Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday 16 January

I made sourdough bread this weekend. I'd enjoyed reading about sourdough on Twitter so I thought I'd give it a go too. I followed the recipe on the River Cottage website and started my starter on Sunday night in the hope of having a bread by the following Saturday evening. I'd read a few reviews of people having varying degrees of success so I wasn't sure at all if it would work. After 36 hours the first bubbles appeared, I then dutifully fed it every 24 hours and to start off with it was lovely and bubbly. Then all of a sudden it began to look more like pancake batter that has been sitting around for a while, with a layer of clear liquid at the top. The website said by the end it should start to smell fruity and yeasty, not harsh or acrid. Mine didn't smell fruity or harsh... a bit yoghurty, if anything. (In fact, 12yo said it smelt like her plaster cast when she'd broken her arm last year. I decided to pretend I hadn't heard that).
On Friday night I made the sponge which uses only 100ml of the starter. I was so convinced it wasn't going to work that I threw the rest of the starter away. (I also threw away the washing-up brush that I used to clean the bowl. Boy is that starter sticky! I'm sure you could have built a retaining garden wall with it.) You had to leave the 'sponge' as it's called, overnight in a cool place, covered with clingfilm. Imagine my surprise when I came downstairs to a bowl full of what was almost frothy batter! I still wasn't sure about the smell - it wasn't nasty, but definitely not yeasty either. I made up the dough, kneaded till my arms ached and I'd worked up a sweat, then left it in a bowl next to the Aga for the day. I think it was probably a good thing we were out all day, or I'd have been checking up on it anxiously every hour! When we came back early in the evening the dough had doubled in size - just as the recipe had stated. So I knocked it back and put it on a baking tray to rise for a second time. That was where I went wrong though - I left it on the warming plate of the Aga and that was really a bit too warm, it started cooking rather than rising. So I gave up on that one and chucked it in the oven. Forty-five minutes later and out came a bread that smelled good and looked like a crab shell (it did look very odd...). We'd just had a substantial evening meal so left the bread for breakfast, but was it worth the wait! The crust was a bit hard but the flavour... just perfect! It was lovely with a thin layer of butter (o alright, I may have had a slice with a thick layer of butter too. Yes this was where my WeightWatchers resolve weakened ever so slightly), but it was even nice just as it was. By the end of Sunday it had disappeared, even the kids liked it. And they're not always easy-to-please customers.
It goes without saying I'm cursing myself now for throwing away the rest of that starter...