Making sourdough bread at home.

Freshly baked bread is one of those things that many people think is really hard to do. Further to my previous post about Home made bread, there is another method of bread making that we relish … Rye starter sourdough!

If you want to go into the in’s and out’s of sourdough … look it up on the Internet. This post will be all about baking your bread once you have some starter. We sell a Rye starter at our Farm Gate in our DIY Sourdough kits.

Storing your starter.

Treat your starter like yoghurt. When you’re not using it, seal it and store it in the fridge. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge as the fermentation process slows down. If you do not intend to use your starter for more than a few weeks, you can also freeze it. To reactivate a frozen starter, simply defrost it naturally (no microwave, people) and then follow the next step: Activating your starter.

Activating your starter.

Consider your starter as a replacement for yeast. Like yoghurt, it contains bacteria which ferment and create bubbles, making your bread fluffy. So before making your bread, you need to “wake up” your starter. This process is called activating it. We usually activate our starter just before going to work, so when we get home up, it is ready to use!

To make a small loaf of bread, you will only need about half a cup of starter. This is how you do it:

  1. Take your starter out of the fridge. If it is not in a container that is at least 500mL put it in one. Make sure it is not metallic.
  2. Add half a cup of room temperature water to your starter and mix it up. Tap water is OK for this but filtered is better as too much chlorine can kill off the bacteria in your starter.
  3. Add 4 heaped tablespoon of light rye flour to the mixture and stir it in. Don’t worry if there are some flour lumps, that is fine.
  4. Cover your starter with a loose lid and leave it on your kitchen bench. If the lid is sealed onto the container, as your starter starts to ferment, the gasses will build up and then pop the lid off. Old fashioned bowls with glass lids or small casserole dishes with lids are perfect for this. You can also recycle plastic 600mL cream bottles. They are perfect for storage in the fridge later too.
  5. Your starter will need to ferment for around 4 hours. If it is warm, it will need less time. Conversely, cold weather will mean that it takes longer. Your starter is ready when it is no longer reacting and there are plenty of bubbles on the surface. You can tell it has stopped reacting because the mixture will slowly start to “deflate” and leave a “tide mark” on the bowl it was fermented in.

This is what an active starter looks like when ready to use. Nice and bubbly and you can see that the starter has started to deflate since there is a sludgy tide mark halfway up the side of the bowl.

Activated sourdough starter ready to use.
Activated sourdough starter ready to use.

Making your dough.

You can substitute yeast for sourdough starter in any bread recipe you have. Just leave out the yeas, then when you measure the wet ingredients, substitute at least half a cup of starter for every 600 – 750 gram loaf (regular loaf tin).

We like being a bit lazy in our bread making technique, so here is a recipe you can follow if you don’t like kneading. You can do steps 1-8 right before having breakfast if you want fresh bread for dinner, then steps 9 – 11 as soon as we get home. Alternatively, if you’re an early riser, do steps 1-8 before going to bed then 9-11 as soon as you get up so that you can have fresh bread for breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • Half a cup of rye starter
  • 3\4 cup of water
  • One cup of light rye flour
  • One cup of white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Method:

  1. In a non metallic bowl, measure out half a cup of active sourdough starter. Add the water and mix well.
  2. To the water and starter mixture, add your flour on top then sprinkle your salt on the flour. If the salt comes in contact with the starter, it will kill off the bacteria.
  3. Mix your flour in so that it becomes a sticky ball like this…

    Bowl of soughdough dough, mixed and ready to rest.
    Bowl of soughdough dough, mixed and ready to rest.
  4. Let it rest for 15-20 mins. This is important, especially for wholemeal flour, as it allows the flour to absorb the water.
  5. Get a small bowl and add around half a cup of rye flour to it. Rub a part of your kitchen bench top with vegetable oil (we prefer olive oil but others are good too) and then lather your hands with oil.
  6. Using your hands, sprinkle the surface of the dough liberally with flour (yes your hands will get flour stuck to them), then turn out the dough onto the kitchen bench and sprinkle more rye flour on the sticky side.

