Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Sourdough bread has become a staple at my humble abode and if you fancy a depth of flavours, you will not be disappointed with this Curry and Pine Nut Loaf. Sixteen months down with the Covid disrupting our norm in life has created a community of baker's and sweet enthusiasts. This may as well be, for if you can't fight the Covid, at least you are able to bake a belly full for yourself and your love ones.
Sourdough isn't something I was accustomed to from where I came from and in Malaysia, we all grow up eating Roti and soft Asian rolls. So, to actually appreciate this artisan bread wasn't something I see myself embarking in. For a very long time I have been suffering from digestive issues and this is when my friend told me about the health benefit of sourdough bread for a healthy gut. Needless to say, what started off as wanting to learn more about Sourdough very quickly became an obsession. You should have seen my first lot of sourdough loaves and let's just say it was so unappealing and inedible, there were tears ( not real tears, more like a self defeat feeling you get when the world is making lovely loafs and you are not ).
If this is your first time making sourdough bread, I hope you are ready to get addicted because the whole process is not just about making bread, its about watching something living grow and that fulfilled feeling you get when you nailed it.
This loaf was made around the time when I was overtly obsessed with spicy food, particularly curry flavoured ones.
What is sourdough?
Sourdough bread generally refers to bread that are made with wild yeast starter cultivated from the mixture of water and flour. This is very different from the commercial yeast, or sometimes referred to as "Baker's Yeast" that you use for making bread as Baker's yeast derives from a microbial fungus and are fast acting yeast that reacts with gluten to make dough rise. Wild Yeast Starter on the other hand comes from the combination of yeast and good bacteria (lactic or acetic bacteria that are good for your guts) and provides a more distinctive taste.
Though the name is Sourdough, not all wild yeast based bread taste sour. It really depends on the flour you use and the fermentation time, these starter can give an either subtle, sweet or tangy notes to your bread. The end result really relies on the baker's personal preference.
Difference between Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and Acetic Acid
Sourdough starter, depending on how they are cultivated can produce either lactic acid or acetic Acid. Lactic Acid gives or a more creamy and yogurt like taste to your sourdough. On the contrary, Acetic Acid makes your bread more tangy, almost vinegary in flavour.
A sourdough starter that has a higher hydration (is very wet) will produce more lactic acid whereas if the sourdough starter is much drier, this will produce more acetic acid, giving it a more sour taste to your bread.
Can Sourdough Starter have Bad Bacteria?
If the thought of cultivating your own bacteria and then eat them distaste you, sourdough starter is nothing like it at all!
Sourdough starter has a very acidic environment and this means that it makes it very difficult for harmful bacteria to develop, therefore making sourdough bread super safe to consume.
What are the things you can make with Sourdough Starter other than sourdough bread?
You can pretty much bake anything with sourdough starter from a good loaf of bread like focaccia, soft bread rolls and sandwich bread to using them for doughnuts, pancakes and sweet cakes.
What is a sourdough discard
Sourdough starter requires you to frequently feed them, just like any living thing that needs to eat to survive. When you feed the starter with newer and fresher water and flour, there will be some leftover that gets discarded. These leftovers are usually referred to as the "Discard" since that is what you do with them most of the time.
Sourdough Discard has been seen in the late trends now being utilised to make things like English muffins, pancakes, Roti and Crisp Bread. I am sure there are more you can use with the discards and the world is your oyster if you are into the whole no- wastage phenomenon.
I personally love using Sourdough Discard to make Focaccia for the next day whenever I need to feed my starter for my Sourdough Bread.
Why you should make a smaller batch of sourdough starter?
With the pandemic and all, Flour is not a commodity that is readily available like it used to. Furthermore, you don't need to feed the sourdough starter with a big amount of water and flour if you are only going to make them once a weekend like myself. All you need is to feed it enough for your next bake with some extra leftover so that you and keep the feeding going for next time. That way, you are not only saving resources, you won't have to keep finding things to make with the discard if you don't need or want to.
The most important thing is to make a small batch but still have a small amount leftover otherwise that ceases your cultivated wild yeast starter and hence commence a long cultivation period before you can bake again :) So, having a leftover is good; having too much, use it to make the above mentioned baked goods; having too much that you are just wasting resources, its not really necessary.
Difference between a Starter and a Levain
Starter is the cultivated wild yeast that is in your jar that needs frequent feeding to keep it alive. Levain is the "Final Starter" you will be using in your final dough during your Bake Day. It is therefore important that when you use the Starter to make the Levain that the Starter is highly fresh and active. To ensure that they are highly active, feed them twice a day every 12 hours three to five days prior to your Bake Day. To know if they are highly active, the Starter ratio of 1:2:3 (Starter : Water : Flour) will triple in volume in the duration of 12 hours in a kitchen ambient that sits at 24C with a 50% humidity. If your kitchen is particularly cold, the time it takes for that to happen will be longer and vice versa but it should ultimately increase in volume fairly quickly and in less than a day.
If you use an inactive Starter for your final bread dough, this can cause the bread to have weak structure and unable to produce enough gas for a light and airy bread, therefore yielding a really dense loaf and sometimes disable the dough to rise in the oven during baking.
YIELD: 1 x 700 g medium loaf
60 g Active Starter
60 g Water 24°C
5 g Spelt Flour
55 g Bakers Flour
Note: When Preparing Levain, ensure that you feed your starter on a 1:2:3 ratio (Starter : Water : Flour) twice a day and 3 days prior to your official bake. This will ensure that your Starter is highly active when you use them in your levain and ultimately in the Final Dough. This is especially important if your Starter has been sitting dormant in the fridge for a period of time.
