Gert’s Dutch Sourdough

Gert Vos was a Dutch chef who lived in Caernarfon for several years and made a great number of friends in North Wales including us. You really need to read my piece about him here.

To say that his menus were wide-ranging is an understatement – he prowled towns, regions, countries and continents in the search for styles, techniques, flavours and fusion. And I was supposed to come up with breads that would complement each week’s theme.

Amongst his papers he had a collection of Dutch sourdoughs he’d come across somewhere, wasn’t sure where, and he promised to dig them out and give them to me. Then he lost them again. But months later, when they turned up, he steeled himself, sat down and translated them for me before they wandered off again.

This is what he handed to me:
Found them again, this time I ‘hammered nails with heads’ and immediately translated them. Hope you can make some sense out of it.

Cheese Bread
1 liter sourdough

250 g maizemeal
350 g wholemeal flour
and
500 ml tomato juice
70 g tomato paste
2 teasp honey
and last
250 g grated cheese

Currant Bread
1 liter sourdough
500 g wholemeal flour
and
500 g soaked currants
1 tablesp cinnamon

Fig Bread
1 liter sourdough
500 g wholemeal flour
and
250 g chopped soaked dried figs
150 g desiccated coconut
2 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp coriander

Pumpkin Bread
1 liter sourdough
500 g wholemeal flour
and
2 fried chopped onions
400 g pumpkin chopped
2 teasp cumin

Banana Bread
1 liter sourdough
250 g wholemeal flour
250 g buckwheat flour
and
2 eggs
100 ml sour cream
4 tablesp honey
vanilla essence
4 mashed bananas
150 g ground peanuts

Potato Bread
1 liter sourdough
600 g wholemeal flour
400 ml yoghurt
and
1 chopped and fried onion
2 teasp cumin
400 g grated potato
250 g grated cheese

Sauerkrautbread
1 liter sourdough
500 g wholemeal flour
and
2 chopped and fried onions
200 g raisins
300 g sauerkraut
1 tbsp herbes de provence
200 g grated cheese

Herbed Bread
1 liter sourdough
250 g wholemeal flour
250 g rye flour
80 g butter
and
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp dill
2 tbsp chives
2 tbsp tarragon
1 teasp caraway
1 teasp cardamom
1 teasp dried basil”

Gert died in May 2019; I retired last March 2021 – so I think it’s my turn to ‘hammer nails with heads’ and work through these formulas, weird as they might seem.

You will notice that none of the formulas contain water (apart from what’s in the starter). None of them contain salt; I’ve taken the liberty of adding around 1.8% salt (less than the bakers standard 2.0%).

All of the formulas start with “1 liter Sourdough”. My starting point is that this means 800g Starter @ 100% hydration – the weight of 1 litre of starter.

None of the formulas come with any instructions (e.g. grated Potato, raw or cooked?) Quantities come in weights, volume or number (4 bananas?)

Most of the formulas list the Starter and Flour(s) and then say “and” followed by the remaining ingredients. I’m starting to think that this means, mix the starter and flour to make a dough “and” work in the other ingredients. Could be the nearest thing we have to instructions.

The other thing to bear in mind is the amount of starter. Most of my doughs contain around 28% starter (percentage of flour weight). In recent years there seems to have been a competition to see who can make the bread with the smallest amount of starter (4.0%?) By comparison these doughs are massively over the top – Currant Bread for example, 160%! Rather than feeling a little weak at the knees probably better to regard the starter as a sponge.