Somerset Sourdough Bread cooling on a windowledge

Is sourdough bread gluten free?

We do make a gluten free bread here at Withies Deli but our sourdough is made using unbleached wheat, rye or spelt flour so is not gluten free

Is Sourdough Bread yeast free?

Proper sourdough bread is free from commercial yeast. Commercial yeast is typically one strain of yest that is very good at producing carbon dioxide, which gets you great rise but leaves most of the ‘work’ to your gut bacteria, which is why many people feel bloated after eating commercial bread.

Sourdough vs Sourfaux

Commercial sourdough bread, especially that from commercial bakers and ‘tanning salons’ like supermarkets, has generally been baked with dried sourdough enzymes to give it that sourdough tang and commercial yeast is added in order to rush the bread through the industrial baking process. This bread is known as sourfaux and real bakers are campaigning to stop the abuse of our artisan traditions.

By contrast our sourdough starter is 200-years old from a village just outside of Rome. Our sourdough typically takes 72-hours from start to finish, which is why it won the Craft Bakers Association Best in the West at the 2018 championships.

What are sourdough breads health benefits?

Us human beings have been eating sourdough bread since the invention of agriculture. This means that our gut bacteria have evolved alongisde the development of sourdough bread.

Then we got all clever with the industrial revolution where we learned how to extend the shelf life of flours and foods by manipulating the way we treat it, or simply dousing it in chemicals that do not appear on the ingredients list as they are ‘processing aids’. To the industrialist TIme is Money and Skill Costs so industrial bakeries have done all they can to reduce both time and skill. This lead to the dumbing down of the bakers craft so now commercial bakers simply pour ingredients into a vat, press a button, then run to the other end of the machine to bag it up and load it onto trucks. A similar process happens in your supermarket ‘bakery’ or ‘tanning salon’ if they are dealing with frozen breads that just need a bit of colour.

Obviously our gut bacteria haven’t evolved at such breakneck speeds so when you eat your commercvial bread they have the hard job of breaking down those long strands of ghluten and large starch molecules to ge it into a simple form that they can then digest and use as fuel for your body.

Using traditional sourdough methods these long strands of gltuen and complex starch molecules are broken down as they have ben for millenia, meaning you have a happy gut as well as happy taste buds.

Can you share your artisan bread recipe?

My motto in life is Keep It Simple Stupid so my basic recipe is as follows:

  • 1000g unbleached flour
  • 650g water
  • 20g salt
  • 50g sourdough starter (or 10g yeast)

What is your sourdough starter recipe?

I prefer a stiff sourdough starter as discussed on my sourdough course so I mix my starter at 2:1 flour:water

How do I make a sourdough starter?

The best way to make your sourdough is to start with 100g of whole rye flour and 50g of water. Mix them together, form them into a ball, put them in a bowl and wrap it in cling film, beeswax wrap or a tea-towel, whatever takes your fancy. Leave them on the side at room temperature for 24 hours. Now cut the ball in half, chuck one half over your shoulder and feed the other half with 100g of rye flour and 50g of filtered water. Again, leave it on the side.

When you go back to it the next night it should feel a little spongier, might even smell a little fruity. Now cut 2/3s of it off and throw that at the cat or whatever, you don’t need that bit anymore. Don’t be shy about throwing it away. Discard is discard. It’s done it’s job, if you keep it like a stray you’ll end up with loads of it, you’ll be overwhelmed, you’ll become one of those catladies that get crushed by the weight of tin cans and newspapers. Get rid of it. Once again feed what’s left with 100g of flour and 50g of water. The next night you should notice it’s puffed up a little. Fantastic, you have lifeforms, but it’s not your starter. If you tried baking with this you’d get one or two succesful-ish batches then it would mysteriously die – I refer to this as the First Rush of Life, and just like the dinosaurs it will die off. You need to keep discarding and feeding it for another week or so to encourage the lifeforms that just feed off the flour to come to the fore. Once done it should be rising and falling reliably and you can switch to feeding it unbleached white flour in the same ratios. White flour has better gluten so I always recommend once you have life you swap to using that. Now before you pop it into the bowl (always use the same bowl by the way, never wash it out), you’ll want to flatten it out into a disc then roll it up like a swiss roll. This will help the gluten form and it’s never too early to form gluten for your bread, even at the starter stage. 

Only once it’s reliably rising and falling you can start baking with it.

Where can I buy a sourdough starter?

From us, come in and ask and we’ll happy carve you some off and send you home with it, along with lots of genuine and enthusiastic advice. I love bread, and baking, and bakers and will be happy to see you.

Oh, you live in Minnesota? Well right now I’m not mailing it out but I do have a little project that I’m working on that will change that in the future. Subscribe to our foodie fanzine so you don’t miss out!

How do I feed my sourdough starter?

Typically for a stiff starter I’ll feed it 2:1 flour:water, so 100g flour to 50g of water.

My sourdough bread has gone hard, what do I do?

That’s okay, it’s actually a good thing and is easy to rescue.

When your sourdough goes hard it’s the starches clumping together. To get them to unclump you just need to warm it up! We recommend you sprinkle some water on the crust then put it in a hot oven for a few minutes, or carve it into slices and toast it.

If you’re swimming in sourdough and looking for other things to do try these recipes:

How to make garlic bread

I like to chop my garlic fine, then cube the butter, sprinkle on some coarse sea salt, put them all together on the chopping board and combine them by using the flat of the knife over it. Once they’re a reasonably homogenous paste I roll it into a clingfilm cylinder and out it in the fridge for twenty minutes to harden up.

You can now cut now cut off garlic butter ‘coins’, cut deep slots into the crist of your bread and insert these garlic butter coins into the slots. Pop the bread in the oven until the coins have melted into the bread, take it out and serve it immediately.

How to make Bread and Butter Pudding

This is my old Bread and Butter Pudding recipe from Haven Coffeebar in Nova Scotia, Canada (which won New Business of the Year in 2014). It makes 38 portions… you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly or make some room in the freezer!!

Torn Bread800g
Sliced Bread950g
Mixed dried fruit1300g
Mixed peel400g
Nutmeg20g
Cinnamon60g
Ginger (powdered)30g
Eggs6
Brown Sugar600g
Milk1600g
Rum200g

Melted Butter400g
Cinnamon Sugar

Enough for 1 sheet pan cut into 38 portions

Tear 800g of stale bread (wholewheat, white, but not multigrain as it has hard seeds in it) and/or scones and place in the mixing bowl. Add mixed dried fruit and dried peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, eggs, milk and rum.

Mix on slow speed until it’s all mushed. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Grease, butter or spray a sheetpan. Pour mixture into sheetpan and spread evenly.

Place sliced bread over mixture, pushing down slightly to encourage soaking/bonding.

Brush on melted butter to cover entirety. Pour over any excess. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar until it’s evenly and generously coated.

Bake for 60 minutes at 170C or until top is crispy and lightly browned all over.

Cut and allow to cool before freezing or displaying.