An experiment with sourdough (part 1)

sourdough ingredients

Hello everyone,  making sourdough is something I’ve never tried before and I want to share with you my step by step experiment at attempting to produce my very first batch. Forget the English saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. In my book you are most definitely never too old to try new things (see this blog)!!! Of course, like all experiments, there is no guarantee this is going to succeed. In fact it may very well turn into a disaster, but what the hell! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  As you know I’m into bread making at the moment. Sourdough bread is something I often buy at my local artesan bakery. It has a taste and texture which sets it apart from “normal”, or should I say traditional, bread. When I recently went to my bread making course I asked about it and discovered some very interesting things. Unlike normal bread, which is made with fresh or dried yeast, sourdough is made using the yeast present in the environment, so to speak. It is definitely not something to do if you are in a hurry as it takes DAYS to achieve the first starter dough batch, which is basically a fermented, active mixture which you then use to make your bread by adding it to the usual ingredients (flour, salt and water). So supporters of the slow food movement READ ON! By the way, this initial batch is called pasta madre in Italian (Candi, correct me if I’m wrong). It’s really interesting what you need to do to get this dough going. The most fascinating one being that once it becomes active you have to feed it, just as if it was a pet! This is how you keep it alive. And by the way, feeding means adding flour and water, in case you start getting the wrong ideas and thinking you have an alien creature in the house! To start it off (which is what I’ve done today) you need flour and water and some fruit. Yes, fruit! Odd, isn’t it? I gather that’s what sets off the fermenting process.  I’ve personally used grapes ( as suggested by Paul Hollywood, whose recipe I’m using) but I’ve seen recipes using pears (Giorgio Locatelli) or apples. Anyway, lets’ do it step by step.


250gr. strong white flour

250 ml. tepid water

5-7 grapes, chopped


Mix the flour with the grapes and add the water. Stir well and when all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and you have a sticky mess place in a large jar or plastic container with a lid. It’s important that the container is clear as you need to see the progress of your dough (whether it’s fermenting or not). Close your container  and place it in a warm place (ideally 20-24 degrees) for three days, by which time it will have-hopefully- started fermenting. And this is where I am at the moment. I’ll be back for part 2 on Wednesday. Fingers crossed the grapes are going to do their job.

the sourdough and Tomik

By the way, have you noticed the little pottery cat in the photographs? It’s going to be in all my pictures from now on as my new trademark. It’s a salt shaker I bought in a market in Budapest (where I’ve just been). Isn’t it cute? I’ve called it Tomik, which sounds Hungarian but in truth it’s the name of my two sons (who have both left home) combined. Talk about child substitutes, eh? :-)




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12 Responses to “An experiment with sourdough (part 1)”

  • Non ho mai avuto il coraggio di fare la pasta madre, chissa’ se cambiero’ idea……..

    • Beh direi che anche tu devi provarla! Dai, te ne do un figliolino se funziona. A te lo posso donare. Con Candida sarebbe un pochino più problematica la cosa!

  • Oh! la pasta madre! Qui sono tutti matti per lei, il pane del nostro gruppo di acquisto viene fatto così e una volta amici ci hanno fatto una superpizza con la loro pasta madre. Ma anch’io, come Carmelita, non ho mai avuto il coraggio di provarci. E se poi non le do da mangiare abbastanza? Ma adesso seguirò l’esperimento come un nuovo, appassionante reality.
    e che bello Tomik!!! lo vogliamo vedere in tutte le sue pose!

  • Lucina

    I’m following your sourdough experiment with interest. I have one in my fridge currently which I started over a year ago. It has been shared with friends and a neighbour. One friend makes particulerly “authentic” sourdough and although mine smells and tastes like the real thing it’s texture isn’t so good. I’ll be interested to see how you get on once you start making your bread. Hopefull i’ll get to taste some too next time we meet up!!
    Good luck.

    • Hey Anne, I didn’t know you were harbouring some sourdough in your fridge or I would have asked for a baby last time I saw you (we call it the “mother dough” in Italian, see?). Let’s see what happens with mine and if it ever comes alive. I’m dead excited! How often do you feed yours? Can you happily keep it in the fridge then once it gets going? You must be an expert if yours is a year old already!!!Respect!:-)

  • You’d be welcome to a ” baby”. I feed it every 2 weeks if I haven’t used it in that space of time. It seems to survive happily up to 3 weeks ( mine somtimes goes that long if we’re away). It is a good idea to give a regular stir although I frequently forget. If you’re keeping it in the fridge it is also a good idea to let it come back to room temperature before using it.
    Hope the breadmaking goes well and I look forward to seeing the results.

    • Isn’t this neglect to only feed one’s baby every two weeks?;-) Joking apart, I thought it had to be fed every other day (which would be a bit of a chore, in truth, as I already have to feed my two cats!). Good to know it’s not as demanding!

  • This sounds encouraging! every 2 weeks it’s not so bad!

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