Understanding Sourdough Flours: A Beginner's Guide in 6 Steps
Embarking on the journey of sourdough baking is akin to stepping into a world where flour transforms into a culinary canvas, and every choice holds the promise of a unique masterpiece. At the heart of this artisanal endeavour lies the selection of flours, each contributing distinct flavours, textures, and characteristics to your sourdough creation.
Read on as we delve into the basic guide to sourdough flours, uncovering the nuances of baker's flour, exploring the classics like all-purpose, whole wheat, and rye, and introducing the subtle charm of spelt. From the shelves to the mixing bowl, discover the secrets of where to find the best flours, how to store them, and the alchemy of combining them for the most exquisite sourdough recipes.
Let's unlock the flour power and elevate your sourdough game to new heights!
We are not affiliated with any shops/brands mentioned below nor do we get any compensation from them. We are simply honest about our own experiences and we're happy to share what worked for us. Keep in mind the links may have expired so you may need to search by the product name directly on supplier's website.
** 1. What is Baker's Flour? **
Baker's flour, or bread flour, is a key player in the world of sourdough baking. It boasts a higher protein content, typically around 12-14%, compared to all-purpose flour. This elevated protein level is crucial as it promotes gluten development, giving the dough its structure and elasticity. These characteristics contribute to the desirable chewiness in the crumb and the formation of a well-defined crust during baking.
** 2. Recommended Flours for Sourdough Baking **
- All-Purpose Flour: An excellent choice for beginners, all-purpose flour strikes a balance between protein content and versatility. It can be used alone or in combination with other flours for varied textures and flavours.
- Whole Wheat Flour: Adding depth and nutrition, whole wheat flour brings a nutty flavour and heartier texture to sourdough. It's an excellent choice for those seeking a more robust and wholesome bread.
- Rye Flour: Rye flour introduces a distinct earthy flavour to your sourdough and enhances its moisture retention. Incorporating rye flour, even in small amounts, can significantly influence the final taste of your bread.
- Spelt Flour: Embracing spelt flour introduces a mild, slightly sweet flavour with nutty notes to your sourdough. With a lower gluten content compared to traditional wheat flours, spelt adds a unique character while maintaining a light texture.
** 3. What Flour Do You Use with Your Starters? **
We are absolutely in love with the range of flours from Wholegrain Milling. They are a family-owned business based in Gunnedah in north-eastern New South Wales, near Tamworth. You can read about their story and products on the website here: www.wholegrain.com.au.
All our starters are maintained using their selection of organic whole rye and sustainable unbleached white baker’s flour.
** 4. Where to Buy the Best Flour for Sourdough **
Look for reputable local mills or specialty stores that offer a variety of flours. Freshness matters, so consider stores with high turnover to ensure you're getting the best quality flour. Online retailers and farmer's markets can also be great sources for unique and high-quality flours.
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Harris Farm - Golden Shore Rye Flour (10.4g protein), 100% Rye Grain. Best for breads, bread rolls, artisan breads, crispbreads. Convenient 800g bag of good quality fine rye flour.
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The top two Australian supermarkets also stock good all-rounder flours! For basic baking needs we can definitely recommend the two below that we have used ourselves:
Laucke Wallaby Bakers Flour, 5kg bag (11.9g protein), best for sourdough bread, afforable and readily available in most stores. Your easiest pick that always works.
La Molisana Farina 00 Di Grano Tenero Flour, 1kg bag (11.5g protein), best for pizza and other 'lighter' type dough recipes. There should be other similar soft wheat flours available in the flour section, too.
** 5. How to Store Flour **
To maintain the freshness of your flour, store it in a cool, dark place, preferably in airtight containers. Avoid exposing it to heat and moisture, as these can lead to the development of unwanted flavours and spoil the flour. Proper storage ensures your sourdough maintains its intended taste and texture.
Below is an example of what we use and we love the Sistema brand!
** 6. Mixing Flours for the Best Sourdough Recipes **
Experimenting with a combination of flours allows you to customize the flavour and texture of your sourdough. A common approach is to blend bread flour with special ones like whole wheat, rye, or spelt flour. This combination provides a balance of strength, flavour complexity, and nutritional benefits. Here are some exciting mix ideas to inspire your baking journey:
Classic Blend (75% Bread Flour, 25% Whole Wheat) :
This time-tested combination offers a balance of structure from bread flour and the wholesome richness of whole wheat. Ideal for those seeking a well-rounded, everyday sourdough.
Nutty Fusion (60% All-Purpose Flour, 20% Whole Wheat, 20% Spelt) :
Elevate your bread with a delightful blend of all-purpose, whole wheat, and the subtle sweetness and nuttiness of spelt. This mix introduces a nutty undertone, adding complexity to your sourdough.
Rustic Rye Adventure (50% Bread Flour, 25% Whole Wheat, 15% Rye, 10% Spelt) :
Dive into the world of rustic flavours by incorporating a mix of bread flour, whole wheat, rye, and spelt. This combination offers a robust taste, heightened by the earthiness of rye. You may need to adjust water content as rye and whole wheat flours absorb more.
Ancient Grains Symphony (40% All-Purpose Flour, 20% Whole Wheat, 15% Rye, 15% Spelt, 10% Ancient Grains Mix) :
Introduce a medley of ancient grains for a unique experience. This blend combines the familiarity of all-purpose and whole wheat with the distinctive character of rye, spelt, and ancient grains mix for an unparalleled taste journey.
** Conclusion: Crafting Your Sourdough Masterpiece **
So, wrapping up our sourdough fling, let’s remember baking isn’t rocket science; it’s more like a delicious art project. Mixing flours isn’t just about measurements; it's your chance to create flavour fireworks in your kitchen.
As you dive into your sourdough adventure, toss in a bit of this, a dash of that, and see what happens. Embrace the imperfections – they're just the quirks that make your bread unique. Your sourdough isn’t just food; it's a celebration of your dedication to having a good time in the kitchen.
So, armed with a sprinkle of wisdom, turn your kitchen into your playground, and let that mixing bowl be your sandbox. May your sourdough escapades be full of giggles, tasty surprises, and the aroma of pure kitchen joy.