Starting with Sourdough
The first time I tried making a sourdough started was a few years ago. I had been binge watching The Great British Bake Off. I ordered a Paul Hollywood book (How To Bake) off of Amazon and got to work. I was unprepared for both the mess and the commitment. A sourdough starter is on a schedule. It needs feeding. It needs to be loved and nurtured. The worst part, after all that love and nurturing, you have to THROW LARGE BATCHES OF IT AWAY! It just seems wrong.
My first attempt overflowed it jar repeatedly and made my kitchen a gooey, sticky mess. It wasn’t the recipe, it was me. I didn’t really commit to a firm schedule for feeding. I wasn’t prepared for the relationship I had just started. One day, very sadly and out of frustration, I just threw it all away. I wasn’t ready for a sourdough starter. I needed to grow more as a person, I guess.
A couple of months ago, I started again. I had found a bread baking book at Value Village by Nancy Silverton. In doing a bit of research, I learned that Nancy was an expert on sourdough and all things bread. I read her book (well the sourdough starter chapter), I bought better containers (bigger, easier to clean, and with a wider mouth), I bought a 20kg bag of strong flour, and a bunch of organic grapes. The smartest thing I did was use my google calendar to schedule my feedings. And it worked.
15 days later, Doughlores had arrived. I wish I could take credit for the name, but I opened it up to Facebook and my friend Mark came up with Doughlores.
My first attempt baking with Doughlores was good. Not great, but good. My loaf was a bit darker than I would have liked. I used the recipe Nancy Silverton recommended. The flavour was amazing, despite the doneness.
My second attempt was a fail. It was a Paul Hollywood recipe (strike 2, Mr Hollywood…) and it died on the second rise. While the first rise was fantastic, I was left with pizza dough at the end. Delicious pizza dough, but pizza dough nonetheless.
Next I tried Joanne Chang’s recipe for Country Bread in her Flour cookbook. This recipe called for a tiny bit of yeast. I liked how that sped up the process. The biggest problem I am having with baking sourdough bread is the schedule. There are only two of us, so I can’t bake every couple of days – we don’t eat that much bread. I let the starter go dormant in the fridge but then I have to feed it for 2-3 days before I bake to get it strong again. And then the bread takes 2-3 days and I have to be home at certain times to tend to it. I have a job, sourdough! Why you gotta make it so hard!
Anyway, back to Joanne Chang’s recipe. Much more manageable timeframe and overall a good result. Again, a little dark, but that’s my crappy apartment oven. I keep turning it down, but obviously not enough. And the thermometer says the temp is correct. Argh!
I am loving that the starter is maturing. My little Doughlores is growing up! The flavour is stronger and more complex. Yay Doughlores!
The next and most recent attempt was a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from the River Cottage Every Day book. This is my favourite recipe so far. He advises making a bread sponge the day before, but I just used extra Doughlores, because she was fed and ready to go. The dough rose overnight and just needed 2-3 hours in the morning before baking. I was a bit impatient when I formed the ball for baking, so it isn’t my prettiest loaf, but the flavour…mmmmmmmmm!
The lessons with sourdough are that you have stick with it, be patient, plan ahead, and most importantly, that care and nurturing make for a long lasting and happy relationship.
Life lessons from Doughlores.
p.s. Paul Hollywood, it’s ok baby, I can’t stay mad at you. We’ll always have puff pastry. xo