Sunday, June 04, 2006

My beautiful loaf!

I started a sourdough leaven a few weeks ago and it has been bubbling along in the kitchen ever since. I kept it in the fridge for a few days and then decided it was better out on the worktop. Most days it gets a spoonful or two of flour, after which it froths up the jar and then subsides, having had its lunch. On bread making days I take out what I need, empty the remainder into a jug, and top up with water. The jar gets rinsed out carefully and the leaven goes back into the clean jar, with the addition of enough flour to make a thick paste.

I’m learning how to use the leaven; it sits there, bubbling away until it is needed, and it is available at a moment’s notice. Whether it is bread , or focaccia, or even pancakes, it is on hand.

I still hold my breath as the dough flips on to the bakestone – it seems to me to be so soft, almost flowing in its consistency, I can scarcely believe it will hold together. I am experimenting with adding more flour, but I’m so delighted with the bread that I’m reluctant to mess it up! The structure is just right, with a barely detectable sourness and wonderful keeping qualities.

This is the most recent loaf, made with organic flour from Stoates at Cann Mills, Dorset – thank you Michael! It makes bread with a rich creamy crumb; the crust was thin and crisp and the taste was full and rounded.

I think this will be the last of the sourdough posts for a while – until I experiment with something new.


rachel said...

Sounds as if it's been worth all the effort and your loaf looks delicious. I've been too scared, having read Jeffrey Steingarten's piece "Primal Bread" on his attempts ... very funny but absolute mayhem!

June said...

Hello Rachel
You’re the second person to mention JS - and the second to have been completely put off by him! Get a big jar and go for it - you have all the rest of the ingredients. It is very slow bread, and you will be so pleased with yourself when it comes out fine. Oh, maybe get an oven thermometer too.

Betul said...

I'm still waiting to try it, June. Because nowadays only DIY dusts all around me :(
It's my excuse for not answering your e-mail as well. Thank you for your kind words... and keep up the good work...

June said...

Everything comes to an end - even DIY. Look forward to your new beautiful abode!

Susan in Italy said...

Wow, just a few spoons of flour at feeding time! How often do you feed it? I keep my starter in the fridge mainly because I felt like I couldn't feed it the 1.5 cups per day that was suggested in my book. (not without baking much more bread than I need) I'd love to compare notes on this because it would be great to leave the starter out so it can breathe.

June said...

I'm using the leaven a couple of times a week at the moment. I take out what I need and top up with water, whisk up the mixture and add some flour. On the non breadmaking days I give it two or three spooonsful of flour - literally a meal. It's in quite a big jar so it doesn't overflow. If it looks like overflowing I have to take some out, or make some bread. It's like watering a plant, or feeding a pet.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I used dried yeast to bake bread. When the yeast I used seemed dead (it did not bubble very much or maybe not at all) I decided to experiment. I put it in the whole wheat flour, anyway. I waited until the dough smelled sour. (Not just the starter. I allowed all of the dough to go sour). This happened in the 3rd ot 4th day, but the dough did not smell sour enough. So I put in some more flour. To make a long story short, I fermented my dough for 6 or 7 days. I finally baked it today. It had a strong sour taste which I loved. (I also threw in some linseed, otherwise known as flaxseed).

I am concerned about allowing the dough to sour for so long. I recall reading somewhere that I should not leave the starter at room temperature after it starts to smell sour, (i.e. I should refrigarate it), but I forget the reason. Is it perhaps because undesirable yeast strains get in? I don't remember what I had read.

In any case, I am writing because of your statement that you keep your starter outside of the fridge. Did I read that right? I would really like to know your experience with this. As I said I fermented my dough for bread approximately 7 days and I just love the strong sour taste. I hope this long fermentation period does not produce anything harmful. I read that some old traditions use whey, and the lactic acid in the whey, along with the bacteria make the bread more healthy (by inactivating the harmful effects of phytic acid in the grain, etc.). I want to ferment my dough even longer for a more sour taste, but I am not sure if this is safe. The reason I did not make a starter is because I tried several times before, but failed. But they say, the more you bake the more you attract yeasts, so maybe my previous failed attempts attracted the yeasts. I would appreciate feedack on this from yourself or others. Thank you and happy baking.

June said...

Hi Anonymous

I don't know where you live, but I live in Southern England, and most of the time the temperature does not get too high. I kept my sourdough starter on the side for about three months, until I went away for a holiday and couldn't look after it. Then it went into the fridge and got forgotten. It was in a jar with a lid, and during the time it was out it never developed any mould or bad odour, which is what you have to look out for. But you do need to feed it regularly or the yeast starves and dies. In Germany, where sourdough is made regularly, a housewife would always have a jar bubbling away beside the stove. Refrigeration simply makes the yeast slow down, or become dormant.

If you want to ferment the whole dough for a long time you will need to make sure the yeast has enough to eat. It's a living thing and it needs the sugars in flour, which it consumes, the gas being a by product. Without the carbon dioxide the bread will not rise. The yeast is killed at about 200C, along with anything else lurking.

If you want to email me at my email address I can pass your query on to other people more able than I to answer your questions.

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