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The Mother of All Sourdough Recipes

It seems like every one is souring their own dough these days…and frankly we love it.

As wine folk, we’re right behind the concept of a leavened loaf made slow fermented with naturally occurring yeast – it’s how we make our wine, so why not do it with our bread too.

Being in the Barossa means we’re spoilt with a naturally yeasty environment – from the silvery bloom that develops on grape skins just prior to harvest to the unmistakeable bouquet of a nicely aged stick of mettwurst - there is never any trouble getting a sourdough starter started.

But if you can’t make your soughdough in the Barossa, the next best thing is to use a Barossa baking recipe from one of our artisan bakers, Will Wood at Carême Pastry.

The Mother

Sourdough bread begins with a starter affectionately known since time began as The Mother (aka madre, the seed, the levain).
It’s a very simple mixture of wild yeast, bacteria, flour (50% white and 50% wholemeal) and water. The type and quality of the flour and water you use is essential to the end-result, so if you can, source a good quality organic flour and mineral water to make your Mother very happy.
Like all good mothers, your sourdough Mother must be kept healthy, fed and properly maintained. A wet mother requires one-part flour to one-part water to one-part The Mother; and a dry Mother requires two-parts flour to two-parts water and one-part the Mother. Failure to feed it makes the Mother highly irritated, acidic and vinegary. Sorry mum!

The Mother can be kept in the freezer for up to three months, (lower temperatures will slow it down) and can also be kept in the fridge for a few days. But for those regularly baking bread, it should ideally be kept at a steady temperature of 21oC, as it needs to be active before it can be used.
Before you proceed to make your sourdough bread The Mother should reach the weight of approximately one kilo. From that one kilo only a portion of The Mother will be used as the base to create the Biga. A quantity of The Mother should be retained for later use and the rest can be discarded.

The Biga

Biga is a pre-fermentation technique used in baking that adds complexity to the flavour, creates a light, open texture and assists in preservation.

Making the mother of all sourdoughs involves some mathematics, and when it comes to the Biga you need to know your baker’s percentages. A “baker’s percentage” just means that everything is expressed as a percentage of the flour, which is always 100%.

The Biga comprises 1000 grams (one kilogram) of flour (100%), 500 grams of water (50% of the flour’s mass) and 200 grams of The Mother (20% of the flour’s mass).

To create the Biga by hand, mix the water with The Mother and then add the flour before letting it sit overnight (around 12 hours) at 21oC. The Biga can now be used in the mother of all sourdough recipes.

Ingredients

1700g Flour (100%)
1190g Water (70%)
4g Salt (2.7%)
850g Biga (50%)
Total = 3786 grams

Method

Kneading:

Knead the above ingredients together on a bench or table top or in a large bowl, until smooth and sleek. Ensure the temperature is between 21oC and 28oC – anything over 28oC will cause the mother to perish, while temperatures under 21oC will be too cold for the mother to function.

Once the dough looks like a smooth, shiny ball bundle it up into a large oiled container to rest until it nearly doubles in size. By this stage it should have numerous trapped air pockets ready for folding.

Folding:


For the first fold, slap the dough around, drawing it out and folding it back onto itself, trapping lots of air. Then you need to let it sit again until it doubles in size.

About 1 hour after the first fold undertake the second fold, as you did before. The dough should now be really shiny and textural. If there are any breaks in the dough fold them under and into the mixture then let it sit.

Shaping:


After sitting for another hour, the mixture should then be tipped out onto an oiled surface – for a large loaf aim for a one kilo piece, or cut into smaller sizes if you’re making rolls.

Any broken ends or cut sides should be tucked or rolled under so that the exposed areas are turned in, then shape the loaf (or rolls) into neat, smooth, elongated balls.

Pre-heating:


Preheat the oven to 245oC with no fan (with heat bricks inserted if you have them to maintain a constant temperature baking surface). If you’re using a Dutch oven, which is recommended for larger loaves, pre-heat this too.

Rising:


Place the dough balls top side down in muslin lined tins and leave to rise overnight somewhere cool (in the fridge if the weather is hot) the unbroken top of the loaf goes into the tin first so when it’s turned out it has a smooth, finished appearance.

Preparing:


Once the dough has fermented overnight, tip the loaf onto a tray or Dutch oven lined with baking paper and dusted with flour or semolina.

You can also dust the top of the loaf or loaves with flour and semolina at this stage too.

Make two clean slits along the top of the loaf with a razor. The slash stops the bread from being restricted when cooking, and looks amazing once cooked.

Cooking:


Place the tray or Dutch oven in the hot oven at 245oC (no fan) for 50 to 60 minutes.

If cooking on a tray moisten the oven by throwing around one cup of water, below the bread, without wetting the bread itself. This will vaporise and ensure the crust on the bread remains moist and stops the sides from hardening. Repeat occasionally throughout the cooking process.

Alternatively, if you’re using a preheated Dutch oven, just remove the lid one third of the way through cooking for the same affect.

You’ll know your mother of all sourdoughs is ready when it is a dark golden brown, firm to the touch and sounds hollow when tapped.

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