I’ve had an excess of sourdough starter recently. It’s really only flour, water and some wild yeasts but I can’t bear to throw any away. As a result, I’ve been turning our a variety of breads, including this sourdough focaccia. But why do I have such an excess of sourdough starter?
My poor old sourdough starter has not been treated very well over the past six months. It’s been forgotten, hurriedly fed on odd occasions and generally languished in the back of the fridge. As a result, the starter has become listless and very sour indeed. Too sour for my tastes. I needed to build it back up to a healthy, bubbly starter that wasn’t so sour and would bake a better loaf.
Fixing a forlorn sourdough starter
If your sourdough starter is looking a little sad, try these tips:
- Remove the starter from the fridge and drain off as much of the hooch as possible. Hooch is the grey liquid that can sometimes form in starters. It is safe to consume but over time, can make the starter extra sour.
- Bring the starter up to room temperature before you feed it. Place it on the bench for an hour or so to allow it to warm up and start to activate. Leave the lid off if you can.
- Draw off 1/4 cup of starter and place into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup cooled boiled water and 1/4 cup strong flour to the bowl. Mix together well – this is the starter you will use in your weekly baking.
- Add 1/4 cup cooled boiled water and 1/4 cup strong flour to the original sourdough starter. Mix well, place the lid on and return to the fridge.
- Do this twice a week (rather than once a week), until the starter is slightly thicker, bubbly and activates quickly when you begin a new batch for baking.
- Never give up hope – I have had starter sitting in the fridge, unfed for 6 weeks or more and have still been able to bring it back to rude health.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, there’s no limit to the toppings or inclusions you can put on your sourdough focaccia.
- Continue to feed your sourdough with 1/4 cup cooled boiled water and 1/4 cup strong flour, mixing well each time until you have 300 grams of bubbling starter. You usually need to feed the starter 3 times, once every 4 to 6 hours (depending on how warm your climate is). You can give the starter a double feed of flour and water and a good mix if you need to leave it overnight.
- Once you have 300 grams of starter, place in a large bowl. Add 1 kilo of strong bread flour, 18 grams salt and 575 – 600 grams of cooled boiled water.
- Note that the liquid is measured in grams, not millilitres. The amount of water depends on the humidity, climate and time of year. In sub tropical Brisbane, it is generally less than 600 grams.
- Mix well by hand, in the bowl. The flour should be well incorporated into the wet mix but the dough does not need to be smooth.
- Cover with a wax wrap or oiled plastic wrap and set aside to prove for at least 12 hours. Again, depending on the time of year and climate, it may take as much as 16 – 24 hours to prove and double in size.
Making the Focaccia
- 1 kg sourdough ready to bake
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 50 gm olives, chopped
- 50 gm feta cheese, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil (extra)
- roasted red peppers & dried oregano to garnish
- 2 tbsp salt flakes
- Knock the dough back in the bowl. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the bowl and massage well into the dough. This will create a wet, oily dough.
- Add the olives and feta cheese and gently knead into the dough.
- Turn the dough into a heavy steel baking tray approx 25cm x 30cm x 5cm. Press the dough out into the tray. There will we some excess oil around the edges of the dough but this will soak in during baking.
- Set focaccia aside to prove for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to maximum temperature (at least 230c or a pizza setting if you have it). My oven goes to 250c. Don’t use a pizza stone as this will make the sourdough focaccia brown too quickly on the bottom.
- Whilst the oven is heating, top the focaccia with strips of roasted pepper and scatter over the dried oregano.
- Press indentations into the dough with your thumbs and drizzle extra olive oil over top.
- Sprinkle salt flakes on top of the dough and press in gently.
- Place uncooked sourdough focaccia in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. If the bread is browning too quickly, turn the oven down after 10 minutes to 210c
- When the sourdough focaccia is ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the tray.
- Turn the bread out onto a rack to cool completely. It should turn out relative easily because of the oil but you may need to loosen the edges.
- Serve warm from the oven for breakfast or as a prepare ahead entree/starter.
This makes an enormous, family size sourdough focaccia. It’s really a meal in itself. You can always make a smaller loaf by using a smaller baking tin and cooking for a few minutes less (it still needs at least 15 minutes, so it can rise and bake).
I must acknowledge my friend Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial who has many, many tutorials on her blog about Sourdough. Celia also gifted me my sourdough starter, Audrey II, the daughter of Celia’s sourdough, Priscilla.
If you are looking for another way to use excess sourdough starter, try my Leftover Sourdough Starter Crackers.