Friday, April 17, 2009


I have been experimenting with sourdough for the past month now and after the third try, I think I finally got the flavour right. :)

Taiwan gave me inspiration in the form of a cookbook I found in the enormous Eslite bookstore. Boulangerie Comme Chinois- super chef book series, details a day spent in a Japanese bakery from the Chef's point of view. After reading the book I had this overwhelming urge to go work for the bakery. In the book, each ingredient used is accounted for, why it is used, how you can use it. The process of making is also well detailed and explained, all from a chef's point of view. It takes passion to do this. And I respect (and yearn) that kind passion. Best of all, there are beautiful beautiful pictures of bread!

Thus, backed with this formidable book, I thought it was safe enough for me to try out the complex sourdough bread. True enough, it was.

I started with cultivating the yeast. I put a bunch of organic sultanas into honey, molasses water to ferment for a week. It is said that there are natural yeast pollen found on the skin of the grapes (it has to be organic grapes, I don't think yeast can survive the thick coat of insecticide/herbicide on normal grapes). Therefore submerging them into sugary water will waken and encourage the dormant pollens to eat and multiply. The sign to watch out for is bulbous and floating sultanas. It tells you that your yeast is growing well. By the end of the week, all sultanas should look like they are almost bursting and be as close to the top of the water line as possible. Think of balloons.

Next, I drained off the liquid and ate the fermented sultanas. They tastes like sweet red wine, nice. The brownish mixture now holds yeast babies. I added 100% flour (relative to the weight of the mixture) and 48% water to make a firm dough and left it to rise for 16 hours. Repeat the process for about 2 to 3 times. My dough looked quite monstrous by now, too gigantic for domestic use. Therefore, I threw some away.... because I know the next step requires me to add 200% flour and 96% water to renew the dough. (my orecious organic flour!) This time, I let it ferment for 3 hours. Repeat this process 2 to 3 times, my dough was ready for use.

The first bread I made was traditional french bread, using the starter dough as substitute for the yeast required in the recipe. The first batch was okay, the dough did rise (Wheew, my yeast babies turned out fine) though the bread didn't have the distinct sourdough flavour that I was looking for.

Second batch, raisin bread was too sour. I left it to ferment overnight in the fridge, adding a little of my fermented-red-wine-tasting grapes into the dough. I guess I overdid it.

The third batch, onion bacon bread and olive bread, was perfect. :) Maybe it was the flavour of the starter dough maturing, maybe I did the recipe right, the breads tasted closer to the ones I had in sydney. I'm so happy! Next is to get the thin outer crisp and the tender inner softness of the bread right. Though it tastes good, my breads are way too hard for Asian teeth or even any teeth I reckon. ._.



Bean Sprout's Cafe said...

oh, my ! heidi... great job ! I have never thought that i will bake bread at home, esp sourdough.. maybe I will change my mind...

(my oven is broken since I came back from holiday, never bake T_T)

soulchocolate said...

that looks marvellous, it really does! i have on many occasions wanted to make sourdough, but the 1 week fermentation process really scared the crap out of me. i'd much rather ogle over pretty pictures like yours!