Sourdough made simple

Hae you tried your hand at making your own sourdough and encoutered a few challenges along the way? Maybe it’s time to learn from the pros.

Stephen Arnott, a professional sourdough baker from one of the oldest baking families in Australia, has his own theory on the resurgence of sourdough baking during the COVID-19 lock-down.  “I think people were wanting to go back to the beginning of things. They’d had a bit too much of commercialisation. People were looking to simplify things,” he said.

Stephen and his wife Allison who own the Historic Arnott’s Bakehouse in Morpeth, regularly meet those eager to learn the secret to successful sourdough baking through their hugely popular cooking classes.  “It’s interesting because before the virus came along, I’d have people in the class who had tried to make sourdough and a lot of them were trying to fit the making of the bread into their normal schedule,” Stephen explained.

The perfect opportunity

“They’d go to work, come home and then try to fit in the next stage. They would struggle with fitting sourdough-making into their busy schedules.”  “It makes sense that people are creating more things from scratch when they’re spending more time at home. Making sourdough is such a long process the lockdown was the perfect opportunity for many to give it a go.” Created without commercial yeast, sourdough relies on a starter, a fermented mix of flour and water containing naturally occurring yeast and bacteria.

The fermentation process takes between 22 and 28 hours. But the thick chewy crust and earthy aroma of a real, authentic sourdough loaf makes it all worthwhile.  Those eager to learn the art of baking real sourdough can uncover all the tips and tricks at one of Stephen’s sourdough classes in the heart of Morpeth.

Be prepared to immerse yourself in a special piece of history with the classes taking place in the property’s original 1850s bakehouse kitchen. It is in this very spot that Stephen’s great, great, great grandfather and founder of Arnott’s Biscuits, William Arnott used to bake in the 1860s. The kitchen is also believed to be home to the oldest Scotch oven remaining in the Southern Hemisphere.  

While Stephen is running the classes, his wife Allison is also on hand to offer her detailed knowledge. With a Masters degree in Food Biology and an incredible understanding of the science behind sourdough she is happy to answer questions for those wanting to dig even deeper.

Together they make an unbeatable team.   “I give everyone who does my class my mobile number and tell them to ring or text me if they’ve got any questions,” Stephen said.  “I’ll often get people sending me photos of things they’ve baked,” he smiled.  

Story by Nathalie Craig, photos courtesy of Maitland Council

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