300 g 85% White Baker's Flour (Manitoba -14.5% Protein)
20 g 5% Whole Wheat Baker's Flour
35 g 10% White Organic Spelt Flour
266 g 75% Water at 24°C
7 g 2% Fine Salt
80 g 20% Peaked Levain
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (2 g)
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder (0.5 g)
1 tsp Garam masala (0.5 g)
2 tsp Curry Powder (2.5 g)
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (7 g)
20 g Pine Nuts
Note: To make the paste, simply mix all the ingredients except the pine nuts together into a paste. Set aside until ready to use.
Estimated 78% Hydration
Note: The dough is maintained at 24°C - 26°C during the whole bulk fermentation process.
8 am Build Levain
Mix all the Levain ingredients together until well combined. Place in a clean jar, press to flatten at the base and cover with loose lid and leave to ferment at room temperature. This is a 100% hydration Levain and take roughly 4 to 6 hours to reached its peaked. The time is also dependent on the ambient temperature of where the Levain is placed. You want to maintain the temperature of the Levain at 24°C - 26°C.
Tie a rubber band around the container level with the Levain to monitor activity. The Levain should increase twice to triple its volume with a slight dome at the top. Ensure that you do not leave the Levain at its peak for too long or the natural yeast will exhaust itself from its food source and will not have enough strength to lift your dough during baking.
You need to prepare an autolyzed dough an hour prior to the estimate time that the Levain will peak.
1 pm Autolyze dough
an hour prior to Levain being ready
An hour prior to the Levain estimated to be ready, mix all the flours and water in a bowl together until they are just combined. Cover the bowl and leave at a warm place until the Levain is ready. If in an hour mark, you feel that the Levain still needs more time to rise, it is completely alright to leave the dough to autolyze a little longer until it is ready.
2 pm Add Levain
Mix in the required amount of Levain in to the autolyzed dough by pinching t and folding he Levain into the dough until well incorporated. Takes around 2 to 5 minutes of mixing by hand.
Cover the dough with plastic or damp tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Bulk fermentation begins after the Levain is added.
2:34 pm Add Salt
30 minutes after Levain is added
Sprinkle the salt on top of the dough, then dabbing your hand with some water, spread the salt on the dough to help them dissolve then mix into the dough like you would with the Levain by pinching and folding until you can no longer feel any grains of salt. This process takes around 2 to 5 minutes to mix by hand.
Cover the dough again and leave to rest for an hour this time.
3:45 pm Lamination and inclusions
Lightly spray some water on your work bench (not too much otherwise the dough will slide and be hard for you to stretch out).
Transfer the dough over the sprayed area and starting from the center, stretch the dough out (it does not matter if it is rectangle or squares, just enough for you to spread the inclusions and fold the dough over each other. The dough do not need to be stretched out too thin either)
Spread the curry paste gently over the dough and sprinkle the pine nuts. gently pick up the top end of the dough and fold it over to the centre one third of the way. Then from the opposite end, fold the dough over to fully cover the top. the dough is now shaped like a strip, Pick up one side of the dough and fold it one third of the way to the centre then fold the opposite end to fully cover the opposite side.
Grease a container with some oil then pick up the dough from the centre with two of your palm. Let the two edges from the north and south side to fold over to the bottom of the dough. Turn the dough 90° and repeat the process (this fold is called the coil fold).
You have now done a Lamination and #1 coil fold. You will need to do 3 more sets of coil fold in the process with 30 minutes resting time in between.
Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Note: Depending on the flour you used, additional coil fold may be require if you feel that your dough is spreading out too much after the #4 coil fold.
4:15 pm #2 Coil Fold
30 minutes after the #1 Coil Fold
Perform the #2 coil fold. Cover and rest for 30 minutes
4:45 pm #3 Coil Fold
30 minutes after #2 Coil Fold
Perform #3 Coil fold. Cover and rest for 30 minutes
5:15 pm #4 Coil Fold
30 minutes after #3 Coil Fold
Perform #4 Coil fold. Cover the dough and let it bulk proof for the remainder time of 2 hours.
7 pm Final shape
2 hours later
Final shape the dough and place into a well dusted banneton basket with the seam side facing out. Dust the surface with more cover and cover the dough in plastic. Leave the dough at room temperature for 20 minutes before placing into the fridge sitting at 5°C to retard overnight.
6 am Pre heat oven
11 hours later - the next morning
One hour prior to baking, pre heat the oven to 230°C with the cast iron pot and lid in the oven and let it stand for an hour. Meanwhile, the dough is still in the fridge.
7 am Scoring and baking
When you are ready to bake, very carefully remove the hot cast iron pot from the oven. Gently tilt the sourdough over to the cast iron pot . Dust with some flour (optional) and score. Before placing the lid over, spray generously with some water holding the lid close to the opening of the pot to trap the steam. Close the lid and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
20 minutes later, remove the lid from the pot and reduce the oven temperature to 210°C and bake for a further 35 minutes or until it reaches the desired crust colour.
Carefully remove the cast iron pot from the oven, remove the baked sourdough over to a wire rack to fully cool. Do not leave the dough in the pot to cool otherwise it will sweat and gives you a soggy bottom sourdough :(
For a more thorough instructions, refer to notes above