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Sourdough Starter — 10 Comments

  1. I tried making my own sour dough starter summer 2013. I lived next to a “lake” full of ducks, fish, turtles… The product was horrid! So, I ordered some starter from Amazon. Very nice. Easy to take care of. Now, when I bake my weekly 1 pound loaf, I use a little less yeast, through in the scoop (usually 1/2 cup) of starter and re-feed the starter. Then I let the bread machine run for a minute or two to mix everything up. Then I let it set for about an hour and restart the machine. Very good product with very good flavor!

  2. Hi, a friend recommended your site and it’s really great to see a good site about using a bread machine. The bread forums tend to shoot people on sight if they use a bread machine, and I’ve been wanting to find somewhere friendly to discuss making bread by machine.

    Did you ever try making sourdough? Making it yourself, I mean, not using a mix in a yeasted bread. From what I gather, those hybrid versions are more of a yeasted bread, with a bit of sourdough flavour, so they’re a completely different animal. It’s great that you review all these different bread mixes, but I would absolutely love to see your site discussing making sourdough in a bread machine, because no one ever does! It does work, and there are so many things you can do with sourdough. I adore the taste so much that I can’t imagine going back to yeasted breads now. People make sourdough sound really difficult, and impossible by machine, but that turns out to be nonsense. It’s dead easy, and the worst that happens is that some loaves don’t rise all the way to the top.

    I bought a bread machine in August 2014, a Lakeland Compact which makes 1lb loaves. Naturally, I found that I loved it, bought yeast in bulk, and then discovered sourdough and now have all this unused yeast sitting in my cupboard. I followed the recipe from Brilliant Breadmaking In Your Machine by Catherine Atkinson for making a starter, not knowing that it’s technically a poolish as it involves yeast. Still, that was the only time yeast went in, it’s been fed with only flour and water since then, making it a proper sourdough fairly early on, and it was dead easy to establish, so I reckon it was worth it.

    You put 2 tsp yeast, 250g flour and 300ml water in a container, cover it loosely, stir every day, and after 3-5 days you should be getting bubbles. After that, you keep it in the fridge with the lid on tight, and every time you use it, you just take it out of the fridge, measure out your starter, refeed it (I use 1/2 cup each flour and water, but that’s for a 1lb loaf), stir it, and put it straight back in the fridge. Occasionally you move it to a clean container. Despite what some people online say, you do not need to fuss over it for two days to make a loaf of bread! I’ve fed it with various flours over this time, and right now it’s on wholegrain rye flour, which it adores. It gets all frothy and can look rather alarming to people who don’t cook. I don’t drink, but I’m told it smells like beer. I haven’t really noticed the rye flavour in my bread, although I don’t know if that’s because I usually make brown or wholemeal bread. It just tastes like awesome bread.

    Then we get to the recipe. I find that the gluten-free setting works best, as sourdough prefers minimal kneading and a long rise time. I hear that Zojirushis have a sourdough setting, and I’d love to hear how that works out. If possible, put on the delay timer. You can manage without, I spent a good year not bothering with the delay, but it rises much better and tastes stronger with the delay. The maximum delay on my machine is 13h including the 3h30 cycle, and I either do it overnight or set it in the morning and retrieve it in the evening. Here’s the recipe I use, adapted from Brilliant Breadmaking in Your Machine. I’ve doubled the sugar from her recipe as I find it rises better, but now that I’ve started putting the sugar in with the wet ingredients, the rise is even better, so I may experiment with cutting that down again. It doesn’t taste sweet, you get a good neutral taste which works fine with either sweet or savoury toppings. I’m vegan, so I don’t use honey, and have been having fun experimenting with agave syrup and the like.

    1lb loaf

    150ml sourdough starter
    90ml/100ml/110ml water for white/brown/wholewheat flour respectively
    1 tablespoon oil (I use olive oil, the original recipe had butter)
    1 tablespoon sugar or syrup (yes, in with the wet ingredients)
    255g flour (I’ve just noticed that the original recipe was 250g, but it seems fine this way)
    3/4 tsp salt

    I’m afraid I don’t know what it is in American cups, as I find grams more accurate and easier to measure, plus apparently the cups sold in the UK (which are indeed very useful for things like rice) are a different size! I’m sure the conversion is around somewhere, though.

