Sourdough Odyssey

I have never baked in my life. Well, not voluntarily anyway. Which is why my announcement that I was going to start making my own Sourdough bread was met with stifled sniggers and a healthy helping of “Good Luck.”

Well I’ve now baked 3 loafs. So I can call myself a professional now, right? The biggest thing I found confusing was the starter – what is that and why do I need to feed it? After a few goes around the block and watching the starter now take on a life of its own, it’s clear to me that sourdough baking is the best thing on the planet.

The first was pasty and I would say under-done. It was really tacky (to touch) and tasted really powerfully of…sour stuff. It wasn’t offensive but it wasn’t breathtakingly tasty either.

The second was better – because I realised my error of judgement in the first – I’d used rye flour for the bread dough, and not spelt, as the recipe had asked for. Silly me. For the second I used the proper flour – but again I felt it was still a bit…weird tasting. Not as powerful as the first but still not the same as the sourdough loafs I’d bought from the Perth market. By the way – the whole obsession for sourdough came about because I bought one from Wild Hearth Bakery at the market – holey moley.

Better colour, better crumb, better taste. But still not there. Well maybe I need to try some different flour then – so I bought some Khorasan/Kamut flour from my local Sainsbury’s, flying completely in the face of the “buy fresh artisanal local flours” that all the books advise…we don’t really have that here yet. Anyway – a bit more orange in appearance and certainly smells a bit more corn like. Oh my, did this turn out special. The dough once proved and in the basket looked a lot smoother than the other ones; maybe it’s because I used less flour to douse over the top. This morning at 8am I released the dough from the basket, scored the life out of it, stuck it in my Lodge pan at 240°C and after a bunch of minutes, ended up with this:

It’s true what everyone says; there’s nothing like baking your own bread. I can imagine if any one of the 3 loafs I baked turned out rubbish I would feel differently, but there’s a lofty progression from 1 to 3 in that the 3rd is exactly what I want from a loaf. It looks amazing. It smells amazing. And my goodness does it taste amazing.

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The Kamut wheat certainly makes it a lot more golden in colour but the taste isn’t as sweet as I had been led to believe by the book I used. It does taste brilliant and I cannot wait to eat some more – I just hacked off the end to see what it looked like.

So far so good! I’ve bought another banneton so that I can make 2 loafs at the one time and stick one in the fridge for baking mid-week, rather than having to do the whole 3 day process twice. It’s a lot of effort is sourdough, but when you see the end result and taste all that magical chemistry come together…it’s really motivating!

This is the book I use, along with this one by Vanessa Kimbell, which is boffin levels of explanation as to why a sourdough is a sourdough, and what good it does for people with sensitive digestive tracts. Ace books either way.

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