In this episode I discuss a failure, some successes, and talk to some children about what favourite foods are…
The awesome Terri has been experimenting with sourdough, and so I have been inspired to experiment with a different recipe for my sourdough. I decided to go with this one, partly to see whether I could go for a really long rise – because that would make it easier to make: if you can have 12-24 hours of rising, then you can make it in the morning and bake it in the evening.
So it’s cold in my house most of the time at the moment, and I’ve been using heat packs when making bread previously. Yesterday, I made the dough, and just put it in a box with some towels so it wasn’t completely cold. About 12 hours later, I put it into a tin – which I could have done at the start but… I didn’t – and then I left it overnight, and baked it this morning. So 24 hours after making the dough. And… it’s ok. In fact it’s quite edible. I think it’s a little doughy, and I wonder what it would have been like if it had only risen for 12 hours – the baker we learnt from had this whole thing about sourdough dough ‘falling off a cliff’ when it over-proofs. So I’ll be doing this recipe again and trying it with just a 12-hour proof.
When my beloved saw that I wasn’t happy with how my sourdough turned out, and that I wasn’t sure if it was the flour or if I’d over-proofed, he came up with the Scientist’s Answer: run an A-B test.
So this morning we went to Bee Sustainable and got some freshly-milled whole wheat, which is what I used the first time; and we also went and bought a thin rubber sleeping mat to insulate the cardboard box I had been using (because we don’t own an esky and I’m not sure what size I would need to fit boxes or bowls).
Now, I have made two bread mixes. One, in a container originally used for plain flour, using the Laucke bread; the other, in the SR container, using the wholemeal. I already expect there to be a slight difference because I used the same recipe for both, and white flour needs less water than wholemeal – but I used the same amount anyway. I figured it was a trade-off for the experiment: different flour AND different recipe, or just different flour? It might have an impact on the rise, I’m not sure; we’ll see.
Because I am not great at visually estimating size, I’ve also got the tape measure out, as you can see. I took measurements when I first put the doughs in; I plan to measure every 30 minutes to see what happens.
Having a look around at sourdough recipes, we came across Cultures for Health. Which means I found a bunch of recipes to use ‘discarded’ starter, including one for pancakes.
So I decided to try sourdough pancakes. I over-estimated how much oomph would come from the starter, so I used plain flour instead of self-raising; I realised this was a mistake when the pancakes didn’t get very fluffy and were in fact a little on the gooey side. Nonetheless, they were quite tasty and I would definitely make them again with discarded starter.
I’ve also made more bread, and experimented this time with different flour. I know I’ve seen baker’s flour before but couldn’t find it anywhere I looked – well, except for in 10kg bags and that seemed a bit much just at the moment. So I got Laucke bread mix, since the yeast is separate – I figured it was likely to be good for bread since it’s designed for bread machines… right?
My first slice, when admittedly it was still a bit warm, suggests that it might be a little on the gooey side. Additionally, the crust came away from the loaf proper, which might mean that I over-proofed it. Also, as you can see from both the cob and the log, it seems the oven isn’t uniform in temperature, which is interesting – the last loaves didn’t do that. I guess more experimentation is required. WHAT A SHAME.
I have finally made my first batch of sourdough bread with my leaven (who might be Geoffrey… or Godfrey… or something like that…) thanks to my sourdough course at RedBeard.
Win: I managed to get the bread out of the bannetons without any hassle! This suggests I had floured the baskets well enough, which pleased me.
Slight loss: I think the bread is a bit doughy. I’m not sure whether this is a result of the house not being a constant temperature, or me not making quite the right mixture, or… what. But it tasted pretty good, so
Win!: it tasted pretty good! And it was mostly wholemeal (freshly milled and everything, from Bee Sustainable), but it wasn’t too heavy at all.
Experiment: I made fruit-ish bread. That is, it’s definitely got fruit in it – dried apricots and currants, and cinnamon and nutmeg, all added about an hour… ish… after it started rising. But I haven’t tasted it yet so we’ll see what it’s like… eventually. Sure looks pretty, though, doesn’t it?
Once upon a time I decided that doing a sourdough course was a good idea. That was back in January when I saw a sign at the RedBeard Bakery in Trentham advertising their courses. I took a photo; sent it to my friend Gill; and all of a sudden I was booking us in.
Our course was this past weekend, and it started with RedBeard’s “nice buns” and golly they were nice with a lashing of butter. There were originally nine on the plate….
Next we moved into the baking area and we got stuck into actually making bread. Firstly we made a wholemeal dough, using RedBeard’s own leaven; this involved flour (1kg wholemeal, 200g rye, both stoneground) and water and salt and leaven, and then a lot of kneading. I love kneading; it’s wonderfully cathartic, and although it’s intensive I also found it lulled me with its rhythm. It looked like this, eventually. Very appealing, I think you’ll agree. It was way wetter than any of us (eight people on the day) had expected, which John – head baker and owner and teacher – stressed was incredibly important in creating a good sourdough.
Then it had to rest for a while, so then we had a go at making a white sourdough with a dough that had been started a few hours beforehand by John’s sidekick. When John poured it out of the bucket, it reminded me of nothing else so much as the magic mud of my childhood (it’s all in the meniscus). With that dough we shaped cobs, using these awesome baskets that RedBeard has been using for however many years, and we made Vienna loaves, using their Belgian linen to make sure that the bread didn’t stick and stayed in shape.
These also had to wait for a while, before baking; I think we then had lunch. To be honest, it all blurred together a bit – the order of things, that is – because it was a long day (10am to about 5pm). But I remember lunch very clearly, because it was amazing. There was bread, of course, with lashings of butter; and smashed roast potatoes and garlic; and a great salad with sprouts and lettuce and tomato and seeds; and a truly incredible free-form tart involving leek, goat’s cheese, roast capsicum, and other bits of deliciousness. The whole day was great but lunch was a really delightful moment of sitting down and appreciating food.
After lunch we shaped the wholemeal into three loaf tins. We also got to make our own leaven: potato peel, and rye flour, and water. That’s it. So now I have a leaven that I need to feed ‘for the rest of my natural life…’ – or if I’m going away I either need to phone a friend, or just accept that it’s deaded and I have to make another one. Happily, it only takes about three weeks for a leaven to be ready to use. Given our household doesn’t eat THAT much bread, that’s not so bad.
Eventually it was time to cook the loaves, and that involved the most intimidating part of the day: using paddles and putting the bread into the very large, very hot oven. I didn’t die. No one died. When all of the bread was out, it looked like this. Yes, all of that that bread was shared between eight participants (and John took some too, actually). I came home with seven loaves. I made a lot of people at work quite happy when I gave it to them. (I did, rather guiltily, put a couple of the cobs into the freezer – John said we shouldn’t but I wanted to see what it was like for myself.)
The day wasn’t just about making and cooking bread. John was a wealth of information about the history of the bakery itself and sourdough in general. He’s very dismissive of ordinary yeast bread, rather than fully fermented sourdough, which made me a little dismissive because I do love making ‘normal’ yeast bread. It will be interesting to see whether I give it up in favour of the sourdough completely….
When I got home, we had leftover salad and bread.I now have a list of things I think I need – at least some sort of basket for shaping the cob, because there’s just something about a cob that appeals more than the high tin, for me. I also need to put bricks into the bottom of the oven, in order to increase its thermal mass; this is apparently a good idea for any oven, since it keeps the heat in rather than letting it all whoosh out when you open the order. Happily my darling doesn’t seem to mind the idea.
Edited to add: this is what my leaven looked like when I fed it for the first time, two days later…
Sure hoping that’s ok!