Sourdough for Beginners
Bread making, especially sourdough bread making, has an aura of mystique. Maybe it is because you are messing around with bacteria to leaven your bread or maybe because some skill is required to achieve a good result. As a beginner it can be intimidating but fortunately I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind venturing on hallowed ground.
I also have an ulterior motive which is the testing of the app being developed by Kon which will take away a lot of the guesswork when it comes to creating beautiful sourdough bread.
On my way to making my first loaf – a Spelt and country mix of seeds and grains I learned a few valuable lessons. My first lesson was not to get both hands caked with dough when mixing the sourdough. The sourdough is actually only the first stage, you add the starter and then grow it so that there is enough sourdough to leaven the bread. Just mix with your dominant hand and use your other hand to hold a spoon to scrape the dough from your mixing hand. A lot less messy!
The sourdough is left to leaven for 15 hours and my next problem was with kneading the bread dough. This was more of a psychological problem. I was trying to knead without getting my palms covered in dough. I have a vague memory of being taught to make apple crumble by pinching the ingredients and carefully keeping my palms clean. Well dough kneading is not like that at all, you need to squeeze the dough through your fingers and your palms will end up covered in dough. Eventually I got over my squeamishness and my hands became one big sticky mitt.
The next problem was kneading effectively with a smaller amount of dough. The method where you pick up the dough and throw it down, stretching it before you throw it down again isn’t as effective when you have a smaller amount of dough. The better way is to stretch out the dough then pull it back and then turn it 90 degrees and then stretch it out again. I videoed Kon doing it correctly so we can all learn how to do it. For one loaf of bread it should only take around half an hour of kneading. You knead for 10 mins then rest the dough for 3 minutes so that the protein bonds can form then repeat this process another two times. You need to use a bit of oomph to ensure the dough is ready.
When testing to see if the dough is ready slowly tease out the dough until you can create a translucent window without tearing the dough too easily.
The next problem I had was balling the dough. This is where you have finished kneading the dough and you keep your hand taut and push the dough towards you from the bottom causing the surface of the dough to tighten into a ball. I admit I did get some help in the end as I was making such a mess of it. But I look at it this way, I can only improve and the better I get at it the better my bread will be.
Despite my inexperience the final loaf wasn’t too bad at all!