The quest for sourdough


Somewhere in my brain there is a synapse that bolts to life and says to my little crafty soul, “you could make that”.  It happens when I see a beautifully knitted jumper, it’s happened a lot with crochet recently (yes, the dark side is approaching rapidly), and I’m completely powerless to resist if it kicks in on baking.

I love making bread, cakes, biscuits, and even crazy things like a 70-something profiterole croquembouche, but bread especially.  I mean, first you get to punch out all your frustrations and the day’s irritations into the dough, leaving you in a perfectly equable frame of mind to enjoy the first slice, steaming hot and inevitably crooked.  Home made bread never lasts long in our house.

I love sourdough but I’d never tried to make it until recently.  I started with Kat’s recipe for a starter from Housewife Confidential, and it got going nicely and I had a couple of loaves out of it before it ran away from me; we just don’t eat bread fast enough, and I was putting far more flour into maintaining the starter than in making a loaf and it grew and grew and grew and grew and well, I may have euthanized it.

But in this month’s Country Living (the one with the beautiful cover kitchen), there are instructions for a sourdough starter that works in teaspoons; much more size-appropriate for our three bear family.  And what else to do with a sourdough starter but try a loaf (recipe again from Country Living):

February 483
It’s a very pretty loaf of bread; after it’s shaped you snip into the crown with kitchen scissors to make a pointy sunshine crown on top (a trick I’m definitely borrowing for round yeast loaves in the future), and it is a gorgeous golden brown, and completely delicious and moreish.  What it isn’t …

February 482
… is tall.  I’ve made possibly the flattest loaf of supposedly risen bread ever known to man.  I made it on a fairly chilly day, without much extra warmth in the kitchen, and perhaps even five hours wasn’t quite long enough for it to prove.  I’ve got another set of starter working up overnight so tomorrow it’s going to spend most of the day either near a radiator or on a sunny windowsill and we’ll see if that makes a difference.
February 480
I think it’s my best yet, but there’s definitely room for improvement; my search for the perfect sourdough recipe continues.

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  • Caroline M 28/02/2012 at 11:59 pm

    I didn’t have a problem getting my sourdough started because we have a wine-making kitchen but no-one would eat the bread so it was back to yeast for me.

    I’ve bought my husband a croquembouche form for his birthday – my son described Lakeland as “a toyshop for adults”.

    I don’t comment much now – I fail the test test and give up.

  • mandycharlie 29/02/2012 at 12:51 am

    I’ll bring a spare jam jar to knitting, you can always share with me, I don’t mind having a go, she says nonchalantly.

  • Fleur Cotton 29/02/2012 at 1:17 pm

    totally agree with the ‘I could make that’ situation, though mine only extends to the knitting, unfortunately I don’t think my culinary skills are up to spec- I leave that to my other half !

    Good luck on your next loaf!

    Fleur xx

  • Rachel 29/02/2012 at 6:14 pm

    I’ve never made a sourdough bread before…mostly for the reason you mentioned above. I love bread but I can’t eat it every single day or I wouldn’t fit into any of my clothes! So I stick with yeast instead of going with a starter. But maybe this is a solution for me as well?

    I’ve had flat loaf problems before too with yeast breads. It doesn’t much bother me cuz the texture/taste is still really good. I’m about presentation in other endeavors, but not in the kitchen. I don’t care what it looks like, just what it tastes like!