Are you sick of wasting good flour while attempting to create a traditional sourdough starter? Or do you just find keeping a starter alive is far too much work?
Yep. Me too!
I started making sourdough about 5 years ago. I cringe at how much expensive organic flour I’ve wasted during that time. But the worst part was, no matter how hard I tried, the loaves themselves were always shit! I was forever carving up these flat, dense rocks and trying to pass them off as bread… the kids wouldn’t have a bar of it. They flat out refused to put it anywhere near their tiny mouths. Sourdough defeated me. After several years of trying different methods, I gave up entirely.
Well, not entirely… I’m pretty stubborn, so recently I tried again. Anyone who follows me on Instagram might remember the super bubbly spelt starter I posted a photo of. You know, the one I described as smelling a cross between ‘shit and actual vomit’. Yeah, well I had to throw that away because I didn’t want anyone to die from eating bread made from it. I proclaimed that sourdough starter was just way too damn hard, I don’t have the time or patience for it and I’d given up – for good.
Also, being new to the kombucha brewing game, one of my followers, Esther (@selkiedreams) had suggested that I use some yeasty kombucha dregs to get a sourdough starter happening. It created quite a huge discussion from people around the world as to wether it’d work or not, perhaps it may be too acidic? So I thought, what the heck. I’ll give it a crack!
Not knowing what quantities to use, I did a quick Google search and found a recipe to use. It was from the Kombucha Kamp website, so I figured they were the best place for information.
I was quite shocked with the finished results. I can now have a loaf of delicious sourdough on the table from starter to finish in only 3 days! Comparing this to a traditional starter taking at least 7-10 days to be viable for baking, I’m in absolute awe. Not forgetting to mention that every loaf has turned out perfect! Not one failure (well, except those rock hard Easter buns, but I’m not counting those because they weren’t a loaf of bread). It’s a win in my book!
If you brew kombucha at home, you can also make amazing sourdough.
Ok, here’s how it’s done!
For your starter, you’ll need some yeasty dregs from the bottom of your brewing vessel. You know, all those brown stringy things? That is what’s going to kickstart your starter.
- 1 1/2 cups kombucha dregs
- 1 1/2 cups of organic white spelt flour
Whisk the kombucha and flour together really well. I prefer a whisk over a wooden spoon because the whisk aerates it more. I also use a large stainless steel bowl for the entire process. Some would say this is a big ‘no-no’ and to only use ceramic/glass bowls and a wooden spoon to prevent reactions during the fermenting process, but I’ve not had a single failure, so, whatevs.
Once I’ve completed this step, I put the entire bowl inside a cotton pillow case (so the starter can breathe) and leave it on the bench overnight, right next to the kombucha brewing vessel so the airborne yeasts can mingle and make a nice fluffy starter.
Now, a word of advice from my experimenting. I have found that if your kombucha is too acidic (like vinegar), the starter might not turn out well. If this happens, it will begin to separate and you’ll notice a thin film of clear liquid floating on top of the top of the starter the next morning and it will smell really vinegary. If this happens, I whack in another 3/4 of a cup of flour, whisk it in and leave for another 4 (or so) hours. Usually after this time, your starter will have corrected itself and it’ll be game on for the next step… DOUGH!
The Sourdough Dough
After a night out on the bench, or around 12 hours, your kombucha starter should look something like this:
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 2 heaped teaspoons of salt
Whisk these into the starter first, then you can slowly add:
- 4 cups of organic white spelt flour
I mix in one cup of flour at a time. Usually after the 2nd cup, it’s too stiff for the wooden spoon and I need to use my hand. When you’ve put all the flour in, you will have to knead it for at least 10 minutes. If it’s way too sticky just add a tiny bit more flour, or vice versa if it’s too dry.
When your dough is smooth and springs up when you press it, it’s time to let it do its first rise. I leave mine in the same bowl and then pop it back inside the pillow case. I leave it on the bench next to the kombucha brewing vessel for approximately 12-18 hours. It should have risen quite a lot in this time and be super bubbly on the inside.
At this point, I knead it again. If it’s sticky and too hard to work with (and it usually is) I add more flour as kneaded – see what I did there? – You need the dough to be dry enough for you to shape it to fit your baking dish of choice.
I have made lots of round loaves in a ceramic dish, but slices from round loaves aren’t the easiest to work with, so my preferred method is in a rectangular loaf pan. Even though the pan is non-stick, they still manage to stick, so I line it with baking paper and put a sprinkle of rice flour in the bottom.
Put the kneaded and shaped dough into the pan, sprinkle with some more rice flour on top and then, if you like your loaves to look professional, use a bakers blade to put cuts into the top of the dough. For this type of loaf, I just do one big cut down the center.
Now, it’s onto the second rise! Put your loaf pan back inside the pillow case and sit it somewhere warm (not too hot) for around 6-8 hours. I leave mine on a bookshelf in front of a sunny window. If it hasn’t risen much in that time, leave it a bit longer.
Once you’re happy with it, it is ready for the preheated oven – or, in my case, the preheated BBQ!
I use a Weber FamilyQ to bake my bread (and everything else) in. If you have a Weber, this is how I set it up. I have the 2 grill plates on, then a covenection tray with the trivit on top, then a pizza stone on top of that. Preheat and cook at 200-220°c for 30-40 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly in BBQ before removing.
If you, like most people will, cook it in the oven, I can only suggest you cook at around the same temperature (200-220°c) for the same time (30-40 minutes). All ovens will cook differently, so it’s a matter of adjusting what suits you best!
I leave mine to cool in the pan for around 1 or 2 hours before slicing.
These slices fit perfectly into a small sized toaster and make sandwiches a manageable size.
Some other stuff worth noting…
I’ve tried a few different brands of spelt, including a popular one sourced directly from a mill in Tassie, but I find the organic Woolworths brand is far better. It seems to make a much lighter loaf.
As someone who suffers from IBS, I’m not usually able to tolerate gluten. Although spelt has a low gluten content, I seem to be able to eat a slice or two most days, without suffering any bloating or cramping. It may be due to the extra long time it takes to ferment, in that much of the extra gluten is eaten up by the natural yeasts in the kombucha. Whatever it is, I’m so happy I found I’m able to make this!
So, there you have it – Kombucha Sourdough. Easy as!