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28 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 16 September 2012

Sheila Dillon finds out why sourdough bread is undergoing a major revival. It is the world's oldest leaven bread dating back to Ancient Egypt and it is now experiencing a renaissance.

Baker Dan de Gustibus explains how the bread is made from a sourdough starter, a mixture of flour and water which is left to ferment until wild yeasts and bacteria start breeding. But there are many myths around this sourdough starter - bakers compete over who can trace back the oldest lineage. Yeast technologist Dr Bill Simpson debunks these myths to explain the truth behind how sourdough works.

And food historian Erica Peters explains why she thinks the famous San Francisco sourdough isn't linked to the Californian Gold Rush, despite its claims.

Presenter by Sheila Dillon and produced by Emma Weatherill.

  • Dan de Gustibus' recipe for a sourdough starter

    For the best result I always use rye flour.

    On day one
    I mix 50g of rye flour with 50g hand warm water.
    Mix it so it is free from lumps and put it into a small bowl or killer jar.
    Cover it with a tea towel but do not close the jar with the lid. The mix needs air.
    Let is stand for at least two days.

    On day three
    Mix it again with the same quantities of flour and water, cover it as before and let it stand for another two days.

    On day five
    Mix it with 100g rye four and same quantity of hand warm water and again let is stand for
    another day. It will be a quite young sourdough but with times will mature.

    This quantity is good for making a loaf of bread with 1kg of flour. But remember before you use all the starter to retain a little bit to inoculate a new batch.
    Save 30-50 g of sourdough starter to mix with 100-200g of flour plus 100-200g water to continue the sourdough starter.

    All starters should be kept at a normal room temperature and avoid putting it into a too hot a spot for maturing.

    Remember, if you do not use it you must feed it every two days or so or put it into the fridge where it can be fed every four days.

    You can substitute wheat flour for rye later or use the rye starter to leaven a wheaten bread.

  • Dan's sourdough starter

    Dan's sourdough starter

    The strains of yeast in Dan de Gustibus' sourdough starter.

  • Mark's sourdough starter

    Mark's sourdough starter

    The strains of yeast in Mark Newman's sourdough starter.


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