Described as ‘the antithesis of the industrial factory loaf’ by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, pain de campagne (French for ‘country bread’) is my favourite everyday loaf. This pain de campagne recipe using sourdough starter for leavening the dough is a delightful loaf of bread, guaranteed to please …
With the coronavirus COVID-19 situation still very much unfolding, my family (including our 2-year old toddler) have been working from home now for the last 8 weeks. With lockdown fatigue firmly setting in, I wanted to share this comfort-food bread recipe with all of you. …
In times like these, we are all looking for home comforts. For me, there are some recipes which always make me feel great, even preparing them brings joy. One particular favourite is Kaiserschmarrn – especially when I can have it with the traditional Zwetschkenröster (plum …
The current COVID-19 related lockdown, the social distancing and self isolation measures offer for many an opportunity to dabble in sourdough baking. And with a first foray into cultivating a sourdough starter comes the need for sourdough starter troubleshooting.
This post is aimed at answering your sourdough starter questions so you can overcome any issues and problems you may encounter along the way.
Sourdough Starter Problems – Your Questions Answered
Below, you will find a list of frequently asked sourdough starter questions. If you do have additional questions, please leave a comment at the end of this post and I’ll cover the answer by updating this list of FAQs.
The following trusted book companions have helped me resolve many of my own sourdough starter problems, and as such, I’ve included some helpful suggestions from the books in the below answers:
What ingredients do I need to make sourdough starter from scratch?
- All that is needed to produce a sourdough starter from scratch is that flour and water are combined and left in a warm place. The magic will happen from there.
- Natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria are present in any sample of spelt, wheat or rye flour. Water and warmth provide the conditions for their growth. Flour contains everything necessary to sustain a sourdough.
- Often suggested additional ingredients such as apple, grapes, milk, pineapple juice, vinegar, yoghurt, kefir, yeast or raisins which are meant to act as aids in developing the starter, are simply not required.
- The shortest, simplest route to a sustainable sourdough is flour and water.
Sourdough starter consistency – What should it be like?
- My sourdough starter has water/liquid on top, appears to have split, the solids separating.
– If your starter hasn’t been refreshed for a while, it will look inactive (likely no bubbles) and some grey-brown liquid may have risen to the surface. This runny/watery/liquidy appearance is no cause for concern. The longer it is kept without refreshment (i.e. the process of adding flour and water after being stored in the fridge), the more likely it is to have a liquid layer.
- Is my sourdough starter too wet or too thick?
– Rye starters are almost always made very wet and sloppy while wheat starters are usually more like a normal dough.
- My sourdough starter has formed a crust.
– It’s likely that your sourdough starter has been left uncovered and exposed to air for too long. No harm done. Simply dispose of the crust and use the main part of the sourdough starter underneath for your refreshment i.e. add flour and water to the sourdough starter once the crust has been removed.
Is my sourdough starter ‘dead’? Has it gone bad?
- A previously viable sourdough starter which has been stored in the fridge (which can be days, weeks or months) is almost certainly not ‘dead’, even if it looks totally inactive.
- My sourdough starter is mouldy.
– In the first day or two of a starter’s life, when the lactic acid bacteria are still developing and have not produced sufficient selective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compounds to sterilise the mixture, it is possible for moulds to get a foothold.
– In an older starter that is being kept in a tub (perhaps with an incomplete seal), moulds sometimes creep in where there is a lot of space above the starter, i.e. between its surface and the lid. This space contains enough oxygen for any moulds that may settle and multiply. The main part of the starter is usually sufficiently acid to inhibit any such growth.
– If white mould has spread, skim off the majority of the mould, then refresh the mixture by adding some fresh flour and water. Repeat if required.
– If black mould has spread over most of the starter’s surface, it is advisable to throw the starter away. If it’s just the odd spot, remove it carefully, and use some non-contaminated starter to refresh with flour and water.
– A few rounds of refreshment should allow the starter to re-establish its balance.
What to do with sourdough discard?
Ideally, you should never have to throw away any sourdough starter. If you have any leftover sourdough starter, there are plenty of ways of using this as part of other recipes e.g. muffins, crumpets, pancakes.
Read more on what to do with leftover sourdough starter over here.
A look through some of the photos of our most recent trip to Brazil reminded me just how popular and prevalent cassava and tapioca flour products and dishes are across the country. Tapioca flour cheese puffs, farofa (toasted cassava) and tapioca pancakes – both sweet and savoury – were never far when hunger hit.
