Friday, June 29, 2012

Adventures with Wild Yeast Sourdough

My first ever sourdough bread.

Living here at a camp in the middle of the forest we tend to live a more communal lifestyle. We often have pot-luck dinners, help each other out with projects, that sort of thing. It's almost like living in a small community of its own.

I named my starter "Boris".

This also means ideas can spread quickly. So 2 weeks ago when one of the backpackers here made a simple comment that they'd like to make sourdough, it wasn't long before a whole bunch of us jumped on the bandwagon and we all decided to give it a whirl. And now we are officially obsessed. The staff room is littered with jars full of sourdough starters bubbling away, and all we ever seem to talk about is air temperature and flour to water ratios; it is more like a science lab than a tea room.

In case you didn't know, sourdough is made (at least in this case) without the use of commercial yeast. To put it very simply: you make a little mixture of flour and water (known as the starter or levain) and let it sit in a warm spot, you also feed it regularly with more flour and water. Slowly the wild yeast spores (from the air or in the flour itself) will become activated in your concoction and bubbles will appear and the mixture will also start to smell fruity and sour. That's when it's good to go. So then you just use some of the starter as a base for your bread, and you just add more flour or whatever else you like to create your bread. As well as being a fun process, homemade natural sourdough tastes really delicious and will have a distinctive taste, bread will also be cheaper to make because you wont need commercial yeast. The starter can also be maintained in your fridge so you can just use it at will.

Sourdough starters can also be used to make other things like pancakes (I can attest to these being awesome, they are extra soft and tasty) and I've also made crumpets with it (see photo below), they were yum but fiddly to make. Other favourite uses are pizza dough and I even successfully used sourdough to make a chocolate cake! Delicious! (Though I'm tweaking that recipe to get it just right.) Watch this space!

Crumpets, one of the fun things you can do with your sourdough starter.

I could go into huge depth about the ins and outs of making sourdough, but then this post would turn into a novel. So if you're keen to learn more about it here are a few links to recipes I've used, but be warned you may turn into a sourdough nerd like me! Or if you are already sourdough obsessed, feel free to drop me some comments about what you love to make with your sourdough starters or any recipes or hints or tips.

Link to the sourdough starter recipe I used.

Link to the sourdough bread recipe I most often use.

Link to the crumpet recipe I used.

Edit: It has now been 2 months and we are still obsessed with sourdough and our breads are looking (and tasting) better than ever. We've tried several new recipes so I thought I'd share some of my new faves that I have been making repeatedly with great success:

Link to sourdough chocolate cake recipe. (A really moist and yummy cake, and I don't even like choc cake!)

Link to sourdough bagel recipe. (By the way I make this by hand, you don't need a mixer)

Link to sourdough pizza crust. (I don't use a bread machine, I just mix it by hand then rise it for a few hours for the 'first rise' before dividing and rolling.) Works well.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dark Rye Bread, and snow!

The past couple of weeks have been pretty cool. And I mean that quite literally. We had a huge dump of snow here in Hanmer Springs. 

I've never lived anywhere where it has snowed before (the tiny sprinkle we had in Timaru doesn't count) so I've been super excited. It was such a novelty for me that even shovelling snow became a fun experience. 

"Everyday I'm shovelling"

 It really has been a winter wonderland here, and every morning waking up and heading out the door I felt like I was in a dream. It has been amazing. also has been super cold! Great weather for soups and home-made bread. 

A bread I especially love is rye bread. It's so hearty and tasty, and seems to compliment winter soups so well. Here's the base recipe for the rye bread I enjoy making, but feel free to add any spices like caraway or ground cardamom if you want to add some extra zing. I hope you are enjoying winter as much as I am!


3 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 & 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons oil
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups of high grade flour
1 & 1/2 cups rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
optional - 1 teaspoon of spice, I recommend either caraway seeds or ground cardamom


Add the first five ingredients to a bowl. Add one cup of the high grade flour. Mix well, then cover the bowl and let it stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the rest of the high grade flour along with the rye flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and any spices you wish to add. (add extra flour or water as needed to make a dough to knead.)

Knead dough for about 10 minutes. It should become more elastic and spring back when touched.

Cover and place in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.

Knead again for only a minute ,then using floured hands pat the dough into a smooth ball shape.

Place onto a lightly floured baking tray and let it sit in a warm spot again for about an hour.
Bake at 200 Celsius for approx 30 minutes.