Executive Chef, Will Eaglesfield takes us through the process of creating and nurturing sourdough starter and how he creates our wonderful Eichardt’s Baguettes that you might recognize accompanying a bowl of our Legendary Seafood Chowder!
Sourdough is my favourite kind of bread. It has more flavour and I find it more fun to make than with regular dried yeast. Admittedly, it takes more than twice as long for the dough to rise but that just means you can do more other stuff in the meantime.
The term “sourdough” means bread that is risen by a live yeast culture, called a “starter.” This is an unappealing bubbling sloppy blob that requires regular feeding to keep it alive, but provides that great sour depth of flavour that is the hallmark of sourdough. Made entirely of flour and water, the yeast for a starter can come from many different sources (such as apple peel or wine) but I like to use the wild yeast from the air all around us. It’s as locally sourced as possible!
Making a wild yeast starter takes 3 days but is super easy. I did this on the Eichardt’s Hotel balcony in my first week as Head Chef there. The starter that was born then, called Sanchez, is now 7 years old! He’s currently on vacation at my house, playing around with hot cross buns and doughnuts, but he’ll be back to making the Eichardt’s baguettes after the lockdown.
How to make a wild yeast starter:
- Mix 120g flour and 120g water into a paste
- Cover with a teatowel and leave for 2 days on a shelf or somewhere out of the way
- Remove the teatowel to reveal the flour blob, now slightly swollen and with a crust
- Peel off the crust with a spoon or utensil and discard
- It’s alive! The bubbles are from the yeast eating that delicious watery flour and producing carbon dioxide. This is how bread rises.
Before you can use it you will need to give it a feed.
- Mix 100g flour and 100g water into a 200g paste
- Add 200g of starter and mix together
- Leave out for 3 hours or until doubled in size
- Cover with clingfilm and chill. You now have a sourdough starter!
Sourdough Loaf Recipe:
- 500g flour
- 15g salt
- 200g sourdough starter
- 300g water
- Knead ingredients together until smooth and elastic (~5 mins in mixer at medium speed or 10 mins by hand)
- Cover and let rise until almost doubled in size (about 3 hours)
- Chill overnight
- The next morning knock dough back and shape as desired
- Leave to double in size (about 2 hours)
- Bake at 220c for 25 mins
- Lower oven to 200c and bake until sounds hollow when tapped (another 20 mins for a loaf, less for rolls)
- The main thing with sourdough is leaving it to rise for long enough – it will do nothing for the first hour.
Tips for your Sourdough Starter:
- Feed it every 2-3 days
- Feed by combining equal weights of starter and flour paste (flour paste being equal weights of flour and water)
- Your starter should be twice as big as the quantity you need for baking; if you use 200g of starter in your recipe each time, your starter should be 400g. This way after baking you will have 200g leftover starter to feed to roll over to the next time.
- A plastic tub with a lid to fit is handy for keeping your starter in
There you have it. Handcrafted sourdough starter and fresh (and locally sourced) sourdough loaf. Enjoy!