Wednesday 6 February 2013

My first sourdough

10am: So the day is here. My sourdough starter has been bubbling away for a week or so now and I'm going to embark on my first sourdough. I'm planning on doing all the necessary kneading in between delivery and assembly of a cabin bed, getting a huge tree cut down and swimming lessons, so I probably could have chosen a better day, but it's a busy week, so here we go. I feel surprisingly nervous. I think I'm probably making this a bigger deal than it needs to be. It is, after all, nothing more (quite literally) than flour and water and a pinch of salt. What could possibly go wrong, right? Wish me luck.

I'm using a recipe from the River Cottage Bread book (the 'My Sourdough' recipe), which starts with a sponge, so I got this going last night with a big dollop of my starter mixed with some of the flour and some warm water to make a batter, and by this morning it looked like this:

You might not be able to see them (try clicking on the pic to make it bigger), but it's covered in tiny holes where it's all fermenting away busily. I am told that fermentation makes all the goodness in the grain available to us, the eaters of the grain, and that bread without added sugar makes it more available because added sugar allows the grain to ferment more quickly, but keeps much of the goodness locked up. That was the technical bit, but I'm afraid I'm not too hot on the terminology. Or indeed the scientific facts...

11am: I followed the River Cottage kneading instructions to the letter and have ended up with a lovely silky dough. It's still quite sticky, but I'm told that's quite normal for a sourdough. It's sitting in a bowl having a think. Meanwhile the men came to put the bed together. It ended rather poignantly with one of them telling me that he too slept in a cabin bed the same as our new one in his 1-bed flat, while his sons slept in bunk beds in the same room. As I prodded the holes in my dough after its first prove I found myself wondering about the situation that had left him thus and felt a bit melancholy. This is what comes of living with a frustrated writer (MrB), and of having the time to ponder these things when kneading dough.

5.30pm: Back from the swimming lesson. The loaf has been sitting in its floury linen for two hours for its final rest before baking and is now in the oven! It seems to have done its 'oven spring' nicely and is browning up a treat.

6.00pm: Ta-da! It smells a bit like cheese on toast, and is full of lovely big holes so the wild yeast was obviously doing its job.

I remain amazed by the fact that this started life as a pile of flour and a jug of water.

Smells divine. I need to work on my slashing technique. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

You will note from my timings that this is not aimed strictly at breakfast. However, sourdough bread, in my experience, makes fantastic toast, so if there's any left over after dinner, it'll be great with a bit of marmalade or honey in the morning. Yum.

Now, I need to go and lie down. the excitement has quite done me in.


  1. Both us Mrs Fox's bake our own bread but nothing quite as adventurous as these loaves you've been making.
    I'm inspired... time to make dough is hard to come by so I'm partial to my little paddle. Must use my hands for something other than craft!

    I want to try this bread - my mum used to make this, you've just jogged my memory. I'd forgotten about it, I remember the smell.

    1. Yes it's finding the time isn't it? I'm between jobs at the moment, ('resting' as actors say), so I've got a bit more time than I normally would have, and it is so lovely to do some kneading. The breadmaker is a life-saver for busy people though - even if you use it just to make the dough.

  2. You're seriously an inspiration. In the Easter hols I must have a go! I tried years ago, but the timing was crucial and I remember staying up till 3am because the damned stuff was rising so slowly. That sort of put me off further efforts!

    1. I think you probably have a bit more leeway with sourdough - the proving is much slower so there's less risk of over-proving it and having it all collapse in a heap I think. But I have the same problem with timings - I find myself sitting muttering to myself whilst counting backwards through the day to get it ready at the right time!