My tiny green kitchen’s Sourdough

(Se quiseres ler este artigo em português clica aqui)

This is a very special article for me and hopefully you’ll feel the same. It’s an article on bread, real bread, bread that takes the time it takes to make, bread that makes us be in the present moment and feel and understand if and when it’s ready, bread that changes with the seasons, bread that is as good as the quality of the ingredients you use and the amount of love you ut in its making.

sourdough

When all the buzz around the harmefulness of bread emerged my first question was but how can bread be as bad as they say? Bread has been foundational to human nourishment for centuries, and with its variations, common to all geographies of the world…so how could it be that only now we came to the conclusion that it’s not that good for us. So I set my self to inquire, and investigating learned that bread, that ancient source of nourishment that had been made without much change throughout time, had drastic changes in the way it’s made in the last 60 years. More, the wheat and other cereals used in bread saw the way they have been grown drastically changed since second World War, in what’s now called (wrongfully in my view) conventional agriculture.  Everything is produced faster, without time, without respecting the natural process; cereal and bread are removed of what’s beneficial to us. End result: bread becomes bad for us.

Not crossing my mind ceasing to eat bread, I investigated, wondered, experimented, tried, failed, and finally achieved making bread the traditional way. And I use tradition here with all its weight: bread made with knowledge acquired over centuries. Bread made as it had always been done. Bread that takes a day to ferment and that only needs 3 simple ingredients: flour, water and salt. The rest is magic or a miracle of the small things.

It’s been over a year that I’ve been making my own sourdough read. The sourness in sourdough bread is a lot more than just flavor, it’s a result of the slow natural fermentation process made with a starter (in Portugal we called mother dough) that “gives birth” to more breads. You keep the starter, you take care of it since it’s packed with enzymes that are fundamental to make the nutrients in the flour easily absorbed by our body. The fact that in our modern fast passed world you cut down fermentation times made the gluten intolerance so common. If the bread is made with a slow fermentation process, with natural occurring wild yeast, the enzymes in the mother dough will break the gluten down and make it easy to digest.

Once I found how I should be making my bread, I had to figure out with what I should be making it. Sadly in Portugal thanks to (bad) political decisions in the last decades we pretty much were left with no local production of cereal, and even worst left without virtually any organic production of indigenous cereal. Unlike other European countries where it’s relatively easy to find cereal from local organic small scale production in Portugal it’s not the case. So I started by using a brand of stone ground organic flour from France. Luckily things are starting to change! There were strong minded farmers that kept seeds of local cereal and couldn’t be happier to re start to grow. Recently I found Fábrica dos Leões a small company that wants to grow local organic cereals. Right now only the oats are grown in Portugal but very soon we will be able to buy organic wheat flour from Portugal, ground the tradicional way. Amazing news! I’ve contacted them and prepared a very special give away, more on that bellow.  This is not a sponsored post, but I truly believe in talking about and spreading the word on brands and produce that align with the goals and values of my tiny green kitchen.

Whole grain cereal are full of nutrients but they don’t have a very long shelve time, making them less profitable. Whole grain has the essential oils of the germ in them meaning they are more volatile and oxidize easier. If you happen to have a flour mill at home than you have the best option, however if that’s not the case choose flours ground in stone mills that don’t overheat and damage the cereal. Also try and consume the flour as close as possible to the grinding date and store it in a cool and dry place, if it is too hot you can store it in the fridge.

The article is getting long and I haven’t even explained how I make my sourdough at home. I’ve experimented with different methods and approaches until I found one that gives me consistent results with minimum effort. This is not by any means the only way of making sourdough but it’s the one that works for me and my schedules. This approach doesn’t require any sort of shaping, there’s very little kneading and everything happens in one bowl. Basically the fermentation process does all the work and I only have to have the sensitivity to understand when the dough is ready for the next steps.

Before the recipe here are some tips that I do encourage you to read since they might be very useful to ensure you good results in your sourdough journey.

