot, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
Approx 2cm cubed ginger, peeled and sliced
1 green chilli, sliced
Handful of green beans
400g tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed
A few mushrooms
A couple of tomatoes, chopped
Coconut milk ( either 1 can or the powdered sort diluted in hot water)
Vegetable stock ( if you like – I think I actually forgot this and just added water)
Additional spices to taste:
Chilli flakes or powder ( 1tsp)
Turmeric ( 1 tsp)
Cumin ( 1 tsp)
Ground Coriander ( 1tsp)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a tight lidded casserole safe for using on the hob, heat a little oil and fry the onion for a few mins till it is starting to soften.
Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and continue stirring for a minute, then add the other spices and stir in to release the flavour.
Next add the rest of the vegetables, coconut milk and stock – you want enough liquid to just cover all the vegetables ( not too much as the liquid doesn’t thicken/reduce in the Wonderbag).
Stir well and bring to the boil, cover tightly with the lid.
Boil for around 10 mins to make sure it is really hot.
Transfer carefully to the Wonderbag and seal it up tightly with the drawstring.
Get on with something else and come back to it up to 4 hours later ( but as it is all vegetables 1-2 may suffice). Open it carefully – remember it will still be hot.
Serve with rice or Naan bread.
And sorry I forgot to take a photo of it before we ate it
If you like it spicier you can add any additional spices you like or some curry powder. You could cook the rice in the bag too to save even more energy – you’ll need to add it at least 5 mins before you transfer to the Wonderbag and it will absorb some of the sauce.
Notes on sourcing ingredients with minimal packaging:
If you are a more expert food grower that myself you may well have some of the ingredients straight from your garden or allotment – in which case I am in awe. At this time of year we only had homegrown garlic and windowsill chilli and I had to go out to buy the rest.
I generally find the local market to be the easiest way to get unpackaged veg – so I went off with my trusty shopping trolley and filled up with most of the required veg either straight into my trolley or my own cloth bag. The ginger was unpackaged from supermarket.
The only veg I can’t find package free are the green beans – we have decided the best way to get these out of season is frozen so we can buy a larger amount ( less packaging pro rata) and my thinking is that it might also be more local than the out of season fresh ones shipped from Kenya – although I have yet to check this out ( note to self to do this soon). Sometimes we do have luck growing these so would have our own in the freezer, but sadly not this year.
Rice – I buy bulk 5 or 10kg bags of basmati rice which last us ages – they are still in plastic but again, relatively less than buying the small bags.
Spices – I didn’t buy any especially this time but they are either in glass jars or again bought in bulk size bags.
Chick peas – I tend to buy in tins rather than dried for convenience – at least the tins are recyclable.
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This is a really tasty way of making the most of the last few winter veggies from the allotment, specially since we had to dig up the last remaining root veg up a couple of weeks ago to move across to the adjacent plot.
You can adapt to whatever veg you have on hand but I used (to serve 2-3 generously):
A couple of parnips (diced)
A potato (diced)
A red onion (chopped)
A clove of garlic (chopped or crushed)
A couple of teaspoons of Red Thai paste
A handful of dessicated coconut (or coconut milk)
A red pepper (sliced)
A small amount of spinach (frozen is fine)
Can add some chill flakes too if you like it more spicy.
Put the dessicated coconut into a pint jug and fill up with boiling water (or stock if you prefer) . Leave to one side.
Fry the chopped onion until it starts to soften and then add the garlic (chopped or crushed) and the red Thai paste.
Then add the parsnip, potato, dessicated coconut plus water (or can of coconut milk)
Bring to boil and simmer for approx 10 mins before adding the red pepper and spinach.
Simmer for another 10 mins or so until the potato and parsnip are soft, adding more water/stock as necessary.
Then whizz up in a blender to the consistency you prefer ( personally I prefer to blitz around half then stir back in, leaving the rest with some chunkier pieces).
