Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Four weeks to make a loaf

Ever thought about making sour dough bread?

It is a whole year since I bought the delectable Bourke Street Bakery recipe book, but the many pages of instructions on how to make a sour dough starter left me a non-starter. In my naivet√©, I had imagined the stages would be: buy the book, make a yeasty mix, wait a couple of days and then have sour dough bread for ever more. How wrong I was!

Always on the look-out for a shortcut, I searched in earnest for a starter that I could buy instead of the four week long slog involved in creating a sour dough from scratch.

If I lived in the US, it would have been easy to spend $12 and have a starter mailed to me, but here in the UK I found just one vendor, and their website said they were on holiday for 3 weeks and could not send starter dough out till September.

Being impetuous,  I reached for the Bourke Street Bakery book again and decided that it couldn't be that difficult, so why not give it a go.
To cut a long story short, that was 4 weeks ago.

After an "intensive pregnancy", during which my sour dough grew vigorously, it finally gave birth to triplets. Making their debut... my home baked, Suffolk sour dough loaves.
Image: Ingrid's iphone
The unbiased verdict of the extended family and friends was a reassuring "delicious".

But I am still shell-shocked at how much work was involved. It's like feeding the dog: done daily or else there are complaints.

Image: Ingrid with iPhone and Strip designer
Back in August I started with one bowl, a packet of organic flour and filtered water.
Now, four weeks later I have loaves, a four-week old wild yeast starter begging to be fed and a family waiting for a new loaf.
If anyone is keen to try this for themselves I can supply the starter but you will had to come and collect it!

The basic principle is that by mixing strong flour and water together you can capture wild yeasts that are floating around in the air. Having captured your wild yeasts, you need to feed them daily with more flour and water.
This will double the size of your mix EVERY day. So after four days you either have to bin the excess or make sour dough pancakes (which are delicious).

This process is repeated on a daily basis for THREE weeks. After two weeks I nearly got in the bin...
And just when my flour was running low, I realised that the "greedy monster" had to be fed three times on the final day to make it strong enough to raise the dough.

Four hours after the last feed, it had to be knocked down, then placed in a fridge for 12 hours to retard it before taking it out and activating it again. Poor dough didn't know whether it was coming or going ... and neither did the baker.

The upshot is I have decided to go on a one-day course at The Virtuous Bread - there has to be an easier way to get my sour dough started!

If you have baked with sour dough and have any tips for a novice, I would love to hear from you!


RainCityGirl said...

Totally worth every minute! Look as those beautiful loaves. Now you get to share your starter with friends... and with it, the instructions for its care and the receipe for that lovely bread, pancakes or?

aracne said...

You are a daring woman, I played a little bit with sour dough but I found it was too demanding.
My family didn't notice the difference when I reverted to commercial yeast: they found the bread equally delicious, they aren't very fine gourmets!

Alice said...

Mmmmmmmm would kill for some of that bread right now!!!

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