In his article about sourdough, Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall says that baking your own is ‘life-affirming and transformative. And why wouldn’t it be? You are, after all, growing your own bread.’ These are terms I’ve heard parents use about carrying and rearing their children. “It changes you”, they say. And, while I don’t yet feel a changed woman, my first fumble into bread ‘growing’, as HFW puts it, definitely caused me enough sweating and fretting to warrant the comparison.
Ok, so it’s practically the end of the month, but I’ve finally begun #sourdoughseptember.
On Thursday afternoon, my Mother arrived. No, not my mother mother (mam) but my sourdough starter: the mother dough. A little pot of fruity, nutty, bubbly goodness alive with wild yeast, that came through the post from the lovely people at Trove.
Before it arrived, I received an email with a one page set of instructions that even I didn’t feel the need to deviate from: feed the 75g starter a 250g dose of strong white bread flour, hydrate it with 315g warm water and keep it in a warm place. Easy.
By Saturday morning it was fully revived and bubbling away naughtily, so I thought I’d have a go at a Justin Gellatly (aka the dough boy) sourdough loaf recipe. I went out to buy everything I’d need: a proving basket (I picked this one up in Clas Ohlson (Swedish hardware store) for £8.99), a dough scraper (from HomeSense for £2.99), semolina and bread flour. My first loaf. Oh, the excitement!
I’m dire at following recipes (or doing as I’m told, apparently), so once I was back home, I read the recipe more times than was really necessary and, panicked by the terms: sourdough bulk fermentation, pre-shaping, overnight fermentation, I made notes and a timetable (yes, a flipping timetable) in my phone. I mean, there’s definitely no denying that I was committed to this, my debut loaf.
Saturday night. You were in your best jeans. I was in my apron spooning sourdough starter into three dishes: one for bread, one for sourdough crumpets (oh, yes. As ridiculously easy to make as they are delicious) and the other to remain as a starter and rest in the fridge until needed.
Weighing out flour and water and adding this to my starter was simple enough. Then, the ‘kneading’ was done in the KitchenAid. No heavy breathing here. Next up, I had to begin the bulk fermentation. This induced a little panting. The instructions were simple. Perhaps, too simple. I could’ve done with more guidance. I Googled it. Two hours of me running back and forth from couch to kitchen and then the pre-shaping started. I think I might’ve been putting my dough in the proving basket upside down but I can’t be sure. Which is the top? The smooth bit or the bunched up bit? I guessed the smooth bit. I was slightly distracted by ‘Top of The Lake’ (series 1 ep 4) at this point.
The overnight fermentation in the fridge was pretty simple. I spent the first part continuing my ‘Top of the Lake’ (series 1 ep 6) binge, the latter snoring (probably) and woke up on Sunday morning to find a silky smooth, slightly bubbly, risen dough so much like a baby’s head, I almost kissed it.
A bit more faffing required and then, while we ate toasted sourdough crumpets smothered with goat’s butter, I left the dough for its final prove.
Despite the dough sticking to the basket and splurging out on to the tray far more than I was comfortable with, 40 minutes later I lifted an unexpectedly loaf-like babe out of the oven.
Once cool, I cut into it and do you know what? It wasn’t bad. Slightly underdone towards the base (another 10 minutes in the oven next time?) but it had a robust crust, those gaping sourdough holes you expect and the tangy taste of sourdough.
My first loaf. And, it made a banging bacon sandwich, too. I’ve already almost forgotten the suffering I went through to get it.