Sourdough bread is by no means the easiest, but it is by far the most rewarding. I’ve had incredible rises and incredible flops, bread that will make your tastebuds sing and bread that will not! I’ve had flour stuck to my hands, dried to my face and my poor hands bear the scars of countless oven burns.
I’ve experimented with many different techniques, from cultivating my own wild yeast starter from scratch, to reviving and feeding a 101 year old mother from Italy. I am by no means a pro at this, but I’ve loved every second of the rewarding process of making sourdough bread.
Making bread has become one of my hobbies, and hidden talents. Having guests over for dinner and serving them bread you’ve made always get you an extra nod of approval. But, it’s a challenge, I’m not going to lie.
The process is tough and time consuming, you will have flour all over your kitchen (you will have it all over yourself too), you will have dough stuck to you, and you’ll probably get irritated more than a few times. But when you slice into that crust loaf, fresh from the oven, you will feel immense satisfaction. Those hours you put in stretching and folding your dough would have paid off and you will do it again, and again, and again.
I highly recommend that you try your hand at this craft. You will be pleasantly surprised and gastronomically rewarded, and you will never look at an Artisan loaf with anything but appreciation ever again.
My top sourdough resources & tools
My very top tip, is to get yourself educated with as much Sourdough knowledge as you can. There is so much out there, and you will find everyone has a different opinion on the perfect bread. My advice is don’t over complicate it! You aren’t starting this journey to quit your day job and become and artisan baker (Unless you are, which is also cool). You are doing it to learn, and love, and eat really amazing bread.
So, if you want great advice, that isn’t over complicated, I highly recommend you read Bonnie Ohara’s Bread Baking for Beginners book. It’s filled with absolute treasures of tips & tricks and amazing recipes. Plus Bonnies’ story is really inspiring too! If you’re on Kindle, you can download her book (and if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, this book is free to you).
Then there’s the tools you need. First and foremost, you need to start cracking with your wild yeast starter. You can do this yourself (with just flour and water), and watch it grow in a jar on your kitchen counter (here’s my link to more resources on this) or you can fast track and get yourself a wonderful dehydrated starter from Motherdough in Cape Town. I was lucky enough to receive a pack of Motherdough (since the founder saw my bread making obsession on Instagram) and I can tell you gals, it’s amazing! The fact that it’s 101 years old makes it even more special and it has such a lovely story of being smuggled in from Italy.
Motherdough is very different to the wild yeast that I started during lockdown. Mine was a lot wetter, while Motherdough is a bit more dough like. Having to feed two starters on my counter was getting a bit much for me (I mean, there is only so much sourdough I can bake), so I put my one to rest and I’ve got my Motherdough (her name is Aphrodite by the way), bubbling away and feeding me well – because I feed her well!
Then, let’s talk tools! A bread lame, which is a blade is an absolute necessity. You do need one, trust me! A normal kitchen knife will not let you slice though the jiggly sourdough. I bought mine from Kitchen Kookie, but you can honesty use a simple blade. But the lame is much easier, and safer too!
You will also need a dough scraper. Sourdough is sticky and this little guy is a big help when you try to lift your sourdough off the counter and stick it in the oven. I also bought mine from Kitchen Kookie. Since launching Motherdough in South Africa (which I believe was born during lockdown), they’ve updated their online shop to sell ALL the tools you’ll need for the perfect sourdough making experience. From the starter, to the jar to house your starter, to all the tools to create and even some cool stuff to bake.
Now, speaking of baking, this one is tricky. For your sourdough bread to be perfectly cooked, you need to be able to cook it in a really hot-as-hell oven and create steam so that it doesn’t dry out. Before you freak out because you don’t want to spend a fortune on a Dutch Oven, there are ways you can “convert” your oven into a steam oven by placing a tray of water on the bottom shelf. If you try this technique, make sure you research it properly. Steam is nobody’s idea of fun and games so make sure you know what you are doing.
Perhaps you’ve already got a Cast Iron pot to use? This is a perfect dutch oven. My sister in law recently gave me her one to make bread (since she wasn’t using it), but when I started I used my trusty Romertopf Clay Roaster. I’ve had mine for about 20 years and it’s such a great investment. I use it all the time and it’s especially great for slow cooking stews, slow cooking leg of lamb and making bread. These babies are tough to come by, but I’ve seen them at Yuppiechef on and off, so you just need to keep any eye out when their stock is replenished.
The recipe I use for making my bread, surprise surprise comes from Bonnie Ohara’s book, but anyway, it makes two loaves, so I bake one in the cast iron pot and one in the clay pot. The results are much the same.
The one thing I do need to stock up on and I’ve been dreading it because it’s a lot of money for something that seems pointless, is proofing baskets, or Bannetons. I bought one from Kitchen Kookie (to proof my oval loaf) and I use a deep metal bowl to “proof” my round loaves, but there is a big difference in how the bread holds when you use the right tool. Now I just need to get my head around forking out R480-R520 for the round proofing basket, but we will get there.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope you’re feeling inspired to start creating your own Sourdough creations.