Tag Archives: bread

Sourdough: a labour of love

24 Sep

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So, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the start of my Great Sourdough Experiment. Yesterday, that experiment finally came to fruition.

I’d had to keep the start brewing away for longer than strictly necessary (it seems you can keep it going for a near-indefinite length of time, provided you continue to feed it every few days) simply because of the sheer amount of time involved to make the bread itself. I genuinely hadn’t been home for long enough to allow for the proving until now.

In case you think I’m exaggerating: once kneaded, the dough needs to prove for five or six hours. You then shape it, and prove it for another 10-13 hours. I mixed up the dough at Saturday lunchtime, then shaped it before heading out for the evening. I didn’t put it in the oven until Sunday afternoon – although some of that delay was admittedly a result of a hangover.

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Still, it proved into some decent-looking loaves. Well, until the recipe told me to turn them upside down. Despite my best efforts (and the help of my housemate), they then ended up looking more like this:

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Oops. Hey, it’s not all about being pretty, right? Anyway, the finished product didn’t look too bad.

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Was it worth it, overall? Well, it tastes… alright. It’s certainly not bad, and it works pretty well with some salad and home-made tzatziki as a packed lunch. As a loaf of bread, it’s fine. Is it good enough to warrant two weeks of effort? Maybe not. I’m glad I gave it a go, mind.

Experiment findings? Sometimes delis exist for a reason.

Sourdough scares me a little

2 Sep

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I love sourdough; I should probably state that first of all. It has a lovely, distinctive tang to it, as well as a nice texture. I just try not to think too hard about how it’s made.

The idea of yeast fermenting for days – and being fed as it does so – creeps me out a little bit. I’m not an especially squeamish eater, but the idea of my food being alive as I prepare it isn’t one that appeals. It’s probably for the best if nobody explains to me the exact processes that go into making alcohol.

Still, I’ve decided to give it a go. The recipe for making the ‘starter’ is more akin to something something written by a mad scientist than by a baker. You mix flour, water and grated apple, then let it ferment and grow in a sealed jar for a few days. You keep adding more to it, then leaving it, for around ten days. It’s a project, if nothing else – and I do like a good project.

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It didn’t start out well. I read the ingredients list, but only skim-read the first step of the recipe, meaning that I accidentally added a whole kilo of flour instead of the 500g you were meant to start with (the remainder being what needs adding over the coming days). It was only when the consistency looked totally off (so, quite quickly then) that I realised, and was left desperately trying to fish half of the (thankfully still-dry) flour out of the bowl.

My recipe was also pretty emphatic that the apple had to be an organic one. I have no idea if the Braeburns in my cupboard right now are organic – and the supermarket was shut by the time I started on this glorified chemistry experiment – so I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that if they’re not, a vigorous wash in the sink was enough.

And hope that the mix doesn’t grow into The Blob.

My baking goes to Hollywood

3 Aug

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As I mentioned in my last post, I recently received Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake as a birthday present. I love it – the writing is both accessible and informative, and the recipes cover a great range of bakes. It’s a largely savoury book, which is perfect as far as I’m concerned. After all, there are only so many ways to bake a cupcake.

They’re recipes I’ll actually use, too. The other day I decided to dive in feet-first with the sea salt and oregano focaccia recipe – it’s something I’ve been meaning to attempt for ages, and is one of my favourite breads.

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Suffice to say, it was messy. The dough is really wet, and sticks to your hands like nothing else I’ve ever made. If it weren’t for the recipes’ reassurance, I’d have been a bit nervous that I was doing something wrong.

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A few hours – and a couple of rounds of proving – later, the result was far more reassuring. And the end product? Well, it’s pictured at the top of the post. I’m pretty proud of it as a first attempt: it makes pretty damn good sandwiches with some rocket, chorizo and mozzarella.

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While the dough was proving, I also knocked up a batch of the gruyere biscuits. They were simple enough to do, and ended up wonderfully light (although I’d probably grate the gruyere more finely next time to give the dough an easier consistency to work with). They were also approximately as sinfully delicious as you’d expect from something made up of equal parts flour, butter and cheese.

Oh, and the whole house had the lovely, yeasty smell of rising bread. Triple win!