    Sourdough dough sprinkled with flour before kneading.
    Sourdough dough sprinkled with flour before kneading.
  7. Lift and slap down the dough onto your bench for about 5 mins. This is a form of kneading which we find very therapeutic when we are upset – very good for anger management. Your dough will become elastic. If it still feels too wet and sticky, add a little more flour to the surface and keep slapping it down.

    Slapping down dough on the bench top ... great for anger management.
    Slapping down dough on the bench top … great for anger management.
  8. First rise: Once the dough is nice and elastic, shape it onto a floured board and then cover it in a moist cloth or tea towel. Leave it to rest for 4-6 hours, away from any cold draughts. Longer is fine. If you want to be lazy at this point, you can place your dough into a loaf tin instead and skip step 9. This will mean that your bread will have larger bubbles in it rather than little ones. It should easily have doubled in size.
  9. Second rise: Line a loaf tin (or you can just line a cookie tray if you want a home made shape) and place the dough into the tin. Leave it to rise for 2 hours.
  10. Bake: Place the bread into a cold oven. Turn your oven on to 230 C and bake for 15 mins. The mouth watering aroma of fresh bread will have started to fill the house by now, so turn the heat down to 190 C and bake for a further 20 mins. We use a fan-forced oven which provides consistent heat quickly.
  11. Your bread is cooked when you tap on the top and it sounds hollow. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto an airing rack. Leave it for at least 10 mins! It is still cooking inside. If you cut a fresh loaf as soon as it is out of the oven, you’ll find that it is still doughy and does not have a nice texture. You’ve waited this long, so just hang in there for a few more minutes.

Enjoy!

What’s the name of that apple?!?! A Peasgood Nonsuch?

We love heritage apples and all this simply means is that the apple in question is no longer grown commercially for the mainstream market. There is nothing wrong with these apples … in fact, most heritage apples have superior flavour and texture over the regular apples you find at the grocer. The reason they are not stocked? Because they don’t last as long in the refrigerator!

“Regular” store bought apples.

When you go to a store today, you will always find apples on the shelves. Fresh and sometimes not so crunchy apples are a staple in our society. But in reality, to ensure that there are apples available all year round, they need to be kept in storage for a VERY long time.

As with all natural things, there is a season for apples. Apples flower from early Spring to mid Summer (late August to December here in Sydney regions). So depending on the variety of apple, you can have fresh fruit from as early as mid Summer through to mid Winter (late December to mid July here). So what about the other months?

This is where the genetics of an apple are very important. Early fruiting varieties (such as the Israeli variety ‘Anna’), mature early in the season but in doing so sacrifice their ability to be stored long term. But is their flavour affected? No way!

Generally speaking, if an apple is ripened on a tree before it is harvested, it is capable of developing mind blowing flavour. But to store an apple long term, certain characteristics need to be taken into account. Mainly the acidity of the fruit and its sugar level.

If the sugar level in a fruit is too high, it ripens quickly. When you buy a “floury” apple from a store, this texture is due to the apple being stored with a higher than normal sugar content and then while in storage, the sugars get converted into fibre too quickly … hence the “floury” texture.

But a fruit with too high an acidity, generally produces a tartness which most customers find unpalatable. So there is a fine balance between when to pick and how to store. Actually, there is a real science behind it as apples need to be stored in a climate controlled environment to ensure peak condition.

Heritage apples

In today’s economy where we have grown accustomed to having everything we want when we want it, eating in season foods has fallen by the wayside. This means that anything that cannot be stored and transported long distances falls out of flavour. Most restaurants and food businesses don’t change their menu based on the season, which means that only food which can be sourced all year round are available. But if you are so inclined, there are some small operators (ourselves included) who are dedicated in ensuring that some of the most flavoursome apples are available to farmers markets in season.

At this time of year, some of the larger varieties are ready to harvest. These are the mid season fruits. The likes of Red Delicious, Pink Lady and Granny Smith are no where near being mature enough to harvest in our region; this means that these varieties on shelves are almost 12 months old.

When it comes to flavour, two of our all time favourites ripening now are the Gravenstein and the Peasgood Nonsuch (yes this mouthful is its real name!). The Gravenstein is an old European apple variety which originated in Denmark. It has a beautiful rich red skin with little spots all over it, white flesh and tastes nothing short of divine. It has a slight tartness (indicative of high acidity) but is complemented with a good deal of sweetness when tree ripened. It is great fresh and is excellent for cooking as it keeps it shape well.

