First you need a STARTER, which you easily create by mixing a bit of flour and water and keep that in a warm spot for some days, while you keep feeding it (detailed instructions follow below). Always use clean mixing tools and keep the rim of the dish clean during this time, and cover the dish. Should during this time an unpleasant smell or a discolouring take place, then discard and start again. This is stage one, and you only need to do this once, because you will keep some of the final dough as your starter for the next time.
A good way to start the starter is as follows: Simply mix 3 tbsp. rice flour with 1/4 cup water and1 tsp. vinegar. Do this on the first morning and keep always in a warm place (25 - 30 degree Celsius). On the second morning, feed the starter by mixing one further tbsp. flour and half of a 1/4 cup water into your starter and keep at the warm place again until the next morning. Repeat this step for another three mornings. Should the mix get runny use a little less water, should it get to dry add a little extra water. Around the end of the third day or beginning of the fourth day you will see bubbles appear (if you use a glass bowl or jar you can see it very well, and you will have the most hygienic surface too, which is better for creating a clean and strong starter).
On the six morning the first stage will be finished, because the starter will now be strong enough to finally make the bread (you will notice the mix raising during the resting time, and a sour smell and taste). Therefore you can now start the second stage by mixing in eight tablespoons rice flour, 150g water and the one tablespoon honey (I prefer an organic honey) and keep in the warm spot again until the next morning.
On the seventh morning the second stage will be finished too, because there will be enough starter available to finally make the bread (and for separating a couple of tablespoons of the starter for your next batch). Simply mix the starter with the 1kg of flour (less the 8 tbsp. of flour you already used the day before), 650 g of water and all the other ingredients. Work the mix thoroughly. Shape the mix into two loafs and place them in bread tins (you can do the shaping by using your thoroughly wet hands in a folding manner while holding up the dough, or simply plonk the dough into the tin and smooth the surface well with your wet fingers). I prefer non-stick bread tins, if you use old fashioned real tin ones, you might get a "metallic" flavour to the bread.
Now the bread needs raising in a warm place (depending on the strength of your starter, and the proofing temperature in your warm spot again, this might take up to two or three hours or longer - the longer the raising time, the stronger the sourdough flavours will develop, however as a rule of thumb, it is better to bake an underproofed bread, than an overproofed bread). The bread won't quite double when it rises, and do avoid knocking the tins around too much when handling them. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 min, at 220 degree Celsius and a further 30 min. at 180 Celsius. Cool down and enjoy in thin slices :-)
Store the two tablespoons of starter you reserved on the seventh morning (before you added all the further bread ingredients) as your next starter in the freezer until you are ready to bake again. Reinvigorate by thawing, then feeding as described above for stage two, and then mix the bread again as described for stage three. Remember to reserve some of the mix as new starter every time you bake.....
If you will be baking on a very regular basis, you can keep the starter in the fridge, but feed it every second or third day.
Your starter goes mouldy: Throw out and start a new one. Make sure you use clean tools. Some bakers say it is good to stir the mix every half day and only cover it with a cloth, so that the surrounding air can add wild yeasts to your starter. However, I personally found, that I get less problems and a better result by covering the container with a tight fitting lid (a glass jar works very well) and keep it at a steady temperature. If your starter goes off repeatedly in an early stage, then you might like to buy a new (and hence hopefully fresher) batch of flour and start again, because it is quite possible, that the flour contains too high a concentration of mould spores right from the beginning, and when you keep such a flour moist and warm, as you do for the creation of a starter, then you will encourage these unwanted spores to grow too.
Your bread doesn't rise enough: Make sure the proofing temperature is consistent (25- 30 degree). Or try to make more starter in stage two (maybe 12 tablespoons of flour instead of the eight). Or add a small tablespoon of active dried yeast in stage three into the bread mix, or if you don't like to add yeast, add another tablespoon of honey, which will contain natural wild yeasts.
I live in Napier, Hawke's Bay, and our tap water is beautiful and clean. However, if your tap water is chlorinated, then that could affect the starter or proofing result as well. You might like to experiment with bottled or filtered water instead. Some people even make a point of using deionised or distilled water for stages one and two.
Best of luck with the baking and enjoy the bread :-)
If you live in New Zealand, then you can order my own sweet treats online here.
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