A few months ago I started my own rye sourdough starter. It’s not as difficult as you think. It’s just a combination of flour (dark rye for me) and water that you mix together. This mixture is then ‘fed’ on a daily basis with more flour and water until bubbles start to form. Some starter recipes suggest adding yeast but the whole point of sourdough is that yeast isn’t included, instead the fermentation from the bacteria helps the bread rise and gives the bread its distinctive sour taste. Whilst I’m feeding mine (in preparation for using it) I leave it on the side in a container with a tea towel over the top. When I’m not going to be using it regularly I put a lid on the container and place it in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation and reduces the activity of the bacteria. When I know I want to use it, I remove from the fridge, take off the lid, cover with a tea towel and allow to come to room temperature. I then repeat the feeding process until it starts to bubble/look frothy. Since running out of rye flour I have been using strong white flour. This hasn’t affected the starter and it still has a slight rye flavour to it.
I’ve been using King Arthur Flour and Hobbs House Bakery for guidance on how to make a starter and also for recipe ideas. I’m not an expert on sourdough so if you are wanting to start your own starter, please look at these websites.
My first bake using my starter was a rye sourdough loaf. I would give the bake a 5 out of 10. The flavour was there but the texture was a bit dense. Sourdough takes longer to kneed and I made it all by hand. The recipe said to kneed the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. I was kneading it for 30 minutes and felt I wasn’t going anywhere. I eventually stopped and continued with the recipe but it was wetter than I was expecting. Next time I will use a dough hook and see if that helps. Sourdough has longer proving times (up to 5 hours for first proving and 12 hours for second proving) which improves the distinctive flavour. I’ve also attempted making sourdough pancakes where the sourdough starter is incorporated into the pancake recipe. Again, these had the distinctive sourdough flavour and the earthiness of the rye flour. The texture was also similar to that of my usual pancakes. If you want to give these a go, the recipe I used is here. I included the addition of some chopped chocolate truffles. I added these to the top of the pancakes before I flipped them over in the pan. I served with blueberries and almond slivers as a birthday breakfast for Mr W.
Yesterday morning I decided to give sourdough crumpets a try. I was surprised at how few ingredients you actually need to make them. Although crumpet rings are not a necessary piece of equipment (apparently small food cans with both ends taken off work just as well) they do make life easier. I’ve also used them when making pancakes and poaching eggs (multipurpose utensil). I found the recipe on the Hobbs Bakery website (link above) when trying to find different uses for my starter so that it is not sat in the fridge for months on end.
Sourdough Crumpets (makes 4)
- 270g sourdough starter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
- Mix your sourdough starter, salt and honey together in a bowl and leave to stand. The starter will slowly start to bubble (I left mine for 20 minutes and some small bubbles had appeared).
- Grease a frying pan and your crumpet rings. Place the frying pan on a medium heat and put the crumpet rings in the pan.
- Add the bicorbanate soda to your sourdough starter mix. This will cause the starter to bubble.
- Once the frying and crumpet rings are hot, pour the batter into the rings and leave a 1/2 cm gap at the top. Slowly cook the crumpets and keep an eye on the bottom of the crumpet as this can easily burn.
- Once the edges have cooked, gently take off the crumpet ring (may need to loosen edges with a knife) and flip the crumpet over. Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
- Keep these warm whilst you repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining batter.
I made four crumpets with the above recipe. These were delicious for breakfast (one with jam and one with butter).
I did find the crumpets a little too salty (which you also get with the shop bought kind) so would consider using a little less.
I found the texture on my first two crumpets to be a bit doughy inside. For the next two I used a lower heat and cooked for a little longer. I have yet to try these (4 for breakfast is a little excessive and Mr W doesn’t like them).