Joanna and Celia are my sourdough gurus. I can only aspire to produce the kind of loaves they seem to turn out effortlessly. However, I'm sure that there must have been bumps along the road, and I can't expect to achieve the perfection I'm seeking first time round. Yep, that's me making excuses for what is to follow!
I only really started baking my own bread a couple of years ago and I'm now quite proud of the yeasted loaves that I can make. There are certainly more successes than failures now. Progress is necessarily slow - there is only me eating the bread I make, and even though I have it for morning and lunch that only equates to about 1 1/2 loaves a week - so it takes a while to eat my mistakes. Unless of course I decide to start feeding the local bird life with the less successful attempts. I haven't resorted to this yet, but I might still.... when the freezer bursts!
I started a sourdough culture a while ago and have been carefully nurturing it (actually, that's not entirely true - of late I've been rather less careful with it, only feeding every couple of days rather than every day religiously) with some lovely flour and bottled water. In fact, my starter might dine (in relative terms) better than I on occasion.
I've made a couple of loaves with this starter, more in upcoming posts, but this is one that is perhaps the least visually attractive. After reading Celia's post on the basic proportions that she uses for her sourdough I decided that I would give it a try. As a sourdough novice I decided that although large holes in my bread are desirable, being able to handle the dough is rather more desirable at this stage. After all, if I can't handle it, I can't get it into the oven either can I!
So following Celia's proportions for a 60% hydration loaf I used the following:
150g starter (75g water, 75g strong white flour, 25g mature starter left overnight to do it's thing)
500g strong white flour
215g bottled water (plus I added a bit extra as the dough seemed too dry - perhaps I should have stuck with it... see later)
20g olive oil
12g salt (should have been a little less but my hand slipped!)
I mixed the water into the starter until there were no obvious lumps left, and then added the flour, olive oil and salt and mixed well (in my KitchenAid stand mixer) to form a dough. It seemed a little too dry so I added more water and continued to mix for a bit. I then transfered it to a pyrex bowl and left it for probably most of the day. Six hours perhaps. My house isn't all that hot, so in order to cosset the dough, I made up a warm hot water bottle and wrapped it in a (spare, unused!) duvet to keep warm. I'm glad I did because I don't think it would have done anything at all otherwise! Growth seemed to be minimal, but I started thinking that I would run out of time, so pressed on. The dough seemed soft and I didn't think it'd be able to hold it's own weight after shaping, so I dumped it rather unceremoniously after minimal kneading into a 2lb/900g loaf tin. It rose, slowly. It never reached the top of the tin, so after a little muttering about unresponsive yeast I decided to cut my losses and bake it.
Gas 7 for about ten minutes, with steam, then reduced to gas 6 for about another 35-45 minutes (I didn't make a note of this, I wasn't holding out much hope for this loaf) until the base sounded hollow. Cooled on a wire rack.
As I say, I wasn't really expecting much from this loaf, in fact, I thought it would be a suitable candidate for helping to build a house. Just goes to show how little I know! The texture is fairly tight and firm, with small, but fairly evenly distributed bubbles. (Limited) success! From what Celia said about this formula, small bubbles are to be expected, so I think my starter succeeded! Because the loaf never rose above the edge of the tin, I didn't think to flour it or slash it before baking, and to me, it looks like my loaf is sticking it's tongue out at me in return for the lack of care and attention!
The scent of the bread is rather more acidic than the taste, but the loaf is noticeably more acidic than the yeasted breads I make. I don't recall ever buying a sourdough loaf (I wasn't really interested in sourdough bread before I started making my own bread) or even eating sourdough bread when out and about, so I don't really have a frame of reference here. Should the crumb be very firm? This isn't anything like yeasted bread crumb (which tends to be relatively soft) but is almost hard (not in an unpleasant way, just by comparison). Do you tend to find that the aroma of a sourdough is more acidic than the taste?
Anyway, thank you Celia, I'm enjoying this loaf for my sandwiches, and small holes are perfect for that purpose - I don't want all my filling dropping into my lap as I eat! Who knows where my next sourdough adventure will take me!