Adventures with Sourdough.

The difference between a bland tomato and great one is immense, much like the difference between a standard, sliced white bread and a crusty, aromatic sourdough.

Yotam Ottolenghi

a large spelt sourdough loaf

I have something of an intolerance to certain forms of yeasted gluten breads.  My insides get tied in knots.  I noticed this (all over again) a few weeks ago when my brother came off his motorbike and I had to make a mad dash to the hospital he’d been taken to, without time to throw something together to eat to take with me.  After a two hour drive, and several hours with him, I was so hungry I had to search something out at the hospital cafe.  I ended up with a humus and salad sandwich (the only vegan option I could find – even the vegetable soup had milk in it) which, I regretted for days.  It was the soggy wheat bread.  There’s something about most wheat flours, and the type of baker’s yeast they use that just doesn’t agree with me.  However, a sourdough spelt loaf suits me fine, so I thought I would share what I do.


I started investigating sourdough bread months ago, partly because I’m a – ‘if I can make it myself I will’ – sort of girl – and partly because I haven’t found a shop-bought bread that suits me.

To begin with, I came across a charming and amusing American blog about making a sourdough starter, which involved pineapples, hot-water bottles and quite a bit of fuss.  It made me smile, but sadly, it didn’t work for me. After several days ado, it smelt sour and unappetising and looked thin and watery.  I also read a lot of obscure articles about the mysteries and subtleties of making sourdough, which almost took me to the point of giving up the sourdough project altogether, and then I came across an article which went something like this:

‘In a large jar (that has a lid), mix together a few tbs. of 100% rye or spelt wholemeal flour, (I used spelt), with enough bottled water, (tap water can kill the natural yeasts), until it looks like a medium thick batter, and then put the un-lidded jar on top of the fridge at the back, where the heat produced by the fridge escapes.  Leave it for about a week, checking it every now and then, adding a bit more flour and water when you need to, and then you’ll have a bubbling yeasty sweet-smelling sourdough starter.  At this point, keep it fed with flour, and watered, pouring off any thin liquid that might form at the top.  If the jar gets too full, throw away a bit of the starter and replenish with flour and water.  Once it’s good and active you can put it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.’

Now that, I thought to myself, is the kind of advice I can work with!

I did it, and it worked.  That was in September 2014, and fourteen months later I still have a functioning sourdough.  I gather that there are sourdough starters in San Francisco which are over a hundred years old.  I guess a good sourdough starter becomes a family heirloom!

So.  That, it turns out, was the difficult bit.  And in the end, it wasn’t that difficult.  I’m glad I didn’t give up, as I now turn out about six large spelt flour loaves a month, none of which are ever quite the same, but I usually manage a moist substantial loaf, which toasts well, isn’t crumbly and has a nice nutty flavour.

BTW.  A sourdough starter will remain dormant, lidded,  in the refrigerator for several weeks, although I haven’t tested quite how long it might remain viable.


How to make a basic sourdough loaf using spelt flour   Continue reading “Adventures with Sourdough.”