I’m writing this post not for any purpose really, but to document the fact I’ve reached peak lockdown cliche. I have officially made sourdough bread and am the biggest self-confessed covid clone going. I’ve moved through all the trends – gardening, Animal crossing, banana bread, painting rainbows – we’ve done them all but none of them have been as satisfying as making sourdough bread. So, cliche or not this hobby is here to stay, I’m hooked!
For a long time, Sourdough has been my favourite kind of bread. If I see it in the bakery, I’m sold. That crunchy crust, that tangy centre, it’s just heavenly. Toasted with a slick of butter and marmite is just the BEST. I think I might be salivating just thinking about it. No way did I think I could make something like that at home!
The thing that originally put me off making Sourdough was making the ‘Sourdough Starter’. The strangest recipe I’ve EVER followed that includes creating a yeast pet that lives in the corner of your kitchen, which needs feeding and caring for nearly as much as an extra child. It’s enough to put anyone off, but hey, we are in lockdown – what else am I going to be doing of an evening.
So, a week ago I started my Sourdough Starter following this recipe. The starter is just flour and water which is left in a jar to basically fester and grow the right bacteria cultures to add that tang to your bread plus wild yeast which gives it the rise you need for a loaf of bread. Every day you throw away part of your starter (later on this can be used in recipes so it’s not totally wasteful) and add more flour and water which is called a ‘feeding’. When you feed it, it becomes super happy and froths and bubbles to show it’s appreciation. It’s weirdly satisfying.
Making my own culture of bacteria in the kitchen felt a bit risky though, for a germphobe when it started to smell like a funky yogurt I was ready to bin it, but weirdly about 4 days in it changed from super stinky to a heavenly rich, fruity, nutty bread smell that I actually want to sniff as I pass it in the kitchen. Yes, I think I’m marginally too obsessed with my starter but it’s my new lockdown pet and I love it.
So, one afternoon the girls were particularly grumpy and it was raining outside. I looked at my starter and realised it was HUGE, bubbles were higher than ever before. I knew it was time to try the ‘float test’. You take a blob of starter and float it in a glass of water, if it floats it’s time to bake! My starter passed the test so it was ready to go!
Cue crazed googling of a recipe that would fit in with my time schedules. I’ve realised with sourdough one of the biggest challenges is getting the timings right. The method is pretty simple once you’ve got a starter and your timings, but getting those ducks in a row seemed impossible to balance. Most of the recipes needed a long proof which I worked out would mean I’d need to be awake at 2am to put the bread in the oven. I’m obsessed, but not that much. I found a recipe which allowed the dough to be proofed overnight in the fridge so decided to give it a go.
Of course the minute I started mixing the ingredients the children were hanging off my legs. I couldn’t concentrate on the recipe and just threw it together the best I could.
I put it in the fridge in a bowl with cling film over the top for a few hours and checked on it before bed. It was wet, heavy, slimy lump I considered putting in the bin! I got into bed feeling annoyed my first try had been a disaster. I’d also used ALL my starter so that was gone too so a double grump set in.
I decided at midnight to get up and put my sourdough in a banneton and proof it on the kitchen worktop overnight. This wasn’t what the recipe called for but something was just telling me this isn’t going to work. The bowl was far too clammy and damp. I gave it a go and wrapped my bread in a tea towel and left it at room temperature overnight.
I woke the next morning to perfectly risen dough which passed the ‘finger dent test’ (the dough should spring back but leave a very small indent). I couldn’t believe it!
Getting it into a roasting hot dutch oven with toddlers running around wasn’t the easiest, I was so worried they’d touch it so I baited them into the living room with snacks and trashy Youtube videos to ensure I’d get a clear run with the oven! I baked it for 25 mins with the lid on then a further 20 with the lid off to turn the crust golden.
And here she is! My first attempt. Certainly not perfect but I’m pretty chuffed with a first attempt and now I feel totally hooked. Can’t wait to try another bake! So many people have recommended Kat Goldin from Gurther Stich Farm‘s recipes and courses so that’s my next mission! Oh, and I didn’t kill my starter off by using the whole thing, I scraped the jar and got it started again. Phew. Lesson learnt!
Have you made sourdough bread?