I cannot get enough of sourdoughs and an honest sourdough, with no frills and no pretence at being anything other than the good loaf it is, is a very hard thing to beat first thing in the morning. Especially when toasted and generously buttered. It might not be a champagne breakfast at an exclusive country house hotel, but it certainly gets my day off to a special start.
They are not the cheapest of breads to be bought and in good bakeries they can be sold out far too quickly (great for the bakery, frustrating for the customer). Sadly many of those sold in the supermarket rarely have the depth of flavour or even that sought-after chewy texture. And as for what the frequently appearing sourdough style means I have no idea.
I have bought my fair share of sourdough loaves, going through a taste-test of those that are on the market (one of the sourdough loaves sold at Tesco is particularly excellent), but then at upwards of £2 per small loaf, with many priced far higher, I set out on my Tolkien-esque quest to bake my own sourdough loaves. And to make two great-tasting loaves for little more than a few pence, not to mention the control of what goes into the bread, is never less than a joy. Moreover, given that with sourdoughs you can get on with your life while they are getting on with doing their bit for you, it’s a win-win situation.
I am not going to go through the entire process in this post. However, my Sourdoughs page does outline the procedure from creating a starter to baking a loaf, along with tips at various stages of the process that I have found invaluable over a few years of making sourdough loaves.
While sourdough loaves are not difficult to make, the softness of the dough can be a challenge initially, not to mention a source of frustration from time to time. I have, for instance, tried all sorts of approaches to get a dough that is readily shapeable and then manages to hold its shape when it gets de-bannetonned many hours later: I had several early disasters which resulted in the most unmanageable dough after the first rise, looking as if had come straight out of a sci-fi film: an apparently untrainable dough with a mind of its own, sprawling all over the baking tray, yet determined attempts at re-shaping or kneading further were seemingly futile! It’s a fascinating, but exasperating experience, that one, but thankfully it’s a thing of the past…….
But rest assured, it is not a difficult process at all and is certainly highly rewarding.
I tend to overlook claims that you cannot have an authentic sourdough unless you are using sourdough starter from San Francisco. Frankly, there are other things in life to be concerned with such as why did they end Dexter? Are we ever going to get a new Battlestar Galactica spin-off? Please don’t let them ever cancel The Big Bang Theory….
Still, creating a starter while watching Escape from Alcatraz must, at the very least, count as a flirt with authenticity.
During a busy week – and even in the busiest weeks there has to be the opportunity to bake! – making a sourdough loaf fits around my schedule. That is not to say I do not respect the sourdough – I so do! But a timescale that works for me during such a week can go something along the lines of:
·Sunday night: make up a dough, letting the dough hook do the work. Leave overnight to rise
·Monday morning (before work): shape the dough and leave in the fridge to rise
·Tuesday evening (after work): bake.
Although when it’s a less busy week try stopping me getting my hands stuck into a soft mass of doughy goodness!
But the sourdough – be it a standard one or one with all sorts of flavours added to it – reigns supreme in my house. It has done for several years and I can’t foresee another type of bread that will come along and knock it off its throne.
Recipe for sourdough bread