My role is to be the action woman and just get things done.
However, in the climate of Alert Level 4 and being isolated in our bubble, as well as being pissed off at failing in the sourdough starter stakes, I got a bit caught up in chasing success.
Pip from nb Oleanna had suggested adding a red cabbage leaf to the starter. I did, and after a couple of days, success was mine!! I feel a bit like Billy Connolly - I should be proclaiming this loudly and with lots of swearing from a stage. But you will have to do as my audience. Of course, I have emailed photos to Bernice the Mean, and she has been suitably and kindly encouraging, providing me with much needed positive reinforcement. So I am in the process of changing her name by deed-poll to Bernice the Okay Really...
|Very few bubbles|
A few nights ago (I am losing track of time), but quite late for me, I sent Bernice an email requesting urgent advice - the red cabbage leafed starter had expanded exponentially in its jar in the airing cupboard, so I needed to know if I could take it out of the cupboard and leave it overnight. Yes, she replied immediately (further changes to deed-poll application: Bernice the Prompt and Okay Really). So out it came and sat on one of the hall bookcases overnight.
|A red cabbage leaf and lots of bubbles!! Yay!! Back on went its paper towel cover and it sat on the bookcase overnight.|
|The experiment is comprised of three starters all of which are labelled - good grief, I sound like David ... The bowl has the cabbage leaf in it.|
So on to the second portion - sank without protest to the bottom.
And then on to the third vegetated portion - AAARRRGGGHHH - I had left it too long, a skin had formed over the submerged part of the red cabbage leaf, and underneath it, the leaf colour had leached into the starter. Down the sink with that one, leaving two to be fed and watered again and back in to the airing cupboard for the night.
In the early afternoon of the following day (the next one after the one I wrote about - 4 paragraphs back) I checked again, and the one that had floated the previous day was even more floaty, so I decided I should be able to start making bread sometime in the next millenium. So I fed it, put it back in the airing cupboard thinking I would wait till the following day to make the leaven (poolish is what Chris Verburg calls it). But my patience was running out, so that evening, and quite late for me, I decided that the starter had foamed and bubbled enough in the few hours since I'd fed it for the umpteenth time, and so it was on to making the leaven.
I should not really do stuff late in the evening that I have never done before and that I am nervous about. I tend to hit the wall tiredness-wise and I get tetchy (OK, tetchier ...) and only able to focus on one thing. Being given instructions from the sidelines by someone who never uses the scales but apparently knows exactly how they work is not conducive to my completing the task with any degree of equanimity. Enough said. So a portion of the floaty starter into a bowl; flour weighed, water weighed and added and stirred to mix. Shower cap cover fixed on top and the whole thing put into the airing cupboard. The remaining starters fