Thursday, 13 February 2014
Trial and error; or, my adventures with sourdough
Well, I promised last time some sourdough action; I can't pretend it's been smooth sailing but now, finally, I feel I'm getting the hang of it.
I started off using the River Cottage recipe, which produced a loaf that looked OK, and was definitely tangy, but a bit flat and without the holes it should have.
So I tried a variation, which had far more water and resembled a dough monster until cooked, when it ripped itself apart.
Undeterred, I carried on, and came across James Morton's advice to bake it in a cast iron casserole dish and finally, a lovely well risen loaf! But Oh. My. Viciously sour to the point of being inedible.
I will admit, I was tempted to give up at this point and if I hadn't been so determined (some might say stubborn) I would have stopped there and then. But then I read somewhere that underfeeding the starter can cause sourness. And that the method I was using was actually bound to maximise that. Aha!
I fed my starter twice a day. I started to follow James Morton's white sourdough recipe. I started proving in bowls instead of just on the counter. I baked everything in a scorching hot pot. Bingo! Delicious bread, risen properly.
But still, the texture wasn't quite right. I ordered Brilliant Bread and started to go through it, learning new recipes and novel techniques for kneading and I think I've now discovered my very favourite recipe - it's Pain de Campagne, which is a loaf risen with normal yeast and flavoured with sourdough starter.
One morning I accidentally added too much water and the dough turned into some kind of monster, but this time I knew how to knead it and prove it without adding more flour. It overflowed the proving bowl and flolloped into the cooking pot. And when I cut it the next morning and saw the open, holey, chewy texture I'd been craving, I swear I heard angels singing.
It's all gone now. I'd better make some more!