Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get started?
My first introduction to baking bread was full of emotion, excitement, fear, exploration and fulfillment. I taught myself to bake bread out of necessity, with a very steep learning curve.
I started off with a considerably basic approach, an open mind and my instincts on high alert. Do not be discouraged with failed flat dense loaves. Practise and persistence will eventually reward you with an overwhelming feeling of joy, when you set eyes on the perfect loaf you have been yearning for.
How do I care for my soughdough starter?
When not being used, your sourdough starter (or 'mother') should be stored in the fridge.
Your starter needs to be refreshed 6 hours prior to mixing and fed again once you have taken what you need for your dough. You should aim to maintain at least 20% of your starter at any time.
For example, for our Pigeon Whole @ Home Sourdough:
Remove your starter from the fridge
Refresh: Pour off 150g of starter and stir in 75g of flour with 75g of water (at 30°C). This feeding helps to achieve consistency, by ensuring a healthy population of lactic acid bacteria
Leave your starter on the bench until you are ready to use her.
3PM (Use and Feed)
Use: Add 150g of starter to the dough mix
Feed: Stir in 75g of flour with 75g of water (at 30°C).
Place your starter back in the fridge
You will know your starter is healthy by her sweet smell and bubbly personality.
What is the bakers' ratio?
Bakers use and speak in a language of percentages. This is the best way to describe and adjust recipes.
What is the recipe for the Pigeon Whole @ Home Sourdough Loaf?
6 Hours (Starter Refresh) + 4 Hours (Bulk Fermentation) + 12-16 Hours (Final Proving)
Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)
90%: 900g Bakers’ Flour
10%: 100g Whole Wheat Flour
70%: 700g Water (at 30°C)
15%: 150g Sourdough Starter
2%: 20g Fine Salt
1. Add all ingredients reserving salt to the side for now. Mix by hand, keeping one clean hand on the bowl. Mix until a shaggy mess, cover, walk away and come back to it in 45 minutes. Leave in bowl on the bench, not in the direct sun or by an open window.
2. Take the cover off, add salt, a dash of water (about 20g), and squeeze the salt into the dough. Tip dough onto the bench and knead until you no longer feel the salt with your fingertips. This should take around 3 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and leave for one hour.
3. You will notice your dough becoming glossy, with signs of fermentation as small air pockets appear just under the surface. While the dough is in the bowl, flip the dough and carry out the process off stretching and folding. Take the top of the dough and stretch it and fold it towards the bottom of the dough. Rotate the bowl by ¼, and repeat stretching and folding, continuing until the dough feels tighter. You can now flip the dough back over so that the good side is facing up. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, repeating the above process twice over the next two hours.
4. Divide your dough into two equal amounts, pre shaping it into rounds with the good side facing up. Cover with a tea towel to rest for 15mins. Prepare your proofing basket by coating in flour.
5. The final shaping is the last opportunity to give your loaf the tension and structure required for the final slow prove. Shape and place the good side facing down into your floured proofing basket, cover and place in the fridge for the next 12-16 hours.
6. Preheat your oven to 250°C, together with a cast iron style cooker. Remove one your baskets from the fridge and gently press on the dough with your finger. This should leave a small indentation. If it doesn’t, leave the dough on the bench for a little longer before baking.
7. Carefully remove your cast iron cooker from the oven. Sprinkle a little flour onto the bottom of the loaf and gently tip it out onto the cast iron cooker. Slash the top surface with a sharp, serrated blade – a cross works well on a round loaf. Place the lid on the cooker and return it to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake with the lid off, for a further 10 – 15 minutes until you have reached your desired colour.
8. Cool your loaf on a wire rack and enjoy. Remember you still have another loaf to bake!