Saturday, 20 October 2012

Making a Lievito Madre or Mother Dough

There seems to be a craze all of a sudden about making starter doughs to add flavour to bread. I think that it is a backlash against the flavourless and pappy bread that seems to be available in our shops. So, I've decided to try out a variety of starters to see which one works best for me.

I am going to start with the Italian version which is, Lievito Madre.

The initial mixture is:

100g water
200g stoneground flour
1 dessertspoon of honey.

Day 1
Put them all in a bowl and mix together until a stiffish dough is formed. Cover with a folded, damp tea towel and leave undisturbed for two days.

I have mixed my dough so I'll come back in two days and add to this to let you know how it's getting on.

Day 3
So, two days have gone by and my dough has surprisingly started to produce small pockets of gas as it begins to ferment. Now take a

100g piece of the dough and add
100g strong flour
45g room temperature water. Mix into a ball of dough and then put into a jar and cover.

Put this mixture aside and leave for a further two days.

Now, what do you do with the 200g of starter mixture that is left over? Throw it away, is the usual method, but I am far too frugal to do that so I made not one but three mixtures and now I have them all going onto the next stage.

I will give one to my daughter and one to a friend.  I am starting to understand the concept of the German friendship cake.

Day 4
I know that you'll all understand that I couldn't resist taking a peek and all that I can say is, 'Wow.'
The fermentation is well and truly underway as the mix has doubled and you can even hear the bubbling. Roll on tomorrow so that I can do the next stage.

As you can see from the picture, the madre is well and truly fermenting. It rose to the top of the containers and then fell back, which is a good sign that they need feeding.

Here's a better picture of the fermenting dough. Love those air holes.

Day 5
Today we move onto the next stage. I am allowed to touch rather than just to peek and get excited about a bit of fermentation. (I really should get out more.)
The dough should level out by today and be flat on top but full of lovely holes underneath.

What you need to do according to the usual method is:

Take 100g of the fermented dough and mix with 100g flour and 45g water.

Am I real supposed to throw away the rest? I think not!

So what I did was to weigh out the dough. Then I added an equal weight of flour and 45g of water per 100g of fermented dough.

So, in theory it goes something like this:

700g fermented dough  +  700g flour  +  315g water.

I admit that I now have a lot of ferment, but it still has a way to go and I will be able to store it once it has reached the final stage ..... in 15 days time.

Patience, patience, patience. How long can one wait for a loaf of bread? It had better be good.

Day 6
I had a peek. Wow, the dough has risen to the top of the containers. I am so impressed. All without the aid of any yeast. I am so tempted to use it straight away. Be still my beating heart. It's a good thing that I am going away for a couple of days. That way I will be forced to leave it. You can bet that hubby won't be tempted to bake although he will be tempted to eat.

Day 9
By now the dough has risen and flattened out, so, I reckoned that it was time to feed and water my dough so I repeated the method above:

So what I did was to weigh out the dough. Then I added an equal weight of flour and 45g of water per 100g of fermented dough.

By now I have a lot of dough as you can imagine. More than 3Kg! So much bread waiting to be made.

Day 10
Today, even though it is a bit early, I made my first loaf. I am stockpiling the madre to the point that I will have to go out and buy another fridge to keep it. However, because the madre is probably not as active as it should be as yet, I did add some yeast to make sure that the bread rose. This is what I got.

This is what it looks like when cut. I do feel that I should have left it longer as it is not easy to cut hot bread, but heigh ho it was wonderful. You might notice that this bread has a pronounced and golden crust which is exactly what I was after, so one thing achieved anyway.

Day 15
The Lievito is ready for feeding. I feel rather like I'm feeding some sort of hungry monster. I now understand why most recipes tell you to throw away the  excess. If you don't, as I didn't, then you end up with an awful lot of madre. 

Day 21, I think
Whatever the day, I think that the madre is ready to use.


250g lievito madre
500g strong flour
300g to 350g of slightly tepid water
3 level tsp salt
5g fresh yeast

So it has to be measured out and I took a 250g piece of the dough and cut it into pieces. Then I put it in a bowl added the water.

After about 10 minutes whisk it up and it should look like the mixture in the photograph. This is far more like a conventional sourdough starter.
Mix the flour and the fresh yeast together and then add the starter and mix well. Now add the salt. You can decrease this to 2 tsp if you like a less salt. 

Put the dough onto your work surface and kneed for at lease 10 mins. You should then have an elastic dough that almost bounces and feels alive in your hands. You'll know what I mean when you've done the kneading. 

Put into a large bowl, cover  and set aside until at least doubled in size. 
Turn out onto t work surface and flatten into a  rough rectangle. Fold the dough into three and press flat. Do this agin. Now, snap as you want and put onto a baking sheet to rise. This can take from 30 minutes to two hours. It depends on how warm your kitchen is. Dust the bread with flour and slash the top.

Heat your oven to a super 240 degrees C and when it is good and hot put the bread into the oven. It will take about 40 mins to cook. Test for doneness by tapping the underside of the bread. It will sound hollow when it is cooked.

Resist eating until cool. Below is one of the loaves that I've made.

I have had the starter on the go since 20th October. I used the blog to record what I was doing for future reference. It is easy to keep it going as all it needs is a little feeding every 5 days or so. What I usually do is add 200g of flour and 90ml water to the sourdough the night before I am going to use it as this ensures that the dough is active and ready to go. Then use 250g of the dough as part of the loaf mixture. That way it stays alive.
Warning though. I gave my daughter some and she managed to kill after only about a week. Forgot to feed and the top came off. It needs to be kept moist.
I think that I’ll add this to the blog info.