I’m not sure I have the temperament for sourdough.
I make up all sorts of crazy creations from all sorts of things and will happily bake yeast and quick breads with my eyes closed — but a bit of flour, water and starter has me quaking in my boots — or at the very least ignoring the bubbling bowl waving at me each time I open the fridge.
You see, a month or so ago I made up a batch of yoghurt and olive oil whole wheat flatbreads but only used two thirds of the dough. The rest became my pet experiment…
I fed it — indiscriminately and without precision — with a spoonful of flour and a splash of water here and there. I kept it in the fridge so it wasn’t so demanding. I divided it into two bowls after it got to be too much for one. But it hasn’t progressed any further than that because, well, what needs to come next seems far too complicated and exact for my mad-scientist ways.
A thousand sites and books and opinions, hydration levels, flour types, weights and waits. Lots of details about things I already knew yet none about what I think I need to learn. Sigh.
Finally a very helpful person provided a very abbreviated version on Instagram which made more sense than all the long posts I’d previously seen. Between his advice and a few other cobbled together tips, I’m ready to bake, I think…
However, in the meantime I have two bowls of starter bubbling away in my fridge so it’s a good thing Lynn from Turnips 2 Tangerines, my assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, is a prolific sourdough baker!
At some stage I want to try Lynn’s Banana Walnut Sourdough Scones and Whole Wheat Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls but it was her Sourdough Crackers that really caught my eye. The recipe called for starter — just starter — and I figured it was the perfect way to use up a bit of the bubbling beast.
There weren’t any instructions about whether the starter was to be fed or not so, as I know just enough to be dangerous, I pulled it out of the fridge the evening before and gave it a very small 100% hydration feed (as explained here, using 1 part water to 2 parts flour by volume because I couldn’t be bothered to measure weight, ahem) in preparation for morning baking.
I also made a few other adjustments, including using all rye flour — because once again who am I to follow a recipe by the letter — and while I’m not sure how the crackers were supposed to turn out to say I was pleased with them is an understatement at best.
Earthy and rich I topped them with herbal rosemary and zingy lemon, although they are bound to be re-imagined with a thousand different flavoured toppings and possibly even re-born as flatbreads with a much shorter baking time.
But I must first force myself to tackle a proper sourdough loaf.
Now I’m well aware that most people name their starters but I’ve never been very good at naming things. Case in point, I had a turtle for 4 years that went by the extraordinarily descriptive monicker of “Turtle”, and a gold mid-80’s CJ7 Jeep with no carpet and a dashboard that leaked every time it rained that was known simply as “The Beast”.
Then as I was typing this late last night I was thinking about how the first thing I made from my starter contains rye flour. Like a ghost dancing through my 2am deliriousness “rye” became “Ray” and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. We’ll see how he goes and if Ray and I remain friends beyond my first loaf, but in the meantime there are crackers to eat.
As a side note – I’m open to any tips, great books or links to really easy beginner sourdough tutorials!
Rye Sourdough Crackers
These crisp, shattery crackers are a great way to use up extra sourdough starter — and honestly good enough to make you want to have starter in your fridge if only to make this recipe.
Adapted from Turnips 2 Tangerines.
Makes approx 100 pieces, depending on how you cut them
- 1 c sourdough starter (mine was the consistency of pancake batter)
- 1 c rye flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/4 c olive oil, plus extra for brushing
- scant 1 tsp sea salt
- few Tbsp seasoning sprinkles (see below for ideas)
Give your starter a 100% hydration feed a few hours before using, and bring it to room temp.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and use your hand to squish it all together or stir really well. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest 30 mins so the flour can absorb the liquid.
Preheat oven 180C (350F). Use a scraper to form dough into a rough ball and kneed it in the bowl a few times until smooth-ish. Divide dough into three pieces.
On a sheet of baking paper the size of your baking pan, roll out one piece of dough at a time using your extra flour as required (see detailed notes below).
Roll very thin, and when you think it is thin enough, roll it a bit thinner.
You can trim all the edges straight if you wish but leave the rough bits on the paper to snap off later as a cook’s treat.
Brush top of dough with a bit of extra oil and sprinkle with your choice of seasoning then pull the paper straight onto your baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 mins, turning pan once halfway though.
Allow to cool on tray for two minutes then move to a rack to cool completely. Crackers will continue to crisp as they cool and can be simply snapped apart.
Roll second portion of dough as first one is baking and then repeat again with the third. Store in an airtight container.
- Flour your baking paper well and press your dough into a flat disk, flipping often to keep it floured. Then use a rolling pin (wine bottle, straight-sided glass, whatever) to roll the dough very thin.
- The dough doesn’t have much structure so it is easy to roll but hard to flip without ripping — every so often sprinkle top of dough with a bit more flour, place another sheet of baking paper on top, flip the whole thing over and remove the piece of paper that is now on top before you roll it again. I flipped mine two or three times.
- Keeping it on the paper to pull it onto the pan and simply snapping the crackers apart after baking makes it all very simple.
- I highly recommend serving with overzealous schmears of Marinated Goat Cheese.
vegan // vegetarian // dairy-free // soy-free // sugar-free // nut-free
I made mine Rosemary & Lemon by mixing 1 Tbsp dry rosemary leaves with 1 T lemon zest and a heaping tsp of sea salt — but you could experiment with pretty much any other flavour.
Need some ideas?
- Rosemary & Lemon Zest
- Cajun Seasoning
- Cumin & Oregano
- Chipotle & Lime
- Cocoa & Orange Zest