Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Relaxed Approach to Sourdough

Sourdough is believed to be the most ancient form of leavened bread making - dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Commercial yeast however, - which is a specifically bred single strain - has only been around since some time around the turn of the 20th century.
If you consider that people have been baking sourdough for far, far longer than they have had the technology to actually understand how it works, then doesn't that tell you that bread making should really be quite simple?
There's a lot - and I mean a lot - of information around now about bread making. Some of it is scary and a good deal of it is complicated, particularly in regards to sourdough. One common thread that seems to occur with discussions about bread making is the science behind it: bakers are delving deeply into the "why" of sourdough.
This is of course perfectly ok if you're that interested in knowing the ins and outs of it all, and if the art of sourdough can be your dedicated hobby.

Have you come across the many sourdough websites and profiles on Instagram where they are truly dedicated to furthering their bread science?
I think they are great, but for myself personally some of those bakers are getting away from what bread actually is.
It's food. You make it to eat, to share with others. It shouldn't be something you have to carve out bucket loads of time in your life for. It shouldn't be something that has a hundred and one different do's and don'ts attached to it.

Humans have been making bread for thousands of years. Do you think the farmer's wife in the Middle Ages would have had time to babysit her bread all day, to cater to the long list of requirements of her sourdough starter? Of course not.

Now that not many of us bake our own bread any more, most of us have forgotten how to do it. We have to read books or get advice from someone who has retained those skills. Which is where the confusion comes in. At your fingertips are thousands of different people's opinions on bread making, from all over the globe.

I consider myself lucky with my sourdough making. Now of course I didn't get it right straight away, and I had to come up with my own recipes and methods due to being unable to find any recipes that were made for 100% spelt baking; but because I had already been baking bread for several years before that - albeit using commercial yeast - I was never frightened of my bread.
And this I think is the key to being relaxed with your sourdough making - don't be frightened of it! It's only flour and water.

So how do I approach my sourdough making?
I don't have a set schedule for my sourdough, which is why I included three different proving options in my eBook.
My sourdough starter is simply fed, baked with, and often stored in the fridge. I don't pamper it and I don't worry about it. And I certainly never throw any of it out. (Back to the farmer's wife in the Middle Ages, do you think she'd throw away any of her food, that she most likely helped harvest and grind into flour herself? I don't think so!).

The same goes for the bread. I mix it up, do a little bit of kneading, and prove and bake.
Most mornings I shape my sourdough first up and set it to prove, but occasionally I don't feel like it, or there is something else that needs my attention first up. The bowl of dough gets put into the fridge and left there, until I have the time to come back to shape and prove it.

There is only one thing I have a strict rule about. It's the crust. On every loaf, the crust is sliced, slathered in butter and tasted before I go any further into the loaf. It's a wonderfully tasty tradition. And that's what it's called - The Tradition.

You shouldn't be frightened of or a slave to your sourdough. Does that sound like a good relationship to have? I don't think so.

Sourdough should be fun and easy; and when you've been making it for a while, something you can do without having to really think about it.

Just like all of your other every day cooking.

If you enjoyed this post, check out Spelt Sourdough Made Simple.
Filled with delicious recipes designed for baking with whole spelt flour (and other variations of spelt) with no mixing in of other flours - this is truly 100% spelt sourdough. Also suitable for whole wheat flour baking. Learn more or purchase your instant download copy here.

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  1. I really like your argument for retaining the simplicity in food making and keeping alive the past and making new traditions Sarah. It is easy to get lost in all the information out there on the internet, I like your take on enjoying and sharing food which can be simple. Delicious photos as always. from Amanda R

  2. Exactly Sarah...well said x

  3. Hi, yeah totally agree with never throwing any of your starter away. I've read that in so many books, and I never thought it was a great idea:P so nice to read about someone thinking the same! Thanks for sharing


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Maira Gall