Even better than sliced bread: Sourdough for beginners

Baking bread can be fuss-free and fast, plus it’s an ideal staple for school lunchboxes

  Patrick Ryan of the Firehouse Bakery with his sourdough loaf. Photograph: Eric Luke

Patrick Ryan of the Firehouse Bakery with his sourdough loaf. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Schools are reopening, and the lunchboxes are looming. One of the best things we could do to improve the quality of our family’s diet, and our own, is to get into the habit of making bread, rather than relying on shop-bought, which is often of poor quality.

Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bakery in Delgany and Firehouse Bread School on Heir Island in west Cork is a founding member of Real Bread Ireland. He has developed the recipe on this page for a fuss-free sourdough loaf that needs very little kneading, proofs overnight in the fridge, and is ready to go straight into an oven the next morning to bake.

“I appreciate that for many, the biggest obstacle to baking bread at home is time. So to counter this, I have developed a recipe designed to fit around busy lives. Something that can be done by all and which requires no fancy equipment. So, no matter how crappy your oven is, everyone can bake great bread at home.”

From today until the end of September, Ryan and many of his fellow members of Real Bread Ireland will be giving away sourdough starter in support of Sourdough September, a UK and Ireland initiative aimed at getting more people baking bread.

“We will provide the starter in a container, along with instructions on how to maintain it,” Ryan says. “When people receive the starter, if they feed it that evening, it will be ready to use the following day.”

If you want to have a go at making your own sourdough starter from scratch, Ryan’s step-by-step guide is online at irishtimes.com/food.

Real bread bakers have it tough enough, competing with the convenience and price advantage offered by supermarkets and corner stores, so isn’t it counterproductive, getting their customers to bake their own bread?

“Not at all. This is all about encouraging more people to bake real bread. I believe the more people that can enjoy real bread, the better. Over 70 per cent of the ‘bread’ consumed in this country, and I use the word very loosely, is mass-produced pre-sliced white. By baking for yourself you understand and appreciate the process involved and once you get the taste for it, there is no going back. And let’s be honest, the majority of us will not bake every day, so on the days that you don’t bake, you have us,” Ryan says. For Real Bread Ireland members and Sourdough September details, see realbreadireland.org

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