Similarly, the Peasgood Nonsuch is a great cooking apple but is better known as a saucing apple, creating a really smooth puree that complements soooo many dishes! This one though is a bit of a giant in the apple world, regularly 50% larger in size than a red delicious, meaning it is around double the weight too! We have included one in the photo above.

So next time you buy an apple, have a think about what it took to get to your table. Visit your local farmers market to find someone nearby who grows fruit in season … you will never regret the flavour. Ask to try something you don’t know. Remember, local farmers (generally) enjoy their job and would love to talk to someone who appreciates the effort they put into providing quality produce.

Quince … the chameleon of the fruit world.

There are so many different fruits out there that are just waiting to be tried. We always eat in season foods here on our farm and Autumn is harvest time! It’s full steam ahead here with plenty of different fruits coming into the kitchen. For us, nothing is better that fresh quince with vanilla ice-cream! Yum!

Quince is a pome fruit. This means it is closely related to the likes of pears and apples. It is used extensively as a dwarfing rootstock for pears and can be seem on roadsides growing wild.

Quince are an interesting fruit as it feels rock hard even when ripe, but undergoes the most amazing transformation once cooked correctly. It has a furry outer coating which rubs off easily once the fruit is ripened on the tree.

To tell if a quince is ready to pick, you need to take note of its colour and texture. It will changed from green to yellow over the course of around one week (each variety is slightly different, but you get the idea). Then, when you gently rub the fuzzy coating and it comes away in your hand … its quince time!

Here is a yummy bowl of freshly poached quince and vanilla ice-cream!

Quince with vanilla ice-cream.
Quince with vanilla ice-cream, drizzled with quince syrup.

Poaching Quince

Here are some simple instructional images on how to poach quinces to use at home.

Quince - whole
Pick your quince and bring them into the kitchen. Make sure when you pick them to be gentle. They may feel rock hard, but they bruise VERY easily.
Quince - peeled
Peel the skin off all your quince. Quince flesh oxidises (goes brown) very quickly once cut. There is no need to worry about that though.
Quince - quartered
Quarter and core your quince, then place them in a large pot. Add enough water so that the quince start to float and then stir half a cup of sugar per kilo of quince.
Quince - colour change
Bring slowly to the boil. Keep boiling for anywhere between two to three hours. The quinces will stat to change colour when nearing completion.
Quince - cooked
Quince is cooked when a fork or skewer can be easily inserted in to the flesh. Leave it to stand and soak up some of the syrup. The quince can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a few days. The syrup can be bottled and stored as per a normal preserve. Enjoy!

Simple home made bread.

There is a myth that bread is hard to make. But if you can measure ingredients and use an oven … you can bake your own bread! It’s cheaper than store bought bread (around $0.45 per loaf) and tastes soooo much better to boot.

The following loaves were baked using the first recipe. From left to right, they are Salt and Caraway, Linseed and Chia then Sesame. Truly scrumptious.

There are numerous recipes out there, but the simplest ones are the best. So here are two tried and true methods for you …

Recipe #1: Knead and bake Homemade Bread/Pizza dough recipe.

This recipe can be used to make a fresh bread loaf, 6 large bread rolls or 2 pizza bases. It is very easy to make and versatile too.

Ingredients:

2  1/2 cups of plain flour (you can use wholemeal if you want)
1 teaspoon salt 3/4 tablespoon dry yeast 250mL warm water

Optional Ingredients:

Seeds for flavour (sesame, sunflower, poppy, linseed, etc)
1 tablespoon of milk or egg (to stick seeds to top of loaf)

Duration:

Measuring ingredients – 1 min
Mixing ingredients – 1 min
Kneading – 6 to 10 mins
First Rise – 45 mins
Shape – 1 to 5 mins
Second Rise – 30 mins
Bake – 35 mins (fan forced oven)
Rest – 10 mins

Method:

