Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Flour and Water

If you have ever attempted to make sourdough bread you will understand my disproportionate excitement at having baked this beautiful loaf.
Even golden dome, crisp exterior, nicely aerated interior, moist without being soggy.... and dangerously moreish toasted with jam for breakfast. 

My first attempt at sourdough a few months back was met with bright-eyed, greedy appreciation, and devoured with smacking lips... by Joan the pig! 
With hindsight, I had been a little impatient and approximate in my approach. Slapdash and sourdough do not make good bed-fellows.

So when I spotted the opportunity to join a sourdough workshop, run by Chris Brennan from the fabulous Pump Street Bakery, I’d booked my place before you could say ‘knead’. Chris is a self-taught baker who has spent years perfecting his craft. Who else would take their sourdough starter on holiday with them?  I say workshop, but it was more like a cross between a chemistry lesson and an episode of ‘Supernanny’. Just substitute ‘sourdough starter’ for ‘wilful toddler’. 
For many of the anxious faces present, it was a chance to find out where our parenting skills had gone wrong. By the end of the session we had each fostered a small pot of ‘starter’ and ten pages of instructions.

Just a tip... if you’re planning to make sourdough bread, do book a week off work so you can stick rigidly to the timetable. (....fortunate for those of us work at home).
Initial twenty-four hour feedings at room temperature can easily be accommodated, but then throw in 6 hours here and a ‘fold after 50 mins’ there and you can soon find a whole weekend’s activities having to be rearranged.

By page five I was running round the house with my greenhouse thermometer looking for  a nook that was 28 degrees. Boiler room? on top of the fridge? heated towel rail? No.

Airing cupboard? Perfect. 

Smug, I then realised I didn’t have a ‘bannetone’ to prove the loaf in. 
A basket would have to do; there’s one on the front of my bicycle, or the one the cat sleeps in.... keep looking!
Finally, with my loaf balanced on top of a pile of clean linen in the airing cupboard, 
there was just time to scrub the glass panel in my oven door.... after all there’s nothing like actually watching your loaf cross the finishing line!

So, what’s the big deal about sourdough? 
Come round for breakfast and you’ll see, but just give me plenty of warning! 

Or pick up a loaf at your Farmer’s market and happily pay the price tag in the knowledge that as well as flour and water it might contain blood, sweat and tears! 

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