Will I be able to make a fantastic sourdough bread the first time I try if I follow the recipe exactly? I can’t guaranty since more than the recipe you need to gain the feel to know when the dough is ready. And that you get by making, so the more breads you make the better they’ll get and the more you will be able to understand the dough. If this is sounding a little exoteric to you don’t quit before you give it an honest try. Keep in mind that sourdough is a natural fermentation process that will vary according to multiple factors such as temperature (que hotter it is the faster it will ferment), the humidity in the air, the type of flour and its ability to absorb water.

What equipment to I need to make sourdough at home? An oven that heats to 250ºC, an iron or clay pot*, a big bowl (glass or pyrex will be the best, a spatula, an electronic scale, a flexible dough scraper (opcional). *If you don’t have an iron pot use a pizza stone and place a tray with ice under it when you get your bread baking.

Why should I make my own sourdough bread? Because few things in cooking are as magical as making bread. There’s something special in witnessing flour, water and salt becoming bread. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, it’s familiar like a hug. It’s fun, once it becomes intuitive there’s a very sensorial pleasure in feeling the dough as it changes and transforms. Because it’s so much better for our health and digestion and you know you’re using quality flour. Because it makes you be in the moment, and feel the bread, understand its rhythm and respect it.  I could go on but I think you got the picture.

And finally the give away! Fábrica dos Leões and my tiny green kitchen are giving not one but two packages of produce from Fábrica dos Leões, including the flours I’m using on my sourdough recipe. There will be two give always (yay) one in Facebook and one in Instagram. So go check it out asap. The give-away is only open for residents in Portugal.

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My tiny green kitchen’s sourdough

  • 100gr of starter (50gr of water + 50 gr of whole grand rye)
  • 200gr of whole grain wheat flour
  • 100gr white wheat flour
  • 50gr whole grain rye flour
  • 260gr of filtered water
  • 9gr of sea salt + 1 tbsp of boiling water

Day 0 before going to bed: Prepare the 100gr of starter. In a jar put 50gr of filtered water and mix in 1 big tbsp. of your mother starter (check the notes!). Add 50gr of rye flour and mix well. Put the lid on top but don’t lock it.

Day 1, 8h30: The starter should have risen, doubled in volume and it’s full of bubble (check the photo).

Combine the flours with the water in a bowl, don’t knead yet, just mix them with a spoon until combined and there’s no more “loose” flour. Allow the flour to autolyze for one hour. This is for the flour to absorb the water and rehydrate.

Mix the salt with the spoon of boiling water and put aside.

Dia 1, 9h30: Add the starter and the salt to the dough and knead. Start by flattening the douh with the palm of your hand (check the picture) and then fold it over itself. Do this for 2 or 3 minutes or until you feel the dough becoming more elastic and cohesive. Always keep a little bowl of filtered water close so that you can go on getting your hand wet and that way you will avoid the dough from sticking too much. Don’t add more flour. The dough is wetter than the one made with shop bought yeast. Once you feel the dough getting cohesive apply a different action: gently pull little bits of dough, without tearing, and fold them over themselves (check the photo). Basically your pulling and folding little pieces of dough all around the dough. I usually pull and fold with one hand and turn the bowl around with the other. This action helps to develop the gluten to give you a nice spongy bread. After doing this for 2 or 3 minutes cover the dough with Clingfilm or a shower cap and a towel. Let it rest.

Every 25 minutes and counting about 4 times, go back to the dough and pull it and fold it about 4 to 5 folds. Wet your hand before touching the dough to avoid sticking. Cover between each time.  You will notice that the texture of the dough will go on changing and becoming more elastic and silky. After that let it rest with the cap and towel in a place away from drafts and direct sun light.

