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I started baking all our bread at home about 3 months ago. I’ve been using Jim Lahey’s basic no knead bread recipe, from his book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.

I have been nothing short of amazed at how fantastic this bread is. I’ve made it with 100% high grade (bread) white flour and 100% organic, unbleached, stone ground white flour. Lately, I’ve been using a ratio of about 1:5 unbleached white flour to high grade white flour, which gives an excellent nutty flavour to the bread yet still gives a good oven spring.

And, yet… Something was lacking. Before the introduction of active dry yeast (baker’s yeast), widely introduced in the early 1940s, bakers depended on wild yeast cultures to leaven their bread. Most modern bread baking utilizes active dry yeast because of it’s availability, viability, and quick rising capabilities. It seems even fresh yeast is not available to home bakers in New Zealand.

Growing up in Southern California, I’m familiar with San Francisco Sourdough. I love the sour taste of San Francisco sourdough.

Sourdough bread is commonly available in New Zealand, in artisan bakeries; although, most sourdough bread in New Zealand isn’t very sour.

I decided it would be good practice to cultivate a wild sourdough starter.

Having baked with Jim Lahey, I decided to switch from using an active dry yeast to a wild sourdough starter, as described in Tartine Bread.

I mixed whole wheat flour and unbleached white wheat flour in a 50:50 ratio, then mixed the flour mixture with water in a 50:50 ratio by weight. After two days, bubbles started to form. A sign of life.

I trained my culture by feeding regularly in the morning until the culture developed a predictable routine. After 7 days of feeding, I made my first leaven.

I shaped two loaves and placed them in 500g cane round banneton and placed them in the fridge for a retarded final rise. I’ll bake them early tomorrow morning. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the smell of fresh baked sourdough bread.

We’ll see how they turn out…

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