Basics · Bread & Rolls · Sourdough breads

Baking bread with sourdough

When I started baking bread, sourdough was not even a topic for me. I concentrated on yeast breads first as the procedure for baking with sourdough seemed too complicated. Sourdough was something for professional bakers only. However, at some point I could no longer resist the challenge. My first sourdough breads however were inedible lumps, sometimes as hard as a brick. As I experimented more, I became a bit smarter about this subject. I owe my knowlegde to books and the internet, as well as to the experiences of other bloggers and, of course, my own observations and experiences.

Why am I baking my own bread?

A professional baker must get up early for his work. Baking for myself means I can decide for myself when I want to start the dough and knead it. A bread from one’s own oven takes some time, but it gives the beautiful feeling to be able to make one of the most important foods yourself. In addition, I can determine what is in it: apart from selected flour varieties like wheat, rye or spelt bread needs only yeast, water, salt and, according to taste, seeds and spices. I have found many American breads to have too much sugar in them.

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Perhaps a homemade bread does not always look as perfect as a purchased one, but it tastes delicious and announces itself already in the oven with its wonderful fragrance. My children only want to eat homemade bread.

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Not every bread I bake turns out perfect. This one got a little out of shape, but was tasty nevertheless.

When preparing, it is helpful to stick to the recipe, because baking (not only of bread) depends on the exact quantities. The dough also likes to be thoroughly kneaded, in order to become elastic before it settles down in a warm place under a protective kitchen cloth and rises like a silky balloon. The dough becomes very active due to the yeast working in it. During the fermentation, carbonic acid is produced, which inflates and loosens it. For a good flavor, slow rising at room temperature is best. There are even breads, which are not kneaded at all and where the yeast does all the work. Simply mix wheat flour, yeast, salt and lukewarm water and let everything stand at least 12 hours covered. Here you will find a recipe for such a simple bread.

What is sourdough and why do I need it for bread baking?

Sourdough is a baking agent of rye flour and water, acidificated by lactic acid bacteria and, in parallel, fermented by yeast. Sourdough bread was already appreciated in ancient Egypt because of its long-lastingness and freshness. The positive properties of the sourdough were probably discovered when baking dough, which was already fermented and acidic.

Brotbacken im alten Ägypten
Fig. 1 Bakery operation: The dough is kneaded with feet (top left), placed in jugs onto a table and formed there. The bread is baked in pan and oven (Tomb of Ramses III, 12th century).

And so natural leaven is still the basis for good bread today. It gives the bread its distinctive character, a nice dough structure and longer freshness. Moreover, it tastes better, because the sourdough fermentation produces aromas that give the bread its typical taste. Sourdough is essential for baking rye bread. Yeast alone is not enough. A rye bread baked with yeast collapses after baking. The leaven prevents rye breads from collapsing after baking. Overall, dark flours are better suited than white ones for making sourdough bread because they contain more soluble carbohydrates from which the microorganisms feed.

How do I recognize a baked bread?

You will recognize a perfectly baked bread by a knocking test, if it sounds hollow, it is baked.

Many paths lead to your own fragrant loaves; after all, bread baking is an art, an ancient craft.

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How to make your own sourdough

  • Servings: 700 g
  • Time: 3 - 5 days
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • rye flour
  • water
  • a glass or a bowl. The container should be large enough, because your sourdough will expand during the fermentation and double its volume.
  • time

The method

To prepare a sourdough, mix 100 g of rye flour with 200 ml of lukewarm water and leave the porridge at room temperature for 24 hours. The next day add another 100 g of flour and 100 ml of water, and allow the mixture to stand again for 24 hours. On the third day repeat the procedure, then observe. As soon as the dough forms bubbles and smells sour, it is ready for baking. Usually it takes 3 – 5 days until the leaven is ready. About 100 g of it gives a bread its spicy character and keeps it longer fresh.

Sourdough can be multiplied

When the sourdough is ready, take a small portion of it (2 – 3 tbsp) and store as a starting culture for the next batch.

Storage

Sourdough can be stored in the refrigerator covered with clear food wrap. It lasts up to three weeks.

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