Sunday, 12 June 2011

Minervois Sourdough Bread.

Anyone that has tried their hand at making bread, whether it be from a natural yeast starter or bought yeast, will no the complete enthralling and compelling obsession  that it becomes.  The quest to produce the perfect loaf becomes all consuming. 

I started my first sourdough starter in my Mothers airing cupboard and after  feeding and nurturing it for over a week it eventually turned into the BLOB, growing and consuming all its path.  Namely forgotten knickers and odd socks abandoned on the copper pipes in the airing cupboard, until in the end it had to be punched into a black plastic sack and thrown out in the rubbish.  Who knows it could be living at the local tip to this day, devouring all in its path! 

My second attempt was in the Languedoc in France and this time I used Minervois red grapes at the time of the harvest in September and organic, stone ground rye flour from the neighbouring Black Mountains.  This time it was a success and I am still using it to date.  It will be 4 years old this coming September.  We've had are ups and downs but it has always bounced back.  It is like a pet that I always have to think about.  It normally comes on holiday with us as we have a camper van and I just put it in the fridge and feed it as normal.  Sorry, I am not explaining  this very well, once you have started a natural yeast starter it always has to be fed with fresh flour, usually on a weekly basis, but depending on how often you use it.  I could go into pages of explanation but you just have to get to know your starter and learn what it will tolerate or not in order to survive.

This is how I started mine.


a plastic bucket
piece of muslin
organic rye flour
1 bunch organic red grapes
spring water
1 kilo glass jar with plastic lid
rubber spatula (I never use metal to mix my Mother Culture)

How to go about it

Put grapes in muslin and tie up with the string
Put 500g flour and enough water in the bucket to make a thick paste and squeeze grapes into the flour and water mixture.  Leave grapes in the mixture, cover with a clean, dry tea towel.

Let it ferment at room temperature for a couple of days.  It should start to smell beery, which is what beer is - liquid bread!  The colour will be pinky grey.  Yuk but this it how it should look.  Leave it another day and then add another cup of flour and some water and squeeze grapes a bit more.  Cover and let it ferment again for 2 days.  Then throw a couple of cups away and add some more flour and mix to same consistency as before, cover and leave again for two days.  Repeat twice more throwing away and adding.  Right now it should start to take strength.  Fill a kilo jar up to 3/4 with starter and make a small hole in the lid and store in fridge.  This is now your pet and it has to breath and eat.  Every time you use it,  throw away a good half of the jar, top up with flour and water and mix and return to fridge.  If you are not going to use it for while that is okay it will go to sleep as such but you will have to bring it back up to strength by throwing away and topping up until it recovers its strength.  It is best to make bread with it two days after it has been fed.

So, now you want to make some bread.
Firstly, make sure that your Mother culture is fed and ready for action.

Day 1  Hour 1700

Sponge mixture


125g  wholemeal flour
125g strong bread flour
250dl room temperature water, the amount will depend on the dryness of your flour.
about a tangerine size amount of Mother culture

How to go about it

Put the two flours in a bowl and put in starter.  Mix in water with spatula until it is like a thick paste, cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.  It should be quite bubbly.
Don't forget to feed Mother Culture, throw a bit away if needed.  I changed my flour for feeding my culture from rye to wholemeal, this was a question of what was available and price.  It is not a problem to feed it with rye or wholemeal it will adapt but the most important thing is that it is fed and watered.

Day 2  Hour 1700


1250g strong bread flour
3 teaspoons of salt
3 teaspoons of sugar or honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
400g of the sponge mixture
About 300dl tepid water

How to go about it

Mix all ingredients together and knead for 15 minutes.  It can be made in a food mixer but you might have to make it in two lots.  The water content will depend on your flour but the wetter the dough the better.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and turn over so it is covered in oil.  Put cling film on top of the dough and leaver out for 1 hour and then put in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 Hour 0900

Take dough out of the fridge and let sit for an hour.  Take out of the bowl and split in two, lightly shape into two round loaves.  Dust with flour and place each loaf on an floured baking tray, cover each loaf with a clean tea towel and let prove for 4 hours. 

Preheat the oven 40 minutes before to 225°c.  Cook each loaf one at a time and slash just before it is put into the oven and spray with water.  Bake for 35 minutes.

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