Friday, 15 January 2021

my easy, no-fuss sourdough recipe (with a 'dry' starter)

hey all. so, today i'm bringing to you all the tips i've learnt about making and keeping a dry sourdough starter, as well as my foolproof recipe for a loaf. why? because this blog is a great personal journal for me, so i want to store this recipe somewhere safe i can always find it. and as we kick off 2021, in another lockdown, i know at least some of you will be starting or wanting to improve on your attempts at sourdough last year.

so let me start by saying that this method is the only one that's ever worked for me - i love a "dry" starter because it needs very minimal maintenance, and you keep it in the fridge. you simply have to remember the night before you want a loaf to make your levain, and then you'll have a loaf within 24 hrs.

about a decade ago i tried my first attempt at making sourdough, and it was an utter fail, nothing happened when i mixed the water and the flour. nothing. then i tried a couple of years later and this time, initially something happened, but then it seemed to die, and it smelt funny. 

turns out, years later, now homemade sourdough is much more popular, and the resources explain things more, that using tap water was a complete no-no. and that's why it basically killed my attempts each time i tried. now i use as fresh flour as i can, and ALWAYS bottled spring water. also, i store it in glass, that's pretty important too.

this time, i followed The Elliott Homestead recipe for making a starter, only instead of the einkorn that she uses i used what i had on hand, which was just all-purpose wheat flour. i love her video that shows all the different stages, it's brilliant, and simple. and it WORKS. (i do love the Elliott Homestead - such trustworthy recipes). i use the exact ratios she does for creating and maintaining it, except i don't use einkorn - and therefore i use a different recipe for the actual loaf.

so here's my starter, straight from the fridge, there's about enough left there for one more loaf and to refresh the starter...

so, step one, turn the dry starter into a wet one (or a "levain"). in the evening, simply take a 30g chunk of starter and pop it in a glass bowl. add in 130g bottled spring water, at room temperature, combine with a fork until smooth. then add 120g all-purpose organic flour. combine with a fork until smooth. cover and leave overnight. then in the morning it should look like this...

at this point you have a regular sourdough starter which you can make into bagels, pancakes, cookies, cake, or just a regular daily bread...

the following recipe has gone through lots of trial and error and is perfect for the loaf i love. it comes easily out the banneton and has great structure and flavour. you can see my hand-scrawled notes, lol. it's a very well-used recipe.

in the morning, add 315g bottled spring water, at room temperature, mix with a fork until smooth. then add 430g organic white bread flour and 100g organic wholegrain rye flour. (you can use just 530g of bread flour, it doesn't even need to be organic, but i love the flavour i get from this combo). mix until no flour is visible. like this...

then autolyze - leave it for 40 minutes at room temperature, covered. i use either a plastic shower cap or a beeswax wrap.

once the timer is up, mix 8g salt and 20g water in a jar and pour that over the top of the dough. squeeze/squelch it in with your (super clean) hands. i always like the feel of this bit, and my son likes to help too.

now, leave it covered for 2 hours. you don't see a dramatic rise with this dough, like you would with dry yeast, but it will rise a little.

after the time is up, it's time for your first stretch and fold. simply google 'stretch and fold' if you're not sure what to do. i use a simple plastic dough scraper i got from amazon for this, and it's perfect. basically you take one part of the edge of the dough, lift it up and pull it over the top of the dough, and then go all around the edge of the bowl til you're done. i do it about 5-8 times each time. this activates the gluten, and it will help with even formation of the "bubbles" in the resulting loaf. so if your dough is too sticky, or the holes are uneven, chances are you need more stretch and folds.

i do stretch and folds 3 times in total. once after the 2 hour rest, then rest for 40 minutes covered, then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes and then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes. 

in the below photo you can see how the dough is less watery looking and starting to come together into a workable dough.

then, tip the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. using your dough scraper or clean hands, shape the dough. 

how you do this will depend on what tools you have available, as well as which shape you'd like your dough. i let my dough rise in an oval banneton, and then bake it in a dutch oven, i find this works well for me. but i used to simply round the dough and let it rise in the same glass bowl, lined with a floured tea towel, then i used to bake it straight on a baking tray. it worked beautifully. the only tip i have for you if you're doing it not in dutch oven is to throw some ice cubes in the base of your oven to create some steam as it cooks.

i do find i get a slightly better rise in my conventional oven with a cast iron pot with a lid, but it's honestly marginal. i got a red ProCook one for my birthday and i really enjoy using it (all the links to my favourite bits are at the end of this blog post). it's also a great place to store the bread after it's cooled.

so, back to the shaping. for my oval banneton, i spread the dough out to a large rectangle, you can be pretty tough with the dough at this stage. it will have lots of spring. then start rolling and pressing it down and then tucking the edges in. it's probably easier to watch a YouTube tutorial on this!

