Person making Sour Dough

The first leavened breads were all sour doughs right up until the industrial revolution, and sour doughs are distinctly different from today's breads. The controlled use of Bakers yeast to the exclusion of all other yeasts has created a uniform flavour base. The desire for easy rising has sacrificed complexity of flavour and perhaps also contributed to the prevalence of yeast intolerance. Making bread the traditional sour dough way invites a collection of wild yeasts and natural bacteria to leaven and flavour your loaves.

To get started you will need 2kg organic rye flour, you can use wholemeal but it must contain no leavening agents, a large wide-mouthed bowl left unsealed, and a spoon. Mix one cup plain flour with slightly less than one cup warm water in the jar, stirring vigorously at least twice a day for 2-3 days. Store the jar in warm 30C location and check for bubbles which will appear as it begins to ferment. At this time remove 90% of the mixture then feed the culture with another cup of plain flour and slightly less warm water, stirring well. You may need to repeat this process of feeding the culture at 12-hour intervals for a few more days until you have a culture powerful enough to leaven your loaves. The confirmation of this is a layer of foam 3-4cm thick.

You now have an activating culture ready to move to the first proofing stage, or you may wish to refrigerate the culture (never freeze it) for a more convenient time. The culture will happily live in the fridge for many months if it is adequately looked after. You will need to reactivate a refrigerated culture by feeding it the usual cup of flour and warm water, stirring well and placing the culture in a warm spot for between 6-12 hours or until the foam reappears.

For the first proof remove the bubbling culture from its jar and scoop into a large mixing bowl, large enough for the dough to at least double its size.
Then add 2 cups warm water and 3 cups plain flour, slowly adding the flour and stirring well (don't be too concerned with lumps as the wild yeasts will eat these up). Cover the bowl with a dry cloth or cling wrap and place in a warm location 32C for up to 12 hours. This is the time when the lacto-bacilli necessary for the special sour dough taste develop, and the carbon dioxide that leavens the loaf is produced. You can experiment with the amount of time taken in first proofing and the related flavour of the bread.

After the first proof is completed remember to remove one cup of the culture and refrigerate it so you will always have an activating culture on hand. Now you are ready to add whatever flours, seeds, nuts, fruit, vegies, fats, oils, herbs and spices you wish to include in your bread. A good tip is to warm any liquids you will be using in your recipe, as it helps leaven the resulting dough.