Day 1, 14h: Prepare a basket or bowl by lining it with a cotton or linen cloth, sprinkle it with flour (I like using rice flour for this). The hour is just an indicator, it will depend a lot on the temperature of your kitchen among other factors. This is where practice will help you knowing when your dough is ready. Don’t wait until the dough has doubled in volume, usually by then the dough is over proofed and it will not be strong enough to rise in the oven. If you don’t give it enough time it will not develop strength and flavor. It’s kind of like goldy locks you’re looking for the just right. The dough should have risen about 30% in volume and you should be able to see a lot of bubbles. If it is at this point fold it over itself about 4 to 5 folds trying to create a boll and flip it so that the folding marks face down (don’t forget to get your hands wet before you do it). Very gently transfer the dough onto the prepared basket, you can use your hand or the dough scraper for this. Dust the top of the dough with flour, fold the fabric over it, cover with the cap and put the basket in the fridge.

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Day 2, 8h30: Turn on the oven to 250ºC. Get the iron pot in the oven with the lid on the side. Let the oven get really hot, at least 30 minutes. Once again the hour here is just an indication, you can leave the dough in the fridge for a couple more hours.

Day 2, 9h: Remove the basket from the fridge. Gently flip the basket onto a shit of parchment paper roughly cut in a circle slightly bigger than the pot. Get the pot and lid out of the oven carefully from the oven (it will be VERY hot). Remove the basket from the dough and with a razor blade or bread knife make some cuts on the dough, in the beginning go simple, a cross will do the job. Gently transfer the dough onto the pot. Sprinkle the lid with water and close it straight away. Get the pot in the oven. Let it bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After that reduce the oven temperature to 220ºC and let it bake for 15 to 18 minutes more.

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Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing. This is important to achieve the right texture.

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Notes:

A) To make the sourdough starter I recommend you go to an amazing blog called My Daily Sourdough Bread where Natasa has an awesome guide with tones of information, that’s what I followed to make mine. Anyway this is what you have to do:

Day 1: In a glass jar mix together 30gr of wholegrain rye flour and 30 gr of filtered water. Put the lid on top but don’t screw fully. Let it ferment for about 24 hours, preferably in a place with a temperature not lower than 25ºC. If it’s colder it might take longer, have patience.

Day 2: If the fermentation went well you will see a lot of air bubbles and it doubled in volume. Mix in 20gr of wholegrain rye flour and 20gr of water and mix well, cleaning the sides of the jar after. Let it ferment. Observe the jar in the next hours. If it starts fermenting too fast put it in the fridge. If not leave it at room temperature and when it doubles in size put it in the fridge.

Day 3: After about 12h in the fridge it’s time to feed the mother starter again. If it created a dryer thin layer on top discard that. Add 20gr more of flour and 20 gr more of water. Mix well. In the next hours (3 to 5) it should be bubbly and doubling in size. To test your starter take a little nob of it and put it in a glass full of water. If it floats it’s ready! It means it’s full of carbon dioxide and it will make your bread rise.

Maintenance: Keep your mother starter in a jar in the fridge. Only if you’re making bread every day should you leave it in the counter. At least once a week you have to feed your mother starter. Remove the upper layer of the starter that is usually a bit dry. Remove around 1 tbsp of mother starter to make the starter for the recipe. Feed the mother starter with 25gr of flour and 25 gr of water. Let it double in size. Usually I do this before going to bed and leave it overnight and in the morning put it back in the fridge.

When I only make bread once a week (usually it’s 2) I feed the mother dough in the morning so it’s stronger and then do as I’ve described.

B) You can use other flours for the starter but according to what I’ve read wholegrain rye is the easiest to maintain. Besides I really like the flavor of rye.

C) Always use filtered or spring water since tap water has chlorine than can kill natural yeast.

D) Variations:

– You can add a handful of walnuts and almonds and/or dried figs to the dough after autolyze;

– Instead of 50 gr of rye add 30gr wholegrain rye and 20gr wholegrain barley;

– Instead of 50 gr rye add 40gr rye and 10gr carob flour. One of my favorite variations is this one + 1 handful of walnuts.

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