    That’s the basic loaf. You can replace some of the flour with rolled oats, other flours such as kamut, barley (30-50g of barley makes wholemeal loaves moister) or more rye, or small seeds. My rule is to count small seeds (sesame or poppy) as part of the flour, but count larger seeds or nuts separately. Walnuts give it a delightful mauve tinge, and a mix of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, toasted in a dry pan, smells and tastes out of this world. If you fancy chia seeds, be cautious, as they absorb huge amounts of water. I’ve experimented with a teaspoon of chia seeds mixed up with two tablespoons of boiling water and left to absorb that for ten minutes before adding to the mix, and it seems to make the bread moister, which again is useful with the craggier wholemeal loaves. The loaf we’re eating right now has thyme and olives in it. If I add something that has less or no gluten, such as oats, I put it in at the start of adding the flours, so sometimes I give it a bit of a shoogle after I’ve added the rest of the flour, to make sure that it all gets to soak in with the starter.

    The bit where I’d love your input is why some loaves rise better than others. Putting the sugar or syrup in with the wet ingredients is something I’ve only started doing in the last few weeks, and I haven’t been doing the overnight delay for long either. Those certainly help. They never end up as actual bricks, we just get denser loaves sometimes, more of a nice hearty bread. I think it’s mostly when I am using grains which are lower in gluten. Cornmeal is the main one I’m struggling with right now. Should I be adding some vital wheat gluten?

    • Eve, thanks so much for writing! You bring up a lot of interesting issues. Regarding the sourdough, I love sourdough but bread but it’s difficult to make sourdough bread in the bread machine. The reason is that sourdough isn’t as predictable as yeast. It’s hard to make a reproducible bread machine recipe with sourdough. So in bread machines sourdough is treated more as a flavoring rather than as a yeast substitute.

      There definitely is a bias against bread machines on some of the bread forums isn’t there? I figure each to their own. If you want to make bread by hand, go for it! I like this way. 🙂

      • Hmm, what do you need in a reproducible recipe? Sometimes my bread turns out denser than other times, but it’s always good, and it’s very easy. I realise you’ll have different standards for a recipe you want to put on a blog, but I reckon it’s easily good enough to make at home. Did you end up trying a starter at all?

        On the other hand, it sounds like sourdough doesn’t lend itself well to being made commercially, which is why so few places sell real sourdough.

        I’m also curious as to how a packet yeasted bread with sourdough flavouring would taste, but I’m not sure I’m curious enough to try it! I can’t find it on sale in the UK, anyway. The breads look more like yeasted breads in your photos, they’ve got that fuller rise and don’t have the split you get in the top.

        • In my case I do need a reproducible recipe. Some of my readers are on tight budgets and need a reasonable assurance that they won’t be wasting the cost of the ingredients. Also some people are new to bread making with their machines and I don’t want them to be disappointed. So reliable, reproducible recipes are very important. There are a lot of recipes that I try that don’t make it to the blog.

          That being said I have not personally tried using sourdough starter in my bread. I wouldn’t be adverse to trying it for fun. I’ll let you know if I give it a try. 🙂

          • Yay!

            I know that my recipe is reliable in my machine, as long as I am not expecting the bread to rise right to the top every time (I don’t mean bricks, I just mean natural variation), but of course I have no idea how it’d fare in someone else’s machine. I remember your saying that the water in your house turns out to affect the bread dramatically, and then you get issues such as humidity and temperature and which bread machine you have. How do you control for all that? Does your machine seem to be pretty typical? Zojirushis are meant to be great, but they’re not available in the UK and I don’t have the space for anything other than a small one.

            Still, I do hope you experiment for your own sake! Let me know if you come up with anything exciting.

            The olive sourdough that was baked this morning is now GONE, due to a friend coming round this afternoon, so I’ll have to put something else on tonight. I think I fancy an oat bread. The recipe book says 45g oats, at least for a yeasted bread, so I might give that a try. Do you use oats much in your breads?

            Tell you what I’d like to get better at, and that’s adapting yeasted bread recipes to a sourdough. There’s one recipe with a tin of chick peas and a tablespoon of korma paste which is out of this world, but I don’t even know where to start with adapting it.

      • As for the hand/machine furore, it’s funny, they’re often the same people who look at my quilting and gasp, “You do all that by hand?” Yep. I enjoy the feel of hand quilting. I don’t have any particular urge to faff around with bread by hand. Other people might prefer to use a sewing machine but to take their time revelling in every stage of making bread. Apart from anything else, if I’m not in the mood for sewing, then it doesn’t leave me without breakfast to eat, whereas I’m often throwing the bread on last thing at night when I’m really tired and absolutely don’t have the inclination to do more than spend a couple of minutes on it.

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