Natural Leaven

I used to believe that only the dedicated bread bakers would have the time, commitment and inclination to embark on what is an absolute wonder of nature - and that is the natural leaven or as we tend to call it a sourdough starter.


Before deciding to get started make sure you have about a week to ten days when you can be available each day for a few minutes to keep “feeding” your new born.  After that and once it has established a life of its own you can go on holiday, leave it in the fridge for a fortnight then feed it when you get back home and it comes to life again.  Mine is now part of the family – I couldn’t bear to let it die.

Also, if you think to yourself – its not worth making this because I will only occasionally make sourdough bread.  I use a couple of table spoons of my home made leaven whenever I am making any bread – even my daily white loaf.   Oh my word – see what a different there is to your rise !  So it is not just for special occasions – its for every day use too.

To Start

In a small bowl mix 125g wholemeal bread flour, 125g white bread flour and 125ml bottled still water.  Mix together with a fork making sure there are no lumps.  Keep adding more of the water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream. Add then a couple of slices of apple (about a quarter of a small apple – no skin or pips) – bury that in the mixture, cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for two days.

After two days you will see that bubbles have started to appear on the top of the mixture.

Take your baby leaven and spoon out 4 tbsp into a clean bowl or jar.  Discard the remainder along with the apple.  Add to the new jar or bowl 3 tbsp white bread flour and about 3 tbsp bottled water (room temperature) or sufficient to mix to a fairly thick smooth batter like consistency.

You need to repeat the last paragraph every 24 hours until you get to a stage where your leaven smells aromatic – a pleasant smell. (I think it smells like emulsion paint !!!!) and doubles in volume within 6-8 hours.  It took mine about 9 days.

After this time it is ready to store in the fridge or you can start to bake with it.

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