Sourdough is perhaps the easiest recipe in the world to follow. The only challenging part is waiting for the bread to finish forming while the aromas get stronger and stronger—but it’s worth the wait.
Since sourdough is primarily flour, let’s take a closer look at wheat and its aroma. Cereals have a grainy flavour that is a combination of green, woody / phenolic, and oat flakes notes. The oat flakes notes generally disappear during milling. During this process, more green fatty and cucumber notes appear. A sweetness with a maple-like flavour and fruitiness with creamy coconut scents from lactones can be detected. Acids bring cheesy and acidic, vegetables aromas with a potato hue. A very high concentration of vanilla is noticeable.
There are some notable differences between fine and whole wheat flour. They share the same molecules, but in differing amounts, namely the less processed whole wheat flour contains higher concentrations of each aroma. For example, vanilla and cucumber volatiles are twice as prevalent, and fatty/fried notes even five times more. During fermentation, new molecules appear, bringing a floral rose and honey aftertaste. Extra fruity scents appear, but creamy coconut notes decrease. Additional roasted malt aromas comes out. Vanilla lowers, but new spicy notes, such as clove and anise, are created.
How to prepare your own sourdough?
Simply mix flour (125 g) and lukewarm water (125 g) in a big glass jar, then stir well to incorporate air. The more water you add, the more acid there will be. Cover the mixture with a breathable cloth and leave it at ambient temperature (21-28ºC). The next activity is ‘feeding’ your ‘puppy’ every 12-24 hours (shorter times in-between feedings accelerates the process): by adding the same amount (125g) flour and lukewarm water, mix, and leave it again. After a few days (about 7), your sourdough will be ready – some bubbles will be present that indicate fermentation. Now, you can use it to prepare a bread.
The storage of the sourdough depends on the frequency with which you use it. For professional bakers who bake fresh bread every day, storage at room temperature is the most suitable way. It is immediately ready for use at any time, but it must be fed twice a day. When you want to make bread, just some sourdough and add flour and water. If you prepare your own bread only occasionally, put the sourdough in the fridge. At a lower temperature, feeding is necessary only once a week. However, before using it, you have to wake it up. Take it out of the fridge, add the same mass of flour and warm water. Stir it well, cover with a cloth and wait 8 to 24 hours.
A warmer temperature produces a sweeter sourdough, but a cooler place results in a more tangy dough. After kneading, place part of the bread back in the fridge as a sourdough starter for the next baking For irregular bakers, sourdough can also be stored in the fridge. When you’re ready for fresh bread, just bring it out the day before you want to eat it, defrost, and feed as usual. Then it is ready to use.
If you want more information on sourdough. Check the sourdough wiki on the quest for sourdough
How to use wheat sourdough
It may be frustrating that you have to discard a portion of the sourdough every single feeding, but it is impossible to skip this step. It is still active and builds very quickly, so it needs a lot of food – flour. However, you can give the discarded portion to your friend or use in different recipes. Sourdough will enrich regular pancakes, waffles, muffins, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and crackers, offering a rich, complex flavour. Other uses include crumpets, tortillas, pizzas, fritters, or even pasta. Don’t forget that sourdough is mainly used in baking delicious bread (we will write more about making bread in another post).
However, you can alter the flavor of a basic loaf by adding herbs, such as parsley, lemon balm, borage, shiso, burnet or spices, like isot, ginger or cardamom. Vegetable puree will also go well, especially from potato, vine tomato, pumpkin, kale or eggplant. You can add some cheese: Gruyère, Ragusano, Gorgonzola, Emmental, Cheddar or Nazareth Classic. Water from the recipe might be replaced by tea (Darjeeling, Sencha, black or Longjing), juice (orange, guava, mango, pomegranate), beer, wine (Cava, Moscato, Vermouth, Chablis) or liqueur (Limoncello, St. Germain, Amaretto, Curaçao).
There are some traditional dishes in Polish cuisine that use sourdough creatively, especially soups like ‘Barszcz biały’ or ‘Żur’. Both of them are based on sourdough (the first one uses wheat, the latter rye) and stock from smoked sausage and bacon, served with white sausage, boiled egg, bread, lots of horseradish, and marjoram.