The Ultimate Slow Food and Zero Waste Loaf: Sourdough

I used to really struggle with bloating whenever I had regular bread from the shops. After a slice of supermarket bread, I’m so bloated I can’t see my pants! For a long time I made my own soda bread and then got into making sourdough. I was a bit scared to make it the traditional way and after a few flops just used a bread maker on the longest rise setting (French, if you have one). Using a bread maker is fine – ideal for when you need a loaf in a few hours’ time – but nothing beats a true sourdough loaf, allowed to rise slowly and cooked on a scorching hot pizza stone.

The taste is just unbeatable, soft inside with a chewy, tangy crust. The fermentation process within the sourdough means that the flour is partly digested before you’ve even had a bite – which is why people like me don’t experience bloating after a doorstep slice or three of sourdough bread.

Making your own sourdough is a great way to get you onto a zero-waste lifestyle. There’s no plastic bags and the ingredients are all plastic-fee too – no more non-recyclable sachets of instant yeast needed! Everything else from the flour paper bags to glass bottles of olive oil can go straight into your recycling box.

To make a sourdough loaf, you first need a sourdough starter. You may be able to nab a spoon’s worth if you have a fancy artisan bakers on your doorstep and I’m more than happy to pass some on if you’re anywhere near me (Tregarth, North Wales) but you can make your own.

Make your own sourdough starter

There are lots of ways to do, this but this works for me:

  • Take a Kilner jar, add 100g of plain flour and 100ml of warm water
  • Mix and cover with a square of fabric secured with an elastic band – a tea towel will do
  • Leave for a day on the worktop, discard half
  • Add another lot of 100g flour and 100ml of warm water (You might not see many bubbles, but keep doing this every day and by the end of the week, you should have a live, frothy sourdough starter)

  • Once your starter is established, use the air-tight lid on your jar instead of the fabric covering
  • About 4 hours before you go to make a loaf, kick-start your starter by feeding it with flour and water so that it’s live and bubbly by the time you make your dough
  • Once you’ve made your dough, top it up with 150g flour and 150ml warm water so it’s ready for next time
  • If your starter ever smells like nail polish remover, don’t panic – chuck almost all of it and add more flour and water, and feed more frequently, say twice a day. After a couple of days, it will be back to normal
  • Liquid on the surface of your starter isn’t a problem – just pour it off.

Make your own sourdough loaf

Making a sourdough loaf is not an exact science with definite timescales. In my old, chilly Welsh cottage in winter, the process will take a lot longer than if you’re in sunnier climes or are less frugal than I am with the heating. If you need a loaf quickly, use the bread maker!

Ingredients

300g sourdough starter

400g white bread flour

100g wholemeal bread flour

10g salt

10g sugar

240ml warm water

10mls olive oil

Method

  1. Put all of your ingredients into a large bowl and bring together. With floured hands, knead for 5 minutes until it’s soft and pliable
  2. Tip out of the bowl, brush a drop of oil around it and put your dough back in. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to double in size – this could take a couple of hour in a warm, sunny spot or overnight if your house is cold 
  3. Once risen, press down to let the air out, fold over a few times until you get a rounded shape again. Sprinkle flour onto a tea towel, place your dough on top and back inside your mixing bowl with a damp cloth on top and leave to prove again until it’s doubled in size once more 
  4. Once it’s big and busy with air bubbles, place a pizza stone in your oven and turn it up as high as it goes 
  5. Pre-heat your pizza stone for about half an hour – this will ensure it’s sufficiently hot to par-cook the bottom of your loaf on impact
  6. Add a tray of boiling water to the bottom of your oven to create steam
  7. Take your pizza stone out of the oven, and carefully tip your loaf onto it, peeling back the floury tea towel
  8. Dust the surface of the dough with flour and score the loaf with a serrated bread knife. Hold onto your loaf and cut into it quickly and cleanly, about 1cm deep
  9. Place in the oven and cook at 240’C for ten minutes, before turning it down to 220’C for another 20-30 minutes
  10. Check your loaf towards the end – it’s ready when the base sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Your loaf will likely be too big for your bread bin but a Planet Wise Large Wet Bag does the trick!

Top tip – to make pizza, separate into three dough balls after it has been allowed to rise for the first time. Hand stretch or use a rolling pin and place onto a scorching pizza stone and cook at 240’C.

Thanks so much to Shelley for sharing this fantastic zero waste recipe suggestion! If you have a recipe you would like to share, feel free to get in touch xx

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