Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Focus on Fermentation Week: Sour Dough Bread Workshop

A couple of weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending a Sour Dough and Fermentation workshop.
It was held in the local town of  Cooroy and hosted by an amazing lady, Elisabeth Fekonia, who has been self-sufficient for the past decade or so. I found out about the workshop via the Permaculture Noosa group, where Elisabeth also happens to be the president. So, how could I resist this fantastic opportunity to learn more about my current fascination for fermented foods...and to make a loaf of sour dough bread that is more suitable for eating than making houses with (unlike the first brick I made several months ago).

This post is the first in a series on fermented foods. I will be sharing Elisabeth's recipes as well as others I have tried recently. What I am discovering is that the 'irritable bowel' symptoms I have had all my life are all but gone through the daily intake of fermented foods...and now that I have my made my own beautiful loaf of sour dough bread, using Elisabeth's starter, it will become a regular fixture in my weekly home-made regimen.

My sour dough bread using Elisabeth's starter

This first post will outline what we covered in the first half of the full day workshop, and I will follow up with daily posts of specific recipes from the afternoon session. If you ever see this type of workshop available, or you are fortunate enough to live in South East Queensland where Elisabeth travels to do hers, then I urge you to attend. The $95 I spent was such good value for money (including gourmet lunch and morning tea), and the internet cannot teach you what your dough should smell like, or exactly how the dough should feel after kneading. That kind of experience, handed down by someone so charming and knowledgeable, is priceless...and thoroughly enjoyable.

This was the very interesting table set up when I arrived...a myriad of fascinating produce and raw ingredients.

This is what we started with to make our sour dough. It is known as a sour dough sponge, and is made from the sour dough starter, which is basically a mixture of flour and water (equal parts) which you leave on a bench for a few days to ferment. You cover it with a loose weave cloth and it is ready in about 3-4 days. The first time I made this starter (following internet instructions) I added flour and water every day to "feed' it which Elisabeth says is not required...thank goodness because I often forgot, but you do need to stir it daily and the length of time it takes to 'ripen' will be effected by the temperature...it is ready when it smells yeasty and bubbles.

Now, Elisabeth's starter (which was a portion of her dough from previous baking) is really special. This is what she uses:

1 cup freshly ground organic flour (yes, she grinds her own flour)
1 cup raw milk
1 cup of kefir, yoghurt or buttermilk (I will be discussing Kefir later this week)

We each got to take home some of Elisabeth's dough which I keep in a container in the fridge. The sponge was made by mixing the dough with some water (I also used whey) until it breaks down, and then adding flour and dough until you get a thick batter-like consistency. Then cover with a tea-towel and leave overnight.

The next step is to add some flour to the starter (this you just have to judge), and knead it until it no longer separates, and is a lovely soft dough.

The dough is quite springy when you put a finger into it. If you overknead you will end up with a tough dense loaf.

The dough was placed into small buttered bread tins (don't you just love this vintage set?) and covered with a tea towel to rise. We put them in the back seat of a car to speed up the rising (say about 3 hours).

Whilst the bread was rising we made up a sour dough pikelet batter. You take about 3 cups of sour dough sponge, mix in one egg. Then add enough milk to allow the batter to just drop off the ladle. Then add one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and allow the mixture to froth and bubble.

Cook on a hot frypan using ghee (made from Elisabeth's butter, which is made from her own cow's milk). I am looking into making some myself. because it is good for you and does not brown when you heat it up.

This was our magnificent morning tea. Sour dough pikelets with jam and kefir soured cream, freshly made by Elisabeth. Yummo! The pikelets rose beautifully and were a lot lighter than sour dough bread.

We spent the rest of the morning going through the sour dough starter process and Elisabeth discussed the theory behind making her own fermented fruit wine. The process sounds a little complicated for me but will be on my to-do list for a time in the future when I have perfected everything else :) We then started setting up for lunch.

And some of Elisabeth's beautiful cheese was placed on the table. I think this was a cheddar.

And an amazing Brie that was out of this world in terms of flavour.

My amateur photography does not do this lunch justice. Home made sour dough bread with five varieties of cheese including a quark. There was sauerkraut and kimchi, and fermented nut paste, together with a fresh salad, miso paste, and fresh paw-paw. I have never eaten so many amazing flavours together and my belly did not bloat or feel uncomfortable...it just felt amazing. Oh, and we also had a glass of home-made passionfuit wine each to wash it down with...heaven.

These are the finished loaves of bread, turned out to cool. we each took home half a loaf. It was a lot tougher than the bread Elisabeth baked at home, due to a bit of over kneading on our part.

The afternoon was spent making sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented nut paste and preparing a fruit wine. I will share some images and recipes over the next few days.

Have you ever been to a hands-on workshop like this before? My next one will be Elisabeth's cheese making workshop. If you want to check out Elisabeth's approach to self sufficiency check out this video on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJbPo7HqjPs.

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