When you feed your sourdough culture every day, in preparation for baking bread, it becomes a part of your family. Something you feed each day and keep warm. It also gives you an excess of culture, as you’re constantly re-feeding and emptying out the leftovers. We used to feed the excess to the chickens. But since our friend Emiko took us to a teeny-tiny panino shop while travelling in Florence, we were inspired to use all our leftovers (sorry chickens) to make these awesomely textured flatbreads. They are by far the quickest way to make bread from a culture, and the best use of leftovers.
Seriously. We eat these a lot. They’re delicious, versatile, and awesome with everything.
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon warm water
2 teaspoons unrefined sugar (e.g rapadura)
2 big pinches of unrefined salt
500ml (2 cups) leftover sourdough culture (TDF note: we recommend getting some from a baker friend, but if you don’t have one, see below!)
Our favourite addition (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
Alternate additions (also optional – try one or two at a time)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
a few thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
a few garlic or onion shoots, finely chopped
a few rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped
This recipe will be gluten free if you feed your sourdough culture with gluten-free flour. Read on for our guide to making your own sourdough culture!
Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced.
Liberally coat two skillets (or two 20cm round baking tins) with oil. If you’re using any of the optional additions, sprinkle them into the skillets or tins.
Combine the water, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the culture and stir until it is like a smooth, slightly thick pancake batter. This will depend on the ratio of flour to water you feed your culture. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water at a time until loosened. If it’s too thin, add a little flour at a time until thickened.
Put the skillets in the oven for 5 minutes (or 2 minutes for tins) to get hot and toast any flavourings. Then pull out of the oven and quickly pour in the batter, dividing it evenly between the skillets or tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes. When ready, the edges will be crisp and golden brown, and the top will be light golden brown (or just turning golden, depending on your flour).
Cool a little in the skillets or tins, then loosen the flatbreads with a spatula and flip out onto a board. You should now have two very well formed and slightly airy flatbreads. If serving later, you can keep them warm between two tea towels, which will also soften them a little. Best eaten fresh, or you can store in an airtight container in the fridge (lying flat, don’t fold) for up to 3 days. Reheat to eat.
Fried egg and bacon with zucchini pickles, chilli jam and cheese
Mushrooms, melted cheese, green sauce and leek jam
Starting a sourdough culture
(the recipe below makes one ‘immortal’ batch of sourdough culture)
Time: 7 days.
Fermenting grains with a sourdough culture takes them to the next level and starting a new culture from scratch is super simple. It’s a fun process to watch it grow over about .a week. Whether you want a gluten-free, whole-wheat or any other kind of culture, always start it with stone-ground rye flour. Stone-ground rye flour has that special something that makes the good things happen. After your culture is very alive, it can be converted to any flour you desire.
400g stone-ground rye flour (as freshly milled as possible)
400ml unchlorinated water (it must be unchlorinated to allow the wild bacteria and yeasts to grow)
Add 50g of rye flour and 50ml water to a 500ml jar and mix well. Cover with a damp cloth, place the lid on but don’t tighten and set aside in a warm place, about 25-38C (we put ours on top of our coffee machine).
After 24 hours, discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the mix, then add the same amounts of flour and water to the jar, mix thoroughly, cover with the (freshly dampened) cloth and lid and return to its warm place.
Repeat Day 2 instructions each day.
By now your culture should be really bubbling between feeds. Repeat Day 2 instructions twice (12 hours after the last feed, then again 12 hours later).
Repeat Day 2 instructions 12 hours after the last feed. 12 hours later your culture should be forming big bubbles and be ready for making bread.
A healthy culture smells a little acidic, like vinegar, a little yeasty, like beer, and also a little sweet and fruity, like banana or pineapple. There is quite a lot of variation, but no matter what, it will smell pleasant. If your culture begins to smell like nail polish remover, takes on funny colours, or just doesn’t smell right, it’s probably not. Best to discard it and start again!
Maintaining your culture
Repeat the process of discarding and feeding daily for at least another week to get your culture really alive, and then freeze about 2 tablespoons for a backup just in case your culture spoils/dies down the track. From this point, feed it any wholegrain flour you like – millet, wheat, brown rice, whatever. If you feed it gluten-free flour, it will soon become gluten free
We usually keep our culture in the fridge between bakes. It’s not considered the ‘done thing’ to refrigerate your culture, but we’ve never had a problem managing it this way. Plus, we always have a back up in the freezer just in case, which we can simply bring out and feed to make it come alive again. Just remember, sourdough culture is alive. So, if you do have it out of the fridge or freezer, it must be kept warm (at a constant 25-38C) and fed every day.
Using your culture
Two days before you plan on baking, combine 150g of flour, 150ml of water and at least 2 tablespoons of sourdough culture in a 1 litre jar and leave in its warm place. That’s enough to culture a 3kg batch of bread (10% by weight). If you want to bake more or less, feed it appropriately.
Twenty-four hours later, your culture will be ready to use. Never put anything in your starter jar but flour and water (especially don’t contaminate it with salt, because it will wreak havoc with your culture) and always leave at least 2 tablespoons of starter in the jar. As soon as you are finished, seal the jar and pop it back in the fridge.
Want to hear more from Matt and Lentil? The Grown & Gathered team will be talking all things food and community at Mercedes.me next week! Tickets available here.
Everything Is Better When Shared
In-Conversation With Matt And Lentil Purbrick
Tuesday, September 25th, 6-8pm
525 Collins Street
Panini’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Photography – Shantanu Starick.
Matt and Lentil use their leftover sourdough culture to make these awesomely-textured flatbreads. Photography – Shantanu Starick.
Matt and Lentil rediscovered their panini-love on a trip to Italy. Photography – Shantanu Starick.