“I know, I know, we can call it Fred!” MC Junior chimed in
“Or Frank,” MC Senior continued.
“Bob the Builder!” MC Junior shouted out.
“Hang on, why are they all boy’s names? Can’t we call it something like Roberta?” I asked.
“It has to be a boy’s name because boys are gross,” said MC Senior firmly.
Well, hopefully she’ll change her tune one day, but she did have a point. What we were trying to name did look rather gross. It was sloppy, bubbled, smelt strange and was an unappetising light brown colour. It was also something I’d been meaning to attempt for almost two years, and would probably not have ever gotten around to it had it not been for our December Daring Bakers challenge.
Starter at 2 days old. I fed him and used him at day 5. He now resides in the fridge until the next loaf.
What was It? Sourdough culture! I’ll let the blog-checking lines explain:
Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!
As I did some research, I realised one of the most important steps in the cultivation of a sourdough starter is - the naming ;P So, after prolonged discussion, please meet our new family pet : Blobby Daring! We thought it was pretty apt. Blobby is self-explanatory, and Daring is in honour of the DB challenge :)
The steps to growing a starter, or leaven, can be found at Jessica’s blog or The Daring Kitchen. I chose to attempt the French Country bread which used a wholewheat starter. I also did further reading at Sourdough Baker. And at one point, I was curious to find out whether my culture “smelt right”. So I checked out this forum link at The Fresh Loaf. For the record, my culture smelt quite sour, but not so bad that I couldn’t stick my nose in the jar and take a huge whiff without keeling over.
Surprisingly, Blobby took off quite quickly. I started it off on a Sunday, and had bubbles by Tuesday morning. The warm conditions in my kitchen probably helped (it’s summer here). I couldn’t find wholewheat flour, so I used Atta flour instead (which is really a kind of wholewheat flour anyway).
However, my first attempt at turning Blobby into a proper loaf ended up in a flat disk! I had followed the recipe exactly even though I though the dough looked a bit too wet. Our host had reassured us countless times that the dough was meant to be quite wet and sticky so I let it be. But it turns out my instincts were right. I’m quite sure that all flours are not created equal, and each would require different amounts of water.
The Flat Loaf
I should have twigged when I realised how wet the dough was
Luckily, the recipe had factored in extra production leaven so I could start a new loaf. Otherwise, I would have missed the challenge deadline altogether! Sourdough bread making is a very long slow process. For those of you not part of the challenge, or haven’t tried your hand at sourdough bread making before, here’s the lowdown. First you have to start a culture from scratch and this takes about five to seven days. Then you make a production leaven that takes at least 4 hours to rise, then this production leaven is mixed with flour and kneaded to form the bread dough. This is left for an hour, then kneaded again and left for 3 to 5 hours to rise. As you can see, timing is crucial if you don’t want to end up baking bread at 2 am in the morning! I was very disciplined, setting my alarm very early in the morning and luckily I did this because it meant I had time to attempt a second loaf at a decent hour.
Home made banneton (bread proofing basket) - using a colander, some muslin and rubber bands.
Second time around, I added the water gradually, and in the end, used only about 250ml instead of the 300ml suggested in the recipe. Just to make sure, I added a couple of tablespoonfuls of Blobby to the mix too.
Second dough, not as wet
The extra bits of production leaven were scraped off the bowl and saved in a jar. I fed it with a little white flour and water, and we’ve named him Fred the Bread Starter. We’re hoping that he will grow too.
The next loaf did rise a little higher than the first one, but the texture was disappointing. It was very dense and a bit gluey, and I wondered if I’d underbaked it, so I put it back in the oven later to “dry out”. It helped a little bit but the texture was still pretty heavy. (I've since read that other bakers had quite dense bread too, so I don't feel so bad!). The flavour though, was fantastic and frankly (or should that be fred-ly) surprised me. I thought the bread would be quite sour since the starter had smelt that way, but the bread tasted sweet and nutty with the mildest tang.
Yay! I made sourdough bread!
That was not the end of the challenge though. We were asked to show off our bread in a recipe. I chose my favourite way to eat sourdough - chocolate, sea salt and olive oil toast. I know it sounds strange but trust me on this one. It is fabulous. I'd made it before, and you can read about it here
I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way this challenge turned out. Sure, our jaws got a really good workout but the bread tasted amazing and was definitely worth the hours. I’ll be trying to improve my bread making skills now that Blobby is living in the fridge. Any tips on getting a lighter loaf? I’m assuming I need a longer rising time but if you have any other trouble-shooting ideas to add, please let me know.
Thanks Jessica for the great challenge and the push to finally try sourdough. Do check out what the other Daring Bakers made with their loaves. And if I’m not back before the end of the month, have a wonderful new year!