This has to be one of my longest experiments ever, partly due to me getting the baking bug only in the winters. The first two were disastrous failures and the end product could have been the choice of weapon used by Cain to kill Abel. The first one, used -wait for it… Champagne yeast and placed in a pressure cooker which doubled as an oven. It was pretty cold too -around 2 deg C in Delhi and the bread never rose. If I had saved the baked bread it could have replaced a brick in my garden wall back home.
365 days later, I was more prepared. I had bought a small 16 liter Bajaj OTG, (Oven-Toaster-Grill) -more because I was convinced by now that store bought white bread was not in any way good for the body -especially with its horrid ingredients which had numbers instead of names and others with un-pronounceable chemical names. My friend had given me a packet of yeast which I used, but I presume that it was well past its sell by date as the bread never rose in spite of keeping it at 30 deg C to rise. I threw it out of my balcony into some wasteland for some other creature to consume carefully avoiding hitting any dogs who were scavenging around.
By attempt 3, I had decided on sourdough. It was traditional, good for health as it broke down the “not-so-good-for-the-body” phytic acid in the flour and added some sourness which would increase the storage life of the bread. Refined flour was out of the equation from day one and it was a do or die resolve which finally got me some acceptable results. I watched a lot of bread making documentaries and got me a Kilner clip top jar to make my sourdough starter.
Recipe for sourdough starter:
- 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
- 1 cup water
- 5 organic grapes chopped (Optional)
Mix the water with the flour and form a smooth mixture. If you chose to add the chopped grapes to kick start the fermentation, add them too. I didn’t need them. Pour into a jar with a lid. Once the fermentation starts, remember to discard the grapes or use them up with your bread dough.
Feeding your starter : Every 24, 48 or 36 hours, (depends on your temperature. In summer it will grow faster and not discarding and feeding it will make for a very sour starter unless you place it in the refrigerator) discard or use up half of this mixture, and add another cup of water and flour and mix well.
Do this till the mixture becomes bubbly. This is when the starter is ready to use.
Warning: The bread you bake at home, unless you use unhealthy refined or bread flour, is going to taste and feel very different from the bread available in the market and is an acquired taste. When I gave it to friends, I soon realized that it wasn’t appreciated much as they had preconceived expectations of how bread should look, feel and taste as their senses are so accustomed to the chemicals which give quick and very strong flavors which overwhelm the tongue. This however is the real thing, and once you accept that, you will soon start enjoying its taste and not like store bought bread anymore!
Sourdough bread recipe:
- 1 cup wholewheat flour
- 1 1/4 cup water
- Salt to taste 1 use 1 level teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) or oil (I used organic coconut oil but it took longer to rise than ghee). This keeps the bread from ending up too dry.
Mix all of the ingredients with half of your starter to form a soft dough (Don’t forget to feed your starter as mentioned above as it is alive).
Leave your dough to rise for 30 – 35 minutes in a bowl covered with clingfilm or a damp cloth. Please adjust the timing appropriately for your location (temperature and weather)
After 30 minutes, on a floured or oiled surface, lightly pat down the dough, knead and form a thick circle. Roll it up and fold down the sides to seal the bread and placed in a greased loaf pan. Brush some oil on the top, lance the bread with a blade (I’ve not mastered this yet) and cover with cling film and leave it to rise for 40 – 45 minutes.
Check whether the bread has risen properly, if not leave it for a bit longer or in a warmer place. Once you are happy with the rise and bloom, preheat your oven to 220 deg C, remove the cling film and place in the center of your oven.
Bake for 20 -30 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped. When the bread is still warm, remove from the loaf pan and cool overnight on a wire rack. I personally feel it is better to store the bread in a cotton bag or the exiting moisture might make the bread go moldy. Of course you can use one of those Tupperware bread boxes to store the bread in the fridge. I usually slice only as much bread as I need. This keeps the slices from drying out completely.
Recipe for bread with instant yeast?
Use 1 teaspoon instant yeast instead of the sourdough mixture. Everything else remains the same 🙂
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