Most home bakers consider sourdough bread from scratch as the ultimate test. Baking this delicious and chewy creation, however, is a challenge that you can easily overcome with practice, patience, and a few helpful tips. Sourdough bread maker Angelique Crystal happily shares her top 10 tips to make your first sourdough loaf a winning success.
Discover how to live homegrown! Join Angelique at our Sourdough for beginners workshop which is suited for keen novices as well as those with some baking experience.
What makes sourdough unique from other artisan breads is the sourdough starter in its recipe. This starter is special as it doesn’t use any commercial yeast. Instead, you grow your own wild yeast culture out of flour combined with water. This batter is left to sit at room temperature to let wild yeast and helpful bacteria thrive. This culture is fed with a new batch of batter over the next few days until it becomes ripe, very bubbly, and ready for baking.
The distinct tangy taste that we all love in sourdough is not from the wild yeast though. Good bacteria lactobacillus and acetobacillus that grow in the culture feed on the sugar present in the batter. In turn, they release lactic and acetic acids, which makes the bread sour—a bit too technical, but the science and art behind sourdough baking make it all the more fulfilling.
The fermentation involved is said to make sourdough a gut friendly bread option. Proteins and gluten present in sourdough are broken down by acids, resulting in a lower blood sugar reaction. With all its benefits in taste and nutrition, sourdough bread is indeed worth doing at home.
To help you out, here are a few helpful and funny tips from sourdough lover and baker, Angelique Crystal:
- Don’t be afraid, it can sense your fear.
- Get hold of an established starter for better results.
- Wooden or silicone utensils and glass bowls are best—don’t use metal.
- Use local organic flour with at least 10% protein and filtered water.
- Make sure your starter is in top form before baking—feed twice and do a “float test” if in doubt.
- Start with a low hydration recipe to get the hang of things and measure everything with a digital scale.
- Stick with the same recipe and the same flour until you get consistently good results.
- Watch the dough not the clock; timings are temperature dependent and patience is a virtue.
- For best results, bake cold dough in a very hot oven and cover for the first 20 minutes to trap steam.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a great loaf; flops make the best breadcrumbs.
Incorporate Angelique’s tips the next time you try baking sourdough. And if you are looking for even more helpful techniques, Daragh Grier from Wild Bakery shared his very own sourdough recipe in this article.
Perth-based Angelique Crystal is a bread artisan who uses her 100-year-old SanFran gold rush starter to make sourdough in all shapes and sizes. Check out her fabulous work and scoring techniques on Instagram (@sourdough_breadsmith).