Homemade seeded sourdough bread

Fermented Foods

My Journey Down the Bubbly Road

It started with a drive to economise. No, that’s not quite true; it was a serendipitous combination of events. To be honest it started upon our return from countries around the Mediterranean some years ago and our dissatisfaction with the available breads here in Perth, Western Australia. While some of the ‘artisan’ bakehouse breads were of better quality, but outrageously priced, they still didn’t match up to their European equivalent. The ingredients were also a puzzlement – the inclusion of additives that, for a commercial product that is removed off the shelf after one day, seemed quite unnecessary. As were the extractions from the grain itself, some only to be added back as if this were something to be proud of.

Sourdough bread- homemade fermentation

Anyway, my journey started with bread. The first experiment was making Rewena Bread (Rēwena parāoa); a traditional New Zealand Māori sourdough bread made from a potato starter. From there I progressed to a new starter made from Spelt wheat (sourdough, still). From this, hundreds of sourdough loaves and pizzas have been baked in our old gas-fired barbecue. This same starter also makes an excellent base for pancakes, deep fried dough balls, and even batter. When we go away for long periods it is dried off. When we return it is restarted by the simple addition of flour and water. Wholemeal flour (as freshly ground as can be sourced) is now my preferred flour to feed the starter.

Sourdough breadmaking at home

Moving on apace, sourdough’s fermentation process and the digestive benefits of sourdough bread has led to more investigation into a whole raft of fermented products:

Yoghurt – the starter made from chillies from our garden and using non-homogenised milk
Kombucha – from a scoby given to us from a friend
Red Wine Vinegar – from a ‘mother’ in a bottle of commercial RWV plus a bit of home-made kombucha added
Hard Cheese – incorporating home-made yoghurt
Cultured Butter – made from churning the cream topping from a cream-added yoghurt trial – a great success
Cultured Butter Milk – still working on this one 🙂
Olives – harvested from local trees, then prepared for preservation in salted brine

I use the excess whey from my yoghurt, butter and cheese-making in stocks and soups, or for watering our vegetable garden.

home-made-labne-straining-yoghurt

It probably needs saying, that a thermometer has never been used; even our old barbeque only has a ‘hot’ to ‘very hot’ needle gauge. Over time, through trial and error, I have learned to use my fingers, eyes, nose and ears (tapping the loaves) to succeed. A digital scale, though, has been very handy.

But behind all this is a firm belief, backed by historic research, that fermented products aid digestion, allowing the body to better absorb, and thereby benefit from, the key nutritional ingredients. There are, of course, many more traditional fermented products historically made and used all over the world, but my journey thus far, while not finished by any means, is keeping me plenty occupied.

And that classic fermented product, alcoholic beverage? I’ll leave that to my husband who currently is happy enough to leave its manufacture to the experts.

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Home Food Experiments

Bread

The wholemeal spelt-flour sour-dough starter continues to thrive – it is a very-much-alive and hungry beast:

Raw Spelt Loaf

In between loaves of bread and to fully utilise this thriving ferment I have been making delicious light crepes and pancakes (adding milk or water, an egg, some baking powder and baking soda and rice bran oil):

Spelt Pancakes

Rolling it out to make a pizza base or making beer battered onion rings has been a satisfactory use too:

Spelt Pizza Base
Spelt Beer Battered Onion Rings

It is such a rewarding pastime – some made with organic white flour and oatmeal using the same starter; the loaves often come out of the bake in interesting, artistic forms:

The latest (and current favourite) has been some spiced, sour-dough fruit loaves using wholemeal spelt flour with the addition of mixed dried fruit. Stepping up production in the barbeque oven – an oatmeal white sour-dough loaf and a spiced fruit sour-dough loaf.

Spelt Round Loaf cooked in barbeque
 
Have there been failures?

Well, yes. My sourdough croissants were very unhappy. In fact, they were so miserable I had to throw them out. There’s still hope for some future success though – well, where would we be without hope? And our barbeque, being quite ancient, is not as precise as an electric oven and there has been one black-bottomed loaf. Fortunately my man likes ‘em dark-skinned and his bread crusty, so it wasn’t a total waste 🙂

Spelt Croissants - failed recipe
 

Yoghurt

The yoghurt starter which I made from chillies over a year ago is still providing good, tangy and firm yoghurt, and from this I often make a regular supply of Labne. I use the whey produced from this process in soups and stews as a substitute stock, and sometimes I drink it too. There are many wheys to enjoy it…!

The Back-yard Garden

Meanwhile, my small no-dig, layered garden bed is proving to be maintenance–free, providing abundant (and huge) chard, silver beet and kale leaves. I’ve found that by pureeing the leaves I can make an excellent sauce, while small chunks of the stalks make a delicious fry-up with onion, garlic, and kikoman soya sauce. My small herb garden is struggling due to slugs, but is starting to win over them. Our cherry tomatoes and chillies are on the go again. They seem to thrive as long as they are watered regularly.

Home-made no dig garden

Pureed spinach & mushrooms with tortilla

I’m composting our vegetable scraps in two standard rubbish bins (with a little effort now and again to turn the contents). All in all it’s a healthy little back yard – now covered with a shade canopy in anticipation of Western Australia’s extreme summer heat.

Composting at home

I guess it’s just good to know (as many have experienced before us) that by growing and making much of your own food from scratch you are in control of your diet, and consequently your health. It’s a good feeling.