Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So, about Sourdough


I've been baking bread regularly for several months now, from the River Cottage bread handbook, after repeated, frustrating failures with a borrowed bread making machine. I've reached the stage now where my body has accepted that it will be required to do vigorous kneading at least once a week, and I now enjoy an extended gaze out of the window following the antics of the local bird life and changes in tree leafage instead of sweat/pant-ing and occasionally collapsing over the bench with pain and exhaustion. The great leap forwards in that regard was discovering that my bench is a bit too high for me. If I stand on tip-toes I'm sweet as it's far easier to kneed from above the dough. Perhaps I ought to bake in high heels?

It was the success of this recipe after so many failures that meant I stuck by the RCH basic bread recipe, and other than making bagels I hadn't tried any of the other bread recipes. Then, reading Country Living UK a few weeks ago there was an article on sourdough, including a DIY sourdough starter guide. Now as a tang lover in general of course I love sourdough, but I tend to only eat it at the occasional brunch out since it's not sold in my small town. After 5 days I accepted (not that calmly) that my efforts had resulted in yet another 'fizzer' (kiwi-parlance for something that goes tits-up in Yorkshire parlance), the issue being a lack of fizz or any other sign of life in the starter. 

So I consulted my RCH and went organic.

Two days later I had a living, breathing, fizzing entity to look after.



She lives in here on the bench, in a misshapen, heavy bottomed, chipped pot I made in pottery class donkeys years ago. I feed her every day. I've called her Sharon.




This is how 'Shazza' looked after a week of regular feedings. She smelt like she's been out on a cider drinking bender the night before and hadn't brushed her teeth when she got home. Anyway, I let the bubbly slapper out the bottle, mixed her up with some flour and salt and the next morning...

serious fizz!



I spent the morning watching her chest rise and fall. Four times, each an hour apart. 

To stave off the hungry anticipation and slight boredom in between the bottom pattings, I net surfed...

Did you know the taste of sourdough is totally unique to the place it's made? Apparently the yeast spores in the air caught in the dough differ from place to place. And apparently sourdough's tricky-to-make reputation is due to the yeast spores in a city being overwhelmed by other less desirable spores ruining the starter before it gets started.

Tell me I'm not the only one fascinated by this stuff?!



 The baba sourdough is courtesy of the lovely Claud who is going great guns in the kitchen. Instead of parroting "buy supermarket" "buy supermarket" when we run out of anything she favours, she now parrots "claudine bake it"  "claudine bake it". She learnt to squeeze lemons this week and I learnt that she would choose sucking the squeezed lemon skins over liking out the pudding-mix bowl any day of the week. 

The linen cloth was an oppy find, still-new-in-the-pack-but-old-school, it's 3 x the size of a standard TT, thick, a little rough and super-absorbent.



A thing of beauty and perfectamundo for bread proving purposes
( I can feel another collection coming on)

and Terry gave me these for out 6th (wood) anniversary this week


Perfect for slipping loaves into the oven


And finally, without further ado...





A bit grey looking (? coated in too much flour whilst proving) but totally 'effing scrummy (in a uniquely Rangiorian way!)

YES!



34 comments:

  1. Congrats!! I wouldn't have the patience to make something like this but it looks delish. xx

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  2. Well done on keeping Shazza alive, I hope you and her have a very fruitful time together. I have to admit to never having the patience to feed a starter, a bit like me with pot plants!
    Also I must compliment you on your spiffing header, I love those books, and have very vivid memories of learning to read with them at school (many moons ago!!)

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    1. They are gorgeous books, I got the whole series at an op-shop, and my husband hopes Claud will learn to read from these books that also taught him x

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  3. I love the idea of having a sourdough starter. Any tips for why your first times didn't work and the RCH one did?
    And may I ask where you purchased the RCH?
    A lovely, useful anniversary gift too.
    x

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    1. Hi there Zara,
      I think the main difference was using organic flour. If you think about it it makes, sense, as like most non-organic things flour or the wheat it comes from is treated with a whole raft of pesticides/herbicides etc which would inhibit the growth of the yeast spores you want the water/flour mix to catch and grab. The RCH also said that wholemeal flour works quicker so i switched to that too instead of the white flour I'd used previously (you can make white sourdough from a wholemeal starter anyway so no worries there). The first time I used a glass jar with a screw cap whereas the RCH said lidded plastic or pottery only, and finally also gave the RCH version a 10 min cycle in the food processor too...my feeling though is it was the switch to organic.
      Good luck with it, let us know how you get on x

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  4. I love bread-making, but have to be very focussed or it goes very wrong.
    Your bread looks divine! Too bad I've cut out bread to lose weight, I'm drooling here, honesty!

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    1. I could do with cutting out something, but giving up bread would be too hard for me! Pity, or lucky you can't smell it Luce, you'd be off that abstinence wagon with a flying leap!

