Sourdough, a saga.

How sourdough took over my life! 

sourdough, bread, crust, breadboard, home baking
Freshly baked sourdough loaf

On Wednesday 18th March 2020 I, along with many other people, started working from home due to the coronavirus situation, we weren't yet in lockdown but it was advisable to work from home if possible. On this Wednesday we were testing out the working possibilities and making sure our team could access each other and everything we needed to continue our regular work. I went into the office to collect my laptop and other necessities, then drove back home to get set up.

Having unpacked everything I realised that I couldn't connect my docking station to the plug socket as I hadn't brought the correct cable home with me. I also couldn't charge up my laptop without the docking station because our IT Manager had commandeered my charging cable earlier in the day. My boss also suggested I needed to go back and get an additional screen so I made the round trip back to work again to get these extra bits and pieces.

On the way home I though I'd pop into the local farm shop and pick up some supplies just in case.  Lucky I did. Eight weeks later and I haven't driven anywhere since that day, I haven't been to any shops, I haven't ventured far from the centre of my village in fact.

The supplies lasted fine for a while but panic started to creep in when I realised that we were about to run out of basics like bread etc and I couldn't get an online supermarket delivery slot, try as I might.  The worry about coronavirus and what we would eat woke me in the early hours of the morning and that's when I discovered that I could get a delivery slot if I logged in at 5am!

Of course, like many of you, I thought I'll get flour and yeast so I can make my own bread but each time these items were ordered they were out of stock by the time my order was picked. This is where I had my introduction to making a sourdough starter, recommended by my work colleagues.

The only bread flour I had in the cupboard was a gluten free one, plus I had some plain flour, so I thought I'd use these. If you have ever tried to make a sourdough starter you will probably realise what a demanding creature it is.  I wasn't quite sure what to do or what the resulting thing should look like.  There was conflicting information on the many websites I consulted, so I just did what I thought seemed the best.

sourdough starter, glass jar, making sourdough
Sourdough starter getting bigger

The first few days seemed OK, the starter was getting bigger but not bubbling much. After 6 days it still wasn't ready and I was beginning to run out of bread flour. On the 8th day I did run out of bread flour and had to feed it with ordinary plain flour.  Was this the right thing to do?  I didn't know. By this time I had more than one jar of starter on the go as I discovered that I had to throw half away each time I was going to feed the creature... The flour was precious so I didn't throw it away, just filled more containers.

active sourdough starter, glass jar, making sourdough
Active, bubbling sourdough starter

My husband came to the rescue by volunteering to venture out to a supermarket to get supplies, including bread flour. He returned with Organic Rye, that was all that was on the shelves.  When I fed this to one of the sourdough starters it didn't seem too happy and after a couple of days became unpleasant. This did get thrown away.  Although I wasn't sure the other starters were 'ready' I decided to use one of them with my rye flour to make a couple of loaves and followed a (so called) easy recipe. Note - this recipe was for a white sourdough loaf...

The loaves came out looking great, as you can see below.  I also used the discarded sourdough starter to make crackers and very wonky pretzels too!

rye sourdough bread, home made pretzels, home made crackers
Rye loaves with wonky pretzels and  sourdough crackers

Unfortunately the loaves were inedible - the crust was perfect but the inside was uncooked dough...........

Not to be deterred I cut off the crust then rolled out the doughy bit into flatbreads and cooked them again, they turned out like thin, chewy pumpernickle bread slices! Quite tasty and perfectly edible this time.  I later discovered that you would normally mix rye flour with a different type of flour to make a loaf, not have pure rye.

Another brave supplies trip by my husband resulted in some strong white bread flour - hurray, so I could feed the creatures properly again.

After a couple of weeks and once the starter was being fed in correct quantities of white bread flour and water (I had learned to weigh the starter and discard some to be used in other recipes) I was happy with the look and liveliness of the sourdough starter and was ready to try again to make a loaf.

Success - not only did this one look great but it was also cooked all the way through and tasted delicious!

Every day, for the first couple of weeks, while trying to get my sourdough starter established I worried about how to use up the discarded starter and found various recipes online to try out. I made sourdough pizza bases which turned out a bit runny, so much so that the drips of dough crept through the holes in my pizza pan and made tiny pizzas themselves! The resulting pizzas worked ok though and tasted great.

The most recent recipe I tried is sourdough pancakes with frozen berries. Delicious - we had some yesterday as an afternoon treat and again this morning for breakfast with Greek yogurt.

I now have a manageable amount of an active starter and plan to keep it in the fridge to feed and use once a week. Calmness has descended on the kitchen once more. I'm no longer worrying about my sourdough starter, so what else is there to worry about.....

If you want to try any of these yourself here are links to the recipes I used.

Sourdough starter and white loaf

Sourdough pizza

Sourdough (and yeast) pretzels

Sourdough crackers

Sourdough and berry pancakes


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