Having previously experimented with tapioca flour to make the uniquely textured tapioca cheese puffs at home, I collaborated with the team at Buy Whole Foods Online to specifically look at the versatility of tapioca flour in baking. The results are tremendous; an incredibly useful flour, particularly in gluten-free baking, tapioca flour packs a punch in the baker’s kitchen.
How to use tapioca flour for baking
Tapioca (also manioc or cassava) is made by heating the root of the cassava plant. It is then dried into granules (tapioca), flakes or ground into flour. Although not the most nutritious of flours, tapioca flour is useful as a base for breads, cakes and biscuits where a light texture is desired, and it has many other fantastic attributes useful in both sweet and savoury baking.
Over here on DrAxe.com you can find an excellent article on tapioca flour and its properties for baking, and I wanted to summarise the topline facts below:
- Tapioca tastes mild and slightly sweet. It is however virtually undetectable in recipes, which is why it’s used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
- Tapioca is made up of almost all carbohydrates and is very low in all types of fats, sugar, fiber, protein, sodium, and essential vitamins or minerals.
- It’s totally gluten-free, low in calories and free from sugar.
- It has positive effects on the texture and “mouth-feel” of recipes — for example, by making baked goods more spongy, springy, promoting browning and helping crusts to crisp up.
- Tapioca absorbs and retains a higher water content, which means it does a great job of binding, thickening and moistening recipes.
Tapioca flour yeast bread recipe
This is the best and most natural gluten-free bread I have been able to make at home, a recipe by Andrew Whitley from his book Bread Matters. I like it as it doesn’t contain heavily processed ingredients such as xanthum gum. Instead, the ingredient list contains nutritionally valuable flours from natural sources and yeast is used as raising agent rather than baking powder/bicarb of soda. Bread Matters also has excellent recipes for gluten-free pastry, gluten-free cake and gluten-free pizza base, all of which contain tapioca flour.
The flours used in this gluten-free bread recipe:
- Tapioca: As mentioned above, tapioca itself is low in nutrients but the addition of other flours balances this out. As used moderately, it imparts a pleasant, chewy texture to this bread and adds a certain binding quality to help keep the dough together when baked.
- Maizemeal: Whole maize seed ground into flour. A useful base flour with considerable binding properties.
- Chestnut flour: Milled from dried and roasted sweet chestnuts. A nutritionally useful source of flavour and texture in gluten-free baking.
- Chickpea flour: Milled from chickpeas. Very nutritious and flavoursome. High protein content gives it a firming and binding effect. Th addition of chickpea flour helps to stop the dough from falling to bits.
Yeasted gluten-free tapioca bread
How to make gluten-free maize & tapioca bread
- Combine all the dry ingredients (maize, tapioca, chestnut, chickpea flours, dried yeast and salt) in a bowl and mix with a whisk.
- Add the water and cider vinegar and whisk until you have a dough with the consistency of smooth, wet cement.
- Grease a small bread tin (I used a 20 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm tin).
- Move the dough into the tin. Use a silicone spatula to make this an easy, clean and effective operation. Don't worry about smoothing it out as it will even itself out during the prove.
- Cover the tin with a polythene bag to prevent the dough from drying out.
- Prove for about an hour in a warm place, aiming for about a 50% increase in volume. Th dough will not hold as much gas as one made with gluten-containing flour.
- Preheat the oven to 210°C.
- Evenly sprinkle linseed on top of the dough surface.
- Bake for 30 minutes until the loaf begins to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Cool on a wire rack.Best eaten fresh. Can be frozen in slices and defrosted as needed.
Gluten-free cheesy tapioca pancake recipe
I don’t think it’s really possible to make the real deal Brazilian tapioca pancakes in my home in Edinburgh, Scotland. They just wouldn’t taste quite right. The Brazilian air, the tropical climate, the open-air cooking – to me it all feels it’s important in preparing this delicious street food.
I’ve opted to make a more traditional pancake with tapioca flour although these recipes – Brazilian tapioca pancakes, shrimp tapioca pancakes – look like great Brazilian options to try if you fancy some tapioca at home.
My tapioca pancake recipe is a based on this three-cheese pancake recipe on Great British Chefs with the cheesy filling mixed into the batter.
