Bread is the love child of art and science. Baking the perfect loaf isn’t a cakewalk at all, especially when it comes to the elegant and simply classic European bread. The European techniques of bread making are highly treasured even today. And when it comes to bread-making techniques, sourdough is considered the crown jewel. Some of the most cherished loaves of bread hailing from Europe are based on this technique and are now slowly, yet surely, invading many Indian hearts.
Baking a European bread based on sourdough technique might sound intimidating at first. However, if you get the starter right, you’re halfway through. Getting the starter right is a bit tricky though. But we’ve got you covered. As the master of sourdough, Chef Aditi has a few tips and tricks to help all the beginners out there. This blog covers all the essential tips to get your sourdough culture right.
Find the right variety of flour
Trial and error is the way to go. Finding the perfect recipe as per all the environmental conditions at your place may take a while. Hit and trail is the way to go. For beginners, it would be easier to find the right variety of flour that works for local bakers. Take some time to talk to all the good bakers in your area and find out the type of flour they prefer using. Ask questions about what makes that particular variety suitable. It would be a tad bit easier to take this route than to spend a lot of time and energy figuring this out on your own.
Maintaining the right temperature
The colder the place, the longer it will take for the starter to grow and become active or bubble. A warm place at 25°C – 28°C is perfect for the culture to create the magic. The best tip is to invest in a cooking thermometer to maintain the right temperature of the starter. Along with temperature, humidity is crucial too. Ideally, it should range from 60-80%. This combination is when yeast is the most active.
Look out for the type of water
Filtered or water bottles are the best options. The issue with tap water is that chlorine in the tap water can inhibit the bacteria in the starter to act. In case there are no other options, you can keep the water in an open container overnight. This allows most of the chlorine to evaporate and the quality of the water improves.
This is the term for the ratio of water to flour on a weight basis. For a good starter, there is 100% hydration most of the time. This ratio is the key to get a perfect starter. However, different recipes call for different hydration ratios. This is because the hydration ratio and consistency of the starter impact the final product as well.
Storing and feeding the starter
In case you prefer to keep the starter in the fridge, you don’t need to feed it much. Once a week is just fine. But in case you’re keeping your starter at room temperature, you’ll need to feed it twice a day. This is because fermentation is slowed down in the cold but picks up the pace when temperatures rise. Organic whole grain wheat and rye and spelt flour are the most preferred to feed the sourdough culture.
When it comes to baking the perfect sourdough, getting the starter right is crucial. Also called mother dough or pre-ferment, the starter acts as a replacement for the yeast. The starter is, in fact, alive. This is the reason why you need to feed it with carbohydrates so that the wild yeast keeps on working on the fermentation process.