I love rosehip tea and have been buying it from the supermarket for years. When I was pregnant, it was pretty much all I drank. But, one by one, the supermarkets have stopped stocking it and I don’t much like the brand generally stocked by health food shops (too much hibiscus), so thought it was time to try making my own.
No rosehips in my garden sadly so could I remember where I had seen some I could forage? I set out for a walk, with walking boots and a bag containing several containers, gardening gloves and secateurs. Spotted loads of lovely looking ones, all in people’s gardens!
Eventually I remembered somewhere I had seen a single bush so headed there. Got a few strange looks as I cut the rosehips off with my secateurs but never mind. Found another larger bush a little further along.
Thought I’d start small this year to see how it works, and keep track of more places for roseship locations for next year.
I started by giving the rosehips a wash and then trimming them.
Then I popped them into my electric dehydrator – well spaced out. eatweeds reckons about 6 hours. Mine must have been large hips because I reckon they took 12-15, spread over a couple of days.
This is what they looked like when dry:
Then I whizzed them up. As I’d read some hips are very hard and wasn’t really sure what type these were, I used a small coffee grinder which used to belong to my grandparents. It worked a treat, in small batches, which also allowed me to experiment with how small to make them for sieving the hairs out.
Images below show the sieved rosehip pieces and the hairs which were sieved out. I felt itchy for the next hour!
Anyway, there you have it, dried rosehips for making tea. Washing and trimming was the most fiddly bit but really the whole process was quite simple so will be making a bigger batch next year.
To make the tea you will need to infuse a spoonful or two in hot water and then sieve. It won’t look as red as the purchased sort, but just made my first cup and it tastes pretty good.
My walk also produced a 4th batch of damsons. I’ve got some damson gin and vodka both on the go at the moment so for the moment have bunged these in the freezer to use later, when I can see which turns out best.
So, here comes the time of year for the “foraging” part, although I’m not sure picking blackberries overspilling onto the allotment from the adjoining railway line really counts as proper foraging.
Anyhow, last year, we tried out blackberry vodka, raspberry vodka, damson gin, sloe gin, and earlier this year, elderflower gin. Have to say the latter was pretty disgusting but not sure I got the recipe quite right. Of all the above, the blackberry vodka and sloe gin were definitely the ones to make again.
Flavouring vodka this way is really simple. All you need is a bottle of vodka, blackberries, sugar and something to mix them in.
Per litre of vodka use approx 500g of washed blackberries (when picking this equates nicely to a 450g ice cream container) and 200g of caster sugar.
If you have a spare vodka bottle you could split the vodka between 2 bottles, and add half the blackberries and sugar to each. Alternatively sterilize a larger container such as a 1.5 litre Kilner or Le Parfait Jar and pour in the vodka, followed by the blackberries and sugar.
Ensure your bottles or jar are tightly closed and then shake to dissolve the sugar. This may take a little while and it’s a good idea to come back to the jar and give it a shake every day for a couple of weeks to make sure it’s all nicely mixed.
After 6-8 weeks you can strain out the blackberries and bottle the vodka. You can then eat the blackberries with ice cream, or perhaps use them with some more blackberries in jam.
Sterilizing the jar:
There are a number of ways to do this:
You can either use the jar fresh from a hot dishwasher.
You can wash in hot soapy water and then dry on a 140 degree C oven for about 10 mins. (Take care removing it and allow to cool a little before trying to fit the seal.)
You can sterilize with sterilising powder from a brewing shop. according to the instructions on the packet,
The rubber seal should be scalded in boiling water.
Du zéro déchet à l'écofrugalité. Faire Mieux avec moins ! Une famille qui se sensibilise aux gestes éco-citoyens et qui cherche à réduire son empreinte sur l'environnement par la réduction de ses déchets, la recherche d'économie d'énergie, de l'anti-gaspi ... Changer ses habitudes pour protéger son environnement : c'est possible!