Makes 2 large pancakes
Gluten-free cheesy tapioca flour pancakes recipe
Tapioca flour pancakes ingredients
- 60 g tapioca starch
- 2 large eggs
- 60 g ricotta
- 10 g Parmesan
- 30 g cheddar
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
How to make tapioca flour pancakes
- Combine all ingredients and - using a blender - mix well for about 3 minutes to make the tapioca flour batter.
- Place a knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
- Add half of the pancake batter to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, until light brown, turn to the other side and cook for another minute.
- Serve immediately with a crisp side salad.
Tapioca flour biscuits recipe
I also wanted to feature a sweet tapioca flour recipe here, and luckily, I stumbled upon this delicious biscotti recipe on the Dolce Amaro blog. Crunchy, crumbly and amazingly flavoursome, these are superb tapioca flour biscuits – with white pepper and white chocolate added in as wildcard ingredients.
Please note this recipe isn’t gluten-free.
Tapioca flour biscuits recipe
How to make tapioca flour biscuits
- Start by whisking the egg yolks and oil in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff.
- Fold in the pepper and finely chopped chocolate.
- Add the tapioca flour, yeast and yolk-oil.
- Add kamut flour and salt.
- Combine well, then place back in the bowl and rest in the fridge for 40 mins.
- On a well-floured surface, with a well-floured rolling pin, and using more flour on the surface of the dough, roll to 1/2 cm high.
- Cut out biscuits and carefully transfer them onto two baking trays lined with baking paper.
- Bake at 200 °C for about 15 minutes.
Ever since visiting Japan in 2016, I’ve been wanting to replicate the soft white bread loaf omnipresent across the country. It’s the fluffiest and most delicate bread I have ever eaten. It’s not like brioche, it doesn’t have the same richness. Japanese milk bread is …
Just before Christmas, I received a beautifully presented package from Eezi-Slice, a company centered around its founder’s invention; the Eezi-Slice bread slicer. I agreed to review the bread board so here are my thoughts after having used the board for a month. How does the Eezi-Slice …
When it comes to feeding, my little baby daughter has never been a natural. And when I recently started to introduce solids, she steadfastly refused to be given anything from a spoon or my finger. No tasty purée could tempt her. She did however take the spoon if it was put in front of her on her tray and into her mouth it went. I started giving her chunky finger foods such as broccoli florets which she could hold herself and after a few weeks I decided it was time to introduce some baby breadsticks for more a baby-led weaning approach.
Looking into baby’s nutritional requirements, The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook advises: “Under-fives are littler power-houses of development and growth. They need lots of energy, so starchy, calorie-dense foods are important – plenty of bread, pasta, rice and cereals. For adults, consuming starches in a high-fibre, wholegrain form is highly recommended. For little children, that’s not the case. Too much fibre can be over-filling and stop them eating other, nutrient-rich foods. Very high-fibre foods, such as bran cereals, can be hard for them to digest and may stop them absorbing nutrients. You don’t have to ban all wholegrain foods, but try to combine white and wholemeal bread, pasta and rice, gradually shifting more to wholegrain foods as your child matures.”
Salt-free bread for babies and toddlers
- Using mainly white flour (a mix of white wheat and spelt flours)
- Adding a little bit of wholewheat flour (20% of all the flour in the recipe)
- No salt
- Adding yoghurt for some dairy and including a few tablespoons of rapeseed oil to add some fat/oil (both dairy as well as fat/oil are important pillars of baby’s nutritional needs)
- Optional addition of ground herbs or spices into the breadstick dough to introduce baby to new flavours
Homemade baby breadsticks recipe
- 200 g strong white wheat flour
- 100 g white spelt flour
- 75 g wholemeal wheat flour
- 150 g yoghurt plain, full fat
- 100 g water
- 4 g dried yeast
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Optional: 1 tbsp finely ground herbs e.g. rosemary, thyme... or spices (e.g. garam masala, mild curry powder...)
How to make baby breadsticks
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl to form a dough
- Knead for 10 minutes on a work surface until you have a smooth, even dough
- Place back into the bowl and cover
- Keep to proof at room temperature for an hour or so until the dough has visibly increased in volume
- Knock back the dough and split off walnut-sized pieces
- Roll each piece into a 10 cm rod
- Place on two lightly greased baking trays
- Leave to rise for about 20 minutes
- Bake at 200°C for 10 mins
- Leave to cool on a wire rack
After a mini break from blogging due to the arrival of my sweet little baby daughter, I wanted to share my current go-to sourdough bread recipe with you. This multigrain sourdough bread has been the weekly staple loaf in our house over the last six …