Thursday, August 7, 2014


The smell of bread baking in the oven..  now that’s a delight to the senses.

We're starting with the basics here at Forgotten Crafts.  Bread is a fairly essential food item that has been around forever in some form or another.  

Sourdough is actually the very oldest form of leavened bread.. apparently the method began in Ancient Egyptian civilisations.. and apparently it was discovered by accident.. of course!

The first step in the sourdough process sounds fairly unsavoury really.. Combine grain and liquid (usually flour and water) in a jar and let the mixture sit at room temperature.  Add a little flour each day and watch as your mixture bubbles away, releasing acids, alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Mmm delicious..?!

This process forms the starter, which is the foundation of a sourdough loaf.

Once your starter is ready all you need for a loaf is flour, salt and water!  Mix your starter with a little more flour and water; leave to rise; add a little more flour and a pinch of salt; mix and knead; leave it to rise; pop it in the oven.. and voila!  A delicious (and very photogenic) loaf of home-baked sourdough.

It’s amazing how simple this ancient process is.  It’s also an incredibly cost efficient way to keep ‘bread on the table’.  Andrew, our resident baker as seen above, estimates a cost of 80c for each loaf he bakes!  It does take more time than it will to pop a supermarket loaf into your trolley of course, but if you can spare it, the process is well worth initiating into your daily routine!

There's an abundance of recipes out there to choose from, all varying slightly in taste and texture.  I would recommend getting that starter right then exploring every different option possible!

Andrew does not even measure his ingredients any more!  He has experimented with quantity and ingredients (down to the different brands) over the years, and having found his favourite combination, says it’s all about the feel – the texture and elasticity as you knead the dough.  His consistently golden crunchy crusts with their soft, airy insides are plenty enough to verify this!

Tell us - have you baked sourdough before?

What are your tricks of the trade?

And please pretty please does someone have the perfect wheat free sourdough recipe?!

We love this Sourdough bread recipe from River Cottage's  Hugh Fernley -Wittingstall.

For the sponge
About 150ml active starter (see recipe above)
250g strong flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture of the two)
For the loaf
300g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture), plus more for dusting
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 
10g fine sea salt
The night before you want to bake your loaf, create a sponge: in a large bowl, combine 150ml of active starter with 250g flour and 275ml warm water. Mix, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. In the morning it should be clearly fermenting: thick, sticky and bubbly.
To make the dough, add the 300g of flour to the sponge, along with the oil and salt, and incorporate. You should now have a fairly sticky dough. If it seems tight and firm, add a dash more warm water; if it's unmanageably loose, add more flour, but do leave it fairly wet – you'll get better bread that way.
Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky – about 10 minutes – then put in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat with the oil. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise. Sourdough rises slowly and sedately, so it'll take a few hours in a warm kitchen, and a few more in a cool larder. One good option is to knead it in the morning, then simply leave it all day – perhaps while you're at work – in a cool, draught-free place until it has more or less doubled in size and feels springy if you push your finger gently into it; alternatively, knead it in the evening and leave to rise overnight.
Deflate the risen dough by punching it down with your knuckles on a lightly floured surface. You now need to prove the dough (give it a second rising). First form it into a neat round, tucking the edges of the dough underneath itself so you have a smooth, round top and a rougher base.
If you have a proper proving basket, dust it liberally with flour. Alternatively, rig up a proving basket by lining a wide, shallow bowl with a clean, floured cloth. Place your round of dough smooth side down in the basket or bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm or a clean plastic bag, and leave to rise, in a warm place this time, for an hour and a half to three hours, until roughly doubled in size again. It's now ready to bake.
Heat the oven to its highest setting (250C/500F/gas mark 10 is ideal). If possible, have ready a clean spray bottle full of water – you'll be using this to create a steamy atmosphere in the oven, which helps the bread rise and develop a good crust. (You can achieve the same effect with a roasting tin of boiling water placed on the bottom of the oven just before you put the loaf in.)
Five minutes before you want to put the loaf in, place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, dust it with flour and carefully tip the risen dough out of the basket/bowl on to it; it will now be the right way up. If you like, slash the top of the loaf a few times with a sharp serrated knife (or snip it with a pair of scissors) to give a pattern. Put the loaf in the oven, give it a few squirts from the spray bottle and leave to bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 200C/390F/gas mark 6, give the oven another spray, and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until the now well-browned loaf vibrates and sounds hollow when you tap its base.
Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes – it's OK to slice it warm, but not piping hot.


  1. Sounds interesting. I've not made bread before, but my mum used to bake bread. There was always a rush for the crispy crust when it came out of the oven. The sum total of my bread making experience is pizza crust - and it is some kind of wonderful! (That is, we don't buy takeaway pizza anymore - it just doesn't cut it).

    1. Mum-baked bread is even better..!

      I'm impressed with the home-made pizza only - you guys are the best!

  2. I've been thinking about doing this. There's nothing better than freshly baked bread. At 80c a loaf it sounds great. Never realized what went into the starter. Jo

    1. It's amazing isn't it - it's crazy seeing how much the starter 'grows' in one day too..

  3. Looks yum, and the fact that its economical makes it even more tempting.

  4. I have made one or 2.loaves of bread but would like to try this one,thanks Em x Lisa Mckenzie

  5. Nicola from Homegrown Kitchen does a great gluten free sourdough. I've used the starter to make fantastic sourdough pancakes too

    1. Thanks SO much Catherine! I'll check it out for sure - pancakes too - amazing!

  6. Hi we live in a small town in Patagonia Argentina. We moved here two years ago from Sydney, Australia and missed the sourdough we would buy in Sydney so my partner made his own starter. And we have had this starter now for two years. We keep the starter in the fridge and have even kept some in the freezer when we travel for a few months back to Australia. It has kept well and our bread is delicious. We feed the starter by adding extra flour and keeping it at room temperature. We add chia seeds when making our bread, and home made sourdough is the bees knees! Especially as toast the next day with lashings of butter and vegemite when it is freezing cold outside and dark.
    We have resorted to make everything from scratch, feta cheese, our own curries, yoghurt, pizzas, dukkah, labne it really makes a difference!

    1. Wow thanks for sharing your story! I'm so inspired..! I'm looking forward to taking this approach - but currently living with a super small kitchen with NO OVEN! I love the sound of the cheeses..!

      I just checked out your blogs too - Patagonia looks AMAZING!! Such an inspiring place to live.

      Thanks again for sharing : )


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em