I’ve done a fair bit of cooking in my time, including bread. However, all the bread i’d cooked was with commercial yeast – some using a bread machine, some by hand. I occasionally got a bit fancy – doing plaits for example – but had never tried making sourdough. I’d read various introductions on how to do it, but always been scared off by either the seeming randomness or presumed skill – how can i be sure that smells “pleasantly fruity” ?
However, of late, i’ve been afflicted by a mild professional ennui – it happens from time to time – and found myself getting more interested in matters of the hearth. This post is not the place to go into a lot of detail on the reasons, although i will say that reading Stephanie Alexander‘s Kitchen Garden Companion played a large part in kindling an interest in gardening and the raw materials used when i cook.
So, it was on this fertile soil that the seeds sown by various people on twitter landed. My few attempts to garden in our small terrace courtyard have met with mixed success. Growing a sour dough leaven tickled a similar nerve, but seemed easier, and not to mention quicker. I also came across SourDom’s instructions for making a starter, which, for whatever reason, sounded accessible in a way others hadn’t. So, at the end of March, i began following the instructions. On Easter Sunday evening it staged an escape attempt, and by the end of that week it was rising well when fed, and i figured it was time to cook.
The recipe i settled on was Norwich Sourdough. Why ? Firstly, it used a 100% hydration starter, which is what i had to hand. Secondly, it could be done in a day once i had ripe starter. Finally, the instructions were quite precise in quantities and times – when i start cooking, i like this until i get the feel of what it’s supposed to look and feel like. Of course, there are probably hundreds of recipes with these three properties, this is just the one i found. I made a half quantity, as that neatly matched one ripe load of leaven, and varied the times a bit because my loaves seemed a bit bigger – i think i ended up with 15 minutes of steam and 20 minutes without.
I was very happy with the result – straight from the oven, and when cut. Megan and Griffin also approved – in fact we ate the smaller loaf in its entirety yesterday, and the larger one is pretty much down to just a couple of ends now. I’m very keen to try again – i’d like to do the same recipe a few times in a row to learn the variation, but we’ve got some busy weekends coming up which will preclude a day spent cooking for a while. However, i’m also interested trying @tammois‘ overnight recipe, but i’m not sure about my judgement for the quantities.