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  5. Yay well done sweet!!!!
    I am sure if you knead dough in high heels the bread would taste better. Yip I am sure!!!!!!
    Sourdough bread and old fashion veggie soup, perfect.
    Love v

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    1. "...I am sure if you knead dough in high heels the bread would taste better...." agreed, everything's better in high heels!

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  6. Great post.

    Are you sure that's what Terry intended those paddles to be used for? ;0)

    I'm in awe of your smelly Sharon, I want one. x

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    1. Hmm. Ok, I'll ask him if he'll fan me with them post exhausting breadmaking. Heh heh!

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  7. Yes - you are inspiring. Fab looking

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    1. I know your a bread maker too Miriam, if you have a go at sourdough we could compare tastes and see if its really true what they say

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  8. Great post Max - inspiring and amusing! I love the idea of Sharon and now I really want some sour dough of my own. I must admit I cheat and mostly use my breadmaker for the kneading, but quite often do the shaping and cooking without it. I have a great recipe for foccaccia with olives (sp?)- have you tried that?

    Also rather impressed by your pot, wonky or not. Oh and happy anniversary!

    Thanks for linking up a great post x

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    1. I'd love to try a foccacia, the one they sell at our local 'artisan' bakery is totally unworthy of the name and fit only for the birds. I might branch out into ciabatta which we eat the most of (bought) first, tho i've heard it's notoriously difficult too...

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  9. uh... AMAZING!!!

    Did it taste delicious? I really had no idea so much work went into bread making. I'm starting to realise that a lot of what we do in life is 'art'.

    x

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    1. It tastes really good, a spectacular sucess in that regard, i was overjoyed. The crust is too hard for my liking though, so next time i'm not going to spray it with water in the oven and see how that works out. Most bread is easier to make than this Soph, make something like a nann bread of turkish flat bread, dead easy but sure to get you hooked!

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  10. Fabulous Rangiora special there Max! I have had that particular Country Living pressed open at the same page for some weeks now...great article. Good find on the tea towel...perfect for the job! Do you own high heels??! I'm not sure that I do. Not the same standing on a brick then ; ) Enjoy that gorgeous bread. By the way, our Matthew makes fabulous sourdough & irregularly posts us some..it just never goes moldy even if left by accident in a forgotten corner for weeks & weeks..bonus! Much love Catherine x

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  11. I do have heels but theyve not had an outing in a while and somthing tickles me about putting some on just for this purpose! I didn't know sourdough had such a long shelf life, thats good to know x

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  12. Wow, God that looks like good bread. You are not alone in finding sourdough fascinating. I am so jealous, i would love to have a fizzing smelly sharon in a tremazing homemade pottery jar. I will get round to starting my own starter some day and i will call on you for advise.
    Happy anniversary btw. Lovely gift from hubby.

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  13. Great going! Have you read "By Bread Alone" by Sarah Kate lynch? It's an acquired taste (i loved it, my friends not so keen) anyway the main character keeps a starter alive for a huge number of years and it is almost a character in the book.
    I find music and kneading go well together - music and high heels would make for a truly great party.

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    1. I am going to try both the book and the heels/music-i'll let you know how i get on, thanks fir the tiPs

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  14. Ooh, now you've got me excited... I want to make one too. I LOVE sour dough! That's so cool about the unique taste of sour dough depending on where you make it- the things you learn reading blogs eh!?!

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    1. Bread rocks (or hard as rock in my case). Delighted to have enthused you

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  15. Mmm freshly baked bread. I can almost smell it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

    catharine x

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  16. I admire your patience, yay to getting the tricky sourdough to work!

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  17. Oh I can so relate to this post... I have been kneading by hand for the last couple of months... due to no room for breadmachine and I'm loving the rhythmic kneading and I also enjoy watching whats going on outside... namely the swallows darting by :) Just be given a sourdough starter and am about to start feeding it in preparation for some bread... can't wait! Awesome that you have started yours from scratch! and yes very interesting about all sourdoughs tasting unique!

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    1. Hey cool fellow sour dough baker, let us know how you get on with yours

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  18. Bread is just the best! We made all our own bread in NZ but here in Holland houses don't have ovens - true story! Insert gasp. I make it at friend's houses that have ovens and also a restaurant kitchen that I have access to. Well done for persevering with sourdough. If you want any other great bread books to try, Peter Reinhard is the man in my opinion.

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    1. No ovens? How interesting? I wonder why not and how they can possibly manage?!! And you made all your own bread, thats admirable and i can see myself heading in that firection as i've lost my taste for sliced loaves.i shall look up pr forthwith, thanks for the tip naomi x

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  19. Mmm. It took persistence but my it looks good and I can almost smell it from here.

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  20. good job! i'm totally intimidated by bread making, i have used the same no knead recipe for years because it usually works (unless it is too humid).

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  21. Now you already totally had my attention with your lovely blog and then I spied the 'S' word and hello indeed! Sourdough...it really is the bees knees isn't it.

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