Sourdough is bread that uses wild, local yeasts as the raising agents. A portion of the dough is kept back when each loaf is baked and is used to raise the next one. A lovely self-contained and sustainable process – but how do you collect those wild local yeasts in the first place?
Look no further than local honey!
As long as the honey is unpasteurised – or better still raw – it will contain a dormant population of wild yeasts from your area. The bees are well aware of them. This is why they reduce the water content of honey to below 20% – so that the army of wild yeasts present in the honey are unable to metabolise it. But they haven’t gone away you know – they are just dormant – waiting for the chance to burst into life.
Before you trigger them into action – a word of warning – yeasts are very temperature sensitive:
- If you apply heat much above 30 degrees you may kill them;
- Honey from the supermarket will have been deliberately heated to temperatures designed to kill. Any yeasts that were there will be dead.
Here’s how to make a sourdough starter from honey.
This recipe is from Richard Bertinet’s excellent book ‘Crust’.
- 20g local honey – preferably raw;
- 50g spelt flour;
- 150g strong white flour – preferably organic;
- 150g luke warm water – hot water will kill your yeasts so be careful.
- Mix everything together till you have a soft dough;
- Put the bowl inside a plastic bag and put it into your warming cabinet for 36-48 hours at 30 degrees;
- Leave it alone – poking or stirring doesn’t help;
- After the allotted time you should find your dough is alive and bubbly;
- You are now ready to feed your creature;
- Add to it 30g spelt flour, 280g strong white flour and 150g luke warm water and mix well;
- Leave for another 24 hours at 24 degrees;
- Take 200g of your starter and add it to 400g strong white flour and 200g water;
- Leave for 12 hours at 24 degrees;
- Now put it in the fridge for 2 days – this will slow it down;
- After 2 days you are ready to bake!
- 200g of your starter;
- 45g spelt flour;
- 350g strong white flour;
- 325g water;
- 10g salt.
- Mix everything together till you get a sloppy dough;
- Unless you are used to working with very wet doughs watch Richard Bertinet’s method here:
- Put the dough into a floured bowl for 1 hour;
- Fold the dough and put it back into the floured bowl for another hour;
- Repeat that step;
- Form the dough into a ball and set it into a well floured proving basket or ‘banneton’ for about 16 hours;
- Turn out onto a hot baking sheet, slash and bake for 30 minutes at 220 degrees or equivalent;
- You may have noticed that this seems to be a pretty wasteful process but it need not be – bake any surplus starter for your dog.
This bread makes the best toast in the world – sublime smothered in honey of course.
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