I can’t overstate my love of a potato. Of course, I don’t have to have it every day, but as a chef, I can’t help marvelling at its many uses. In my mind, it really is one of the most underrated, under-appreciated, and underused ingredients in the kitchen. One of my favourite things to do with a potato is to grow a starter that I keep on hand for baking a loaf of delicious sourdough bread. There’s something so satisfying about reconnecting with the old customs, especially during these times when we can all do with a simple distraction or two.
Every serious cook will know that every starter deserves a name. It may sound eccentric, but considering that a starter can live as long as you do (with the proper love and attention), it really can become like a lifelong friend. Also, you’re more likely to look after a starter called Bernie, for instance, than one called #27.
ON DAY 1
- potato peels of 2 large potatoes
- 300 ml water
- 140 g (250 ml) white bread flour
Place the potato skins and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the water becomes cloudy. Place the skins and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Pass this mixture through a sieve and discard the pulp. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Mix 125 ml of this mixture with the bread flour. Spoon into a bottle with a loosely fitting lid and leave overnight.
ON DAY 2
- 65 ml lukewarm water
- 70 g (125 ml) bread flour
Discard half of the mixture in the bottle. Mix the water and flour to a smooth paste and add to the mixture in the bottle. Mix and leave overnight.
ON DAYS 3 – 5
This is for every day. You are now going to feed your starter for the next 3 days
- 15 ml potato starter – this is the mixture from the bottle
- 15 ml bread flour
- 15 ml water
Mix the above ingredients and add back to the mixture in the bottle. Seal the container tightly. Repeat tomorrow and the day after. Keep the bottle at room temperature. After day 5 you can place the bottle in the fridge, where it will be less active.
- For a more active starter keep it at room temperature and watch it closely, especially in the summer months.
- Feed your starter at least once a week – this is the process that you were doing from days 3 – 5.
- Feed your starter the night before you want to use it.
- A liquid will form at the top of your starter; you can mix this through the mixture.
POTATO SOURDOUGH BREAD
Preparation and baking time: 2 days and 45 minutes | serves: 1 large round loaf
30 ml potato starter
100 ml warm water
100 g (180 ml) white bread flour
400 ml water
600 g (1070 ml) white bread flour
12 g salt
splash of water
Mix the potato starter, 100 ml warm water and 100 g bread flour in a mixing bowl until you have a smooth paste. Allow it to double in size – about 4 hours. If it does not double in size, leave it longer. This process always depends on how warm it is on the day.
Transfer the first mixture to a larger mixing bowl and add the 400 ml water and 600 g bread flour. Mix with a spatula. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let it rest for 1 hour, then add the salt.
Wet your hands with a splash of water and transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead for at least 10 – 15 minutes. Place the dough back in a clean bowl, cover with a clean kitchen cloth and let it rest overnight, or 8 hours.
Wake up, make coffee and carry on with baking your bread. Knock the dough down on a floured surface. Flour a round 230 mm rye bread basket. Bring the dough into a ball shape and place in the basket, seam side up.
Preheat the oven to 220 °C. Let the dough double in volume, then carefully turn it out onto a floured baking tray. Slit the bread with a sharp blade and place in the oven.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes. Knock the bread on the top or bottom – if it sounds hollow, your bread is done. Let it cool before slicing.