  1. Measure all dry ingredients and place them into a large bowl. If you want seeds throughout the bread, add 2 tablespoons here. Mix together well.
  2. Add the warm water and mix together until a dough ball forms.
  3. If you intend to use a machine, put the dough ball into the machine with a dough hook and kneed for 6 mins. If you intend to do a little exercise and reduce the “flabby arms” (as was my original goal with bread making!) then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 10 mins.
  4. The dough should be soft and pliable. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a warm (not hot) area, covered with a tea towel or similar cloth (to stop it drying out on a hot day – moisten the cloth). I put mine in a bowl on the espresso machine, make myself a coffee and relax if the kids aren’t around! Let the dough rest for 40-45 mins. It will double in size.
  5. If you’re making pizza dough, you can start shaping the pizza bases and ignore the remaining steps, otherwise get a loaf tin and line it with baking paper (if you’re not as lazy as me, you can grease the tin … I like baking paper as there is no need to clean the tin afterwards if you’re careful!).
  6. Take the dough ball out of the bowl and shove it into the lined tin. No need to be too gentle. Mush it into the corners to fill the tin. Leave to stand for 30 mins. It will rise back up.
  7. If you want seeds on the top of your loaf, spread some milk over your loaf surface with a pastry brush and then liberally sprinkle the loaf. If you are lactose intolerant, use egg instead. Water does not work as it will evaporate while baking.
  8. Place the loaf into a cold, fan forced oven. Turn it on to 180 degrees C. Bake for 35 mins (or until the house smells heavenly and it feels like to have to eat one NOW!).
  9. THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT! Bread will keep cooking AFTER taking it out of the oven. You must remove the bread from the oven and put it onto a cooling rack and leave it for 10 mins …. this is the hard part. If you decide to eat it too early, besides potentially burning yourself, the dough will still be slightly wet inside. After about 10 mins … it’s ready to eat!

If you want to make bread rolls instead, use a baking tray instead of a loaf tin and at step 6, divide the dough into equal portions. 110 grams is the best size. You’ll get 6 large rolls.

NOTE: This bread has no preservatives, so in 24 hours, it starts to go hard and stale. Always store any cut loaf in a plastic bag to reduce moisture loss. In our household though … the bread doesn’t last until the afternoon!

Recipe #2: No-knead bread.

This recipe uses slow rise techniques. It is the laziest recipe we use and is regularly used in Summer when the early morning chores mean that we are up and about with time to spare for the second rise and bake. Nothing is nicer for breakfast than fresh bread with jam, bacon or an omelette … maybe even a combination of each!

This is the recipe you use when you are lazy at night and know you can do the baking in the morning. Or maybe you have a few extra mins in the morning and want to serve fresh hot bread with dinner that night. You get the idea!

Ingredients:

3 cups of plain flour (you can use wholemeal if you want)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1  1/2 cups water (room temp NOT warm)

Optional Ingredients:

Seeds for flavour (sesame, sunflower, poppy, linseed, etc)

Duration:

Measuring ingredients – 1 min
Mixing ingredients – 2 mins
Kneading – 0 mins
First Rise – 9-12 hours
Shape – <1 min
Second Rise – 1-2hours
Bake – 45 mins (fan forced oven)
Rest – 10 mins

Method:

  1. Measure all dry ingredients and place them into a large bowl. If you want seeds throughout the bread, add 2 tablespoons here. Mix together well.
  2. Add the room temperature water and mix together with a spoon. It will form a wet dough ball.
  3. Get a cloth and moisten it. Cover the bowl of dough with the moist cloth and leave it somewhere to stand for 9 – 12 hours. A slow rise occurs and the gluten developed slowly with kneading. A huge win actually!
  4. After at least 9 hours, the dough will have doubled in size and be soft and pliable. Grab a handful of flour and place it onto your bench surface. Scrape the wet dough out of the bowl and onto the floured surface.
  5. Liberally sprinkle the wet dough with flour and shape into a loaf then place it on a baking tray.
  6. Leave it to proof for 1-2 hours. If you want a hard crust, preheat your over to 200 degrees C. Place the tray into the oven at cook for 45mins at 200 degrees C.
  7. THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT! Bread will keep cooking AFTER taking it out of the oven. You must remove the bread from the oven and put it onto a cooling rack and leave it for 10 mins …. this is the hard part. If you decide to eat it too early, besides potentially burning yourself, the doughwill still be slightly wet inside. After about 10 mins … it’s ready to eat!