Date With Sarah-Kate

Aunt Bessie Rides Again

Aunt Bessie Rides Again 150 150 Sarah-Kate Lynch

About 17 years ago I started making my own sourdough bread by way of research for my book By Bread Alone. The end result is delicious, everything leading up to it something of a faff, but if you like your carbs like I do, you persevere.

A starter is a collection of flour and water and bacteria that you use instead of yeast to make your bread rise and taste so darn yummy. But you need to feed it flour all the time or it sits at the back of your fridge growing whiskers and smelling like a very old woman who’s peed her pants, which is why I call my starter Aunt Bessie.

Aunt Bessie when she’s fed and watered

I haven’t baked a loaf with her in eons but given the current lockdown situation, what’s a girl to do? She’s out of her dungeon, being fed water and flour every day, and if not smelling as fresh as a daisy at least not making me want to barf.

Don’t get me wrong, the strong smell is a good sign in a starter. You just wouldn’t want to marry her. But if you want to make the bread, here’s the recipe, along with instructions on how to get your own starter started.

Warning: she uses a lot of flour.

Aunt Bessie when she’s turned into a sourdough boule

SK’s Sourdough

30g rye flour

470g strong white flour

180g starter (see recipe for starter below)

12g salt

320-40g water NOTE THIS is G not ML

Mix all ingredients bar salt in a large bowl, by hand, for five minutes or in a mixture with a dough hook (I mix for 10). The mixture is quite wet but if you are having trouble mixing it (if most of it is ending up on your fingers or around the bowl), try using 320g water instead of 340 (I use 330g). Rest for five minutes, then add salt. Mix for another 5-10 minutes on a bench (much less if you’ve used the dough hook), without adding flour, until mixture is smooth and elastic then put into a slightly oiled container (I use the same bowl) and leave for 3-4 hours loosely covered, say inside a supermarket plastic bag (remember those?).

Knock back with a gentle fold, then leave for another hour. 

Round or gently pre-mould the loaf by folding it in on itself and turning it over and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Then give it a final mould, dip it in flour, and put it in a basket lined with a heavily floured linen tea towel. Rub the flour well into the tea towel and don’t wash it in between uses. If it’s not floured enough, the bread will stick when you try to up-end it for baking which will ruin the whole thing. 

At this stage you can leave the dough for half an hour, put it in the fridge overnight, then bring it out and sit for an hour before baking


leave for three hours in the basket, then tip out, preferably onto a pizza stone, cut 3-4 quick slits in the top with a razor or sharp knife, and bake at 250deg C for 20 minutes, and 200 for 10 minutes, remembering to steam the oven when you put the loaf in. Do this by spraying the sides of the oven with one of those squirty bottles and quickly shutting the door.

Getting the bread out of the mould without breaking the “skin” is often the hardest part and you pretty much learn this by mistake. Everything to do with sourdough has to be done pretty gently. Its sensitive – but worth it in the end!

Starter Recipe

Day One:       Juice three organic apples, strain and leave the liquid in a partly covered jar or jug.

Days 7-10:    When the juice is bubbly and fermented add it, in a glass or ceramic bowl or plastic container, to 1 ½ cups of flour and ¾ cup of water and leave, covered loosely.

Day 11:          Add another 1 ½ cups of flour and ¾ cup of water and leave.

Day 12:          Discard half the mixture and add another 1 ½ cups of flour and ¾ cup of water.

Day 13:          Repeat the above and do so every day until you know your starter is alive and kicking because it will rise up the sides of the bowl in between feeds and will be bubbly and smell sharp and cidery. If you want to get it going more quickly, feed it twice a day. 

Note: this stage initially took me EIGHT WEEKS. 

The above has been changed to American measurements but basically you want to end up with 800g of starter, 400 of which you discard each time you feed it, adding 200g water and 200g flour. 

Bloggy McBloggington

Bloggy McBloggington 2048 1367 Sarah-Kate Lynch

Okay, the first blog I wrote disappeared. You can find it on Instagram. Or not. Who would know?

It was about my frustration with being a craftsperson. Which was before I knew about my frustration with being a blogger. Although I now remember this is not a new frustration but a re-cycled one (ethical responsibility first, people) because years ago I tried to write a blog on some other platform (my favourite shoe, kind to ankles), which I also couldn’t find, necessitating me to pay someone to set up a website.

Don’t bother going to the website – nothing much happens. The person I paid to set it up and run it went off to be an influencer and now poses with handbags instead of answering texts or emails asking questions about what happened to my website.

Oh, it’s all so easy in the Internet Age! If you haven’t spent the previous Age not having the Internet. Without the Internet I would not know the Bad Influencer was posing with handbags instead of answering my emails and texts. But without the Internet I wouldn’t have a website. Which I don’t.

Am I talking myself into being Amish? And if I am, is anyone listening?

This is the third time I have typed out this blog and trying to post it somewhere is worse than knitting and sewing combined plus I don’t even have something I can’t wear because there’s (a) no buttonholes or (b) no-one can work out what it is at the end.

What I loved about writing my column for the recently-deceased NZ Woman’s Day was that I had all the fun of writing it, and someone else had the pain of putting it out in to the world.

Now I am that person. 

Sorry, must dash, I have a barn-raising to attend. But if you are reading this (and you are not me), congratulate yourself. It’s a miracle.