Monday, August 31, 2009

My sourdough experience

As you might know, I love to cook and bake. I make my own bread from scratch, and I have to boast, I think my regular brown and white loaves of bread are far superior to the ones that can be bought at the grocery store. So, about a month ago, one of my favourite cooking bloggers, Clotilde Dusoulier, at Chocolate & Zucchini detailed her experience about making sourdough bread. Although she didn't make her own starter, she did provide links to other bloggers who did. Being always up for a baking challenge, and wanting to expand my bread-making repertoire, I decided I would give sourdough a try--including making my own starter.

If you follow my Twitter feed, you will know that my first attempt at sourdough starter (or "started" as I typed numerous times) didn't go quite right. I used the directions from the blog, The Fresh Loaf, as they are well laid out and easy to follow. Day 1 and 2 went along swimmingly. The starter was nice and bubbly on the second day, but on third day it didn't double like it was supposed to. The instructions said to wait until it had doubled, so I waited. And waited, and waited. And then my starter was rancid and I had to start again. The second attempt went much better. This time, I noticed that the instructions said to give the starter I little boost with extra flour and water if it didn't double, so when Day 3 came around and my starter hadn't grown enough, I gave it a little extra to eat. And voila! My starter continued to grow and bubble and collect wild yeast like it was supposed to. Huzzah.

Last Friday rolls around and I ponder the eternal question of whether or not I should pull my freshly minted starter out of the fridge so I can bake with it the next day. Due to scheduling uncertainties, I decided to leave it be. Saturday morning, up early as per usual, I changed my mind and reversed yesterday's decision. I was going to bake sourdough bread. I pulled my starter out of the fridge, follow Clotilde's instructions for preparing it and continue on with my day as I waited for the starter to rise. Fast forward to 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. The starter's looking good and I'm ready to roll. I pull up the recipe again and begin weighing my ingredients (we recently purchased a kitchen scale).

I've got everything mixed when Andrew asks me something along the lines of: "Have you actually read all of the instructions?" To which I sheepishly reply, "At some point I did." Now Andrew starts reading me the recipe out loud. "Let rest for 2 hours...6 hours later..." My response is a somewhat panicked: "Are you s**ting me?" I come over to the computer and after a few minutes we discover alternate instructions, which permit the baker to place the dough in the fridge to rise over night. I took the alternate option.

On Sunday Andrew and I got up, went for our long run (18 km) and when we got back I pulled the dough out of the fridge to warm up. We went to church and even had brunch with another couple who go to St. Joseph's chapel before returning home to the sourdough-dough. At this point there were only a few quick kneadings to go before placing it in a 3 litre pot and into the oven for an hour. My last tribulation of my first attempt at completely homemade sourdough bread: the bottom got a little burnt. Our oven runs hot. Roughly 100 degrees hotter than what the temperature dial reads. We've known this since we moved into our apartment over 2 years ago. We've got a little thermometer in the oven to gauge the actual temperature. Unfortunately, it runs even hotter at higher temperatures and so when I went to pull the bread out of the oven I was greeted with "burning" smell. I was preoccupied with hemming pants while it cooked and I forgot to use my nose to tell me my bread was done.

Regardless the bread is delicious. The sour flavour isn't really strong, yet. But it comes with a more aged starter.

In Garden News...

I wanted to give a quick shout out to our garden, continuing to preserver on our 12th floor balcony. We have strawberries! They're tiny, but they're there. And tomatoes, which, with the wave of hot weather we're getting here in Edmonton, I hope will continue to grow.



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