Thursday, 11 February 2010


I went through a phase of buying sourdough loaves quite a lot last summer. For crostini, which we use as a base for a lot of our summer suppers, it has a quality unrivaled by any other toasted bread. We have a habit of toasting slices of it drizzled in olive oil and then spread with sun-dried tomato puree as a quick snack after work before we head to the beach. I quickly became aware of the long-winded process of making sourdough and the effort involved seemed more akin to owning a dog, at least the dog would fetch.

At the beginning of January I had decided it was time. The idea that my sourdough starter would stay with me indefinitely sounded kind of nice, like a girlfriend that doesn't nag. I had sought out some advice and Food Urchin, a fellow food blogger, had steered me in the direction of Moro's sourdough starter recipe along with a few encouraging words, not least forewarning me of the gut wrenching smell it omits. I played a preemptive strike by putting the starter in a sealed tupperware box up on a shelf out of sight. In a preventative exercise to diminish any chance of the wife castrating me in my sleep due to the foul stench I may have saturated our flat in. Feeding often became a difficult time in our household, especially when I remembered to feed it just as she was making a cup of tea. (The blistered skin from the scolding has only just healed)

A month later, Clarence, as I call my starter, is at what looks like the desired consistency. A bit bubbly and fizzy to the taste. The evening before I baked the loaves I mixed 250g of Clarence with 700ml of cold water and 450g of plain flour in a bowl, covered with a tea towel and left in a warm corner of the kitchen over night for the first phase of the proving process.

Today I added 3 tsp salt and another 450g of plain flour and brought together to form a bowl full of stretchy wet dough that I worked with my fingertips for five minutes. It came to a similar consistency of that gunge you used to be able to buy circa '89. Ectoplasm I think the Ghostbusters version was called. The Moro recipe calls for the use of a tin but I like rustic looking loaves and so opted to do one of them straight on a baking sheet. Thirty minutes at gas mark eight then remove from baking tray and tin before another fifteen minutes in the oven.

It turned out ok, not enough big air bubbles and a little too moist on the inside for my liking. I think I may have over worked the gluten in the dough or my starter hasn't got enough oompf yet. Either way, batch number one is done and out the way, I didn't do too badly and now I am left to tweak and play around until I get somewhere close to the light and airy loaves I usually buy from the shop. I have a little way to go yet but the art of bread making was never going to happen over night. Whilst dipping some of my bread into balsamic vinegar and olive oil I toasted thinly cut slices, smeared them with sun-dried tomato puree and topped with tuna-bean salad. Eased into the flavours of summer I felt like slipping my flip-flops and board shorts on there and then, but it was freezing so I kept my bobble hat on instead.

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