from here, leave it to rise in the banneton or bowl for 2 and a half hours. this usually takes me until about late afternoon. from here you can either bake it straight away, or you can pop it in the fridge until you're ready to bake. sometimes mine stays in for an hour, sometimes 24 hrs. it can help it form a stronger crust.

once you're ready to bake, turn the oven onto the hottest setting you've got, and place your dutch oven in too, with the lid. 

after 30 minutes of heating, turn your banneton or bowl upside down onto some baking paper. gently. then score it as deeply as you dare, i don't have a lame but i use a serrate steak knife that seems to glide through the bread well without tugging it. you can score it however you like.

then take out your pot and place it straight into the hot oven, with the lid on, for 25 minutes. after the time, take the lid off, and lower the temp to 220c and leave to cook for another 15 minutes.

leave it to cool for as long as you can be patient for or until completely cooled, as that makes it easier to slice nice and evenly.

links to the bits and bobs i love:
glass pot for storing dry starter - they're from ikea, and they're the perfect size 
plastic dough scraper - UK / US
pyrex bowl - UK / US
oval banneton - UK / US
banneton linen liner - UK / US
ProCook cast iron pot with lid - UK / US

so, there you have it. i hope you're all well! i hope this helps you in your journey with sourdough.

and here is the printable recipe... click to be taken to the Google Doc.

Monday, 16 November 2020

a little 'hi, hello, how you doin?'

 hi, hello, how you doin? it's been a while.

as many of you know, i've taken my leave of Instagram and FaceBook, so this space here is where i'll do most of my chatting, although it's been a couple months since i was here either, and longer since i was on YouTube. but, today i just wanted to pop on here and say, 'don't worry, all is well'. and also 'i miss you'.

in my last post here i hinted at the deep thinking that the pandemic has started in me. a sort of dangerous level of self-reflection, that i'm trying to spin around and focus outwardly. are you finding the same?

anyhow, i just wanted to share a little bit of something amazing i was part of recently, in fact it went live at the weekend, and i know some of you will have seen it already. i did the voice for a piece my mum wrote called 'The Journey' - it's a retelling of the story of The Prodigal Son, reimagined with a daughter. i cry every time i listen to it, and indeed as i was recording it also, because it captures so beautifully the love the Father has for us, and i think we all need to remember that comforting feeling of our Father's embrace on a regular basis at the moment.

so, if you want to watch it here it is...

so, that's all for today. i just wanted to make sure you all got the opportunity to see it, hear it and share it. i know there are a lot of people who need to hear this at the moment, and i would encourage you to share this on your social platforms, and in conversation with friends also. and leave my mum an encouraging comment if you get a moment, because social media with comments is just not very social at all really is it?!

anyhow, i miss you, i'm thinking of you, and i'm praying you have a beautiful day x

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

let's do this imperfectly, and let's do it together

right, ok, today is another long post where i talk all about deep important things... today i want to talk about being environmentally conscious, because it's Plastic Free July next month, and so it seems as good a time as any to talk about where we stand as a family.

there's so many people speaking loudly for the environment right now, from vegan activism, to the zero waste movement. i don't consider myself to have any sort of 'label', but i do believe that we all need to be MORE CONSCIOUS of the things we are consuming and the impact they are having on the earth. 

but the thing is once i started to switch on my awareness, and stopped mindlessly consuming things, i got overwhelmed really quickly. because there is a LOT to take in, and there's so many decisions to make...

so, before i get going, have you read my last blog post? i wrote in it about 'where do we go from here?' - i talked about how i address overwhelm, and simple steps we can take to move out of overwhelm and start to feel productive. one of the things on my mind and in my heart when i wrote that was addressing environmental concerns, because really when any one of us starts to think about it, it can feel like a LOT. it can end up being a weight, and it can move us into feeling like no small thing we do will matter, so that leads us to choosing to do nothing because we can't do everything. 

but, there's this quote that i love, which is:

"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." 
Anne Marie Bonneau

this is supremely true! let's hold on to this. that's why i titled this post 'let's do this imperfectly', because we simple need some level of action, just to DO something. 

the whole idea of 'plastic free july' is meant to make us think, because really if we stop and think about plastic we will realise there's some pretty useful plastic things out there, like cars, computers, car seats - the whole invention of plastic has helped us actually use less fuel by making things lighter. i guess though, we got a little carried away somewhere by making everything out of plastic... and now we have to circle back round and work out what single-use plastics we don't need, and making sure we use plastic efficiently without waste.

