Archives for posts with tag: sourdough

Pretty much anyone living in the UK at the moment will be aware that everyone has gone baking-mad.  My UK-based friends keep sending emails telling me how good the Great British Bake-Off is this year.  I am, sadly, missing it as it doesn’t seem to be available here.

You only have to go to your local supermarket to find a whole aisle devoted to baking and, with it, your choice of flours.  It wasn’t always the case but I think us Brits have come to take it for granted over recent years and I was quite surprised to find that the range of flour suitable for making bread is not so readily available here in Australia.  This is somewhat ironic as a lot of the flour we use to bake bread in the UK is imported from Australia as the flour grown here is high in protein and suitable for baking the high-rise style loaves we seem to love.  Strong white flour is available in supermarkets here as are bread mixes of many varieties but stoneground wholewheat and rye tend to be found only at health food shops and are vastly expensive and I have not yet come accross any granary type flours.

It is not true, however, that no-one bakes and in my adventures of finding new friends I am also finding fellow bakers.  One of these new friends very kindly came to my rescue as she has a cousin who recently left a city-based career to become a baker and was able to get me a good stock of flours to get me started.  A friend of my Mother-in-Law also loves to bake bread.  She has gone to the extreme of buying grain directly from a mill out in the Dandenongs and stone-grinding it herself but confessed she has not been able to do that recently as she was finding it more difficult to lift the 100kg grain sacks in and out of the car!  She now knows she has a willing volunteer in me and I am thinking of going down this route myself.

In the last week I’ve been trying to establish a new wheat sourdough starter.  I’m not sure if I am friends with it yet.  It smells a bit different from the one I had before and it isn’t behaving very well yet (as evidenced by the picture of the ‘loaf of shame’ above) but I seem to remember that my old one took a few loaves to become properly established, some I am giving it a few chances.

In the meantime I have been baking, with commercial yeast, and wondering just how many loaves/rolls I could bake in a day given that I have an oven about twice the size of the one I had in the UK.  Our local community farm has a produce swap once a month and I’m wondering if I could swap some bread while I’m waiting for my veggie patch to flourish (which it isn’t showing any signs of doing just now).

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Had I known that a hot water bottle was going to cure so many of my culinary ailments I would have invested in a dedicated kitchen one years ago.  I’m specifically talking about anything needing a bit of prolonged fermentation in conditions a little warmer than a British kitchen in winter.  My slightly floppy yoghurt-making attempts were revolutionised in the early part of last year with the simple addition of my husband’s blue hot water bottle and, just a few weeks before the year was out, I got sourdough sorted.

The temperature in my kitchen fluctuates a lot and I don’t have an airing cupboard so although I seem to remember I once got a rye sourdough started successfully (what on earth happened to that?) my attempts to bring a wheat sourdough starter to life had not been very successful.

I think I was also suffering from a bit of commitment phobia.  I mean, you hear stories, don’t you?  About how you have to feed sourdoughs on a daily basis and can’t go away on holiday anymore (unless you can find someone to feed the sourdough as well as watering the plants and feeding the cat).  I like going on holiday.

Anyway, it turns out that it was all much, much easier than that.

Once again, Andrew Whitley’s recipe from Bread Matters came to the rescue.  It involved quite a few pages of reading so it looks like it might be an involved process but, once you’ve made one loaf and adapted the process slightly to fit your lifestyle, it is no more effort than making any other loaf of bread but the results are something else.  A fantastically open-textured (i.e. holey), chewy, crusty loaf with a depth of flavour that is rarely encountered these days.  The bread keeps for around a week and is fresh enough to eat untoasted for several days.

I started cultivating the starter by putting the required quantity of flour and water in a bowl and fermenting overnight with the aforementioned hot water bottle on top.  Once the starter was established and I had made my first loaf I felt confident to abandon the hot water bottle and just ferment the starter/dough at room temperature.  It has been very reliable so far.  I have scaled up the starter so that I can easily make two loaves at a time and keep the starter in the fridge.  That way I can just bake sourdough once a week if I want to. The night before I want to make my loaves I refresh the starter and leave it at room temperature overnight.  I can then make and bake the final dough any time during the following day and the whole process takes no more than six hours with not too much work on my part.