there's so much complexity when we talk about the environment, because in the production of any singular item there are so many parts to think of. so a couple of months ago i needed to buy new underwear, so instead of going to my regular multipack at M&S straight away, i decided to look for a more environmentally conscious option. this lead me down a crazy rabbit hole thinking about all sorts of aspects of my undies. and you could apply this to ANY product you chose to purchase...
- do i really need it?
- what material is it made of?
- where is the material sourced, and is it organic or sustainable?
- who made the material?
- what are the factory conditions like for workers, and are they fairly paid?
- what factory production techniques are used? what sort of energy do they use?
- what packaging is used? how is it shipped?
- can the item be used for many years to come, will it last?

most companies are being open about lots of the answers to these questions, but some are still a little shady about things and there's tons of 'greenwashing'. so make sure to do some good research yourself, and know that there are lots of people who've already done some of the research for you, so check out zero waste and sustainable bloggers and vloggers for good info. they are held to a high standard, so have usually done lots of research.

where do we stand?

so our family is a one step at a time kind of family. we aren't really a jump in at the deep end kind of people, and that's OK! however, because we are a step by step sort of family, it's harder sometimes to see the progress we've made. so, i'm going to list a few things here that have been habit shifts for us. and i guess that some of you have done these too, because most of these are really easy switches:

1. we use metal straws.
2. we use keepcups and stainless steel water bottles (Contigo and Chilly's are our dishwasher-safe favourites).
3. we compost.
4. we use reusable glass containers for those tiny bits of meals that get leftover, and we have a leftovers meal when there's too many.
5. we use cloth nappies most of the time, and eco-disposables the rest.
6. i source the majority of my wardrobe from charity shops. we use hand-me-downs or thrifted clothes for the kids.
7. we use reusable beeswax wrap to cover bowls and cans.
8. we grow flowers for our dinner table (and for our pollinators!), we grow a little food. it's more about teaching our kids about growing than it as about being productive right now.
9. we forage in our local area - blackberries, elderberries, nettles.
10. we mend.
11. we have a run-to-failure strategy on most things in our home. that means we don't purchase new unless necessary, and then we seek to buy good quality replacements that will similarly last. this goes for washing machines, makeup, furniture, tech stuff, etc.
12. we support small businesses and local businesses. 
13. we use cloth napkins and reusable shopping bags.
14. we meal plan (some of the time).
15. we collect rainwater.
16. we re-sole our shoes when we can.
17. we line dry our clothes.

there are so many more switches i know we could make. but i feel like we have already made so much progress! let's celebrate those changes. i challenge you to write your own list! and please share these with me...

here are a few of the things on my mind to switch over / try this month:

- one of the things i really want to do is to start improving the recycling in my local area, so i've also signed a petition on to make my voice heard in my area. i'm going to keep checking on progress on this, and fight for better/easier recycling options. our local council is one of the worst, and there are so many more things we could do.

- loose leaf tea and homemade brews - this should be a really easy switch, but might take a while to get the full range of types i like.

- try a click and collect for bulk items from my local zero waste store - i've just never tried it, so i don't know how easy/complicated it could be. i have visited it and left simply with a paper bag full of vegan chocolate buttons. 

- get a shop of local veg from my local farm shop - this is so easy and satisying in the summer, because the range is larger and cheaper when they get a glut of produce.

- be more conscious of the plastic in products and in packaging in my makeup, haircare and skincare - i'm usually pretty good at this, but i think my haircare needs some adjustment (i may have gotten a little carried away with getting perfect curls and forgot the ingredients list a few times, as well as the packaging)

did you know? 
one way you can be sure that your skincare doesn't have planet-harming plastics in it is to look for the Natrue symbol - this little face that you'll find on all types of brands, one of my faves being Weleda. it's really important that any product you're putting down the sink especially isn't contaminating the water system with microplastics. you can also look for the Zero Plastic Inside symbol on the websites of cosmetics companies.

really helpful resources:
-  - this website is absolute gold when you want to buy a new toaster, or a new frying pan, or a kettle... because they showcase products that are made to last a really long time, a lifetime in some cases. it's where we decided on our toaster, because it's a Dualit with a long guarantee which can also be easily mended, so it should last forever and save money in the long term.
- plants for pollinators - if you're going to start a garden you'll want to make sure to keep your pollinators happy
- fave instagrams for styling thrift clothes: bjonesstyle, skirtlocker, igotitfromthecharityshop, taylormadestyle, tinyacorn - please let me know your favourites in the comments!
- be inspired to do more! i love these YouTube videos - the Carter family, Artist as Family, Zero Waste is not the Only Option
- good on you - get a sustainability rating for your favourite brands - fab way to work out that M&S is a reasonable place to purchase your undies, if you don't mind not completely knowing where they sources their cotton, etc.

i hope you enjoy this as part of the conversation for Plastic Free July, and please do head on over to my YouTube channel to take part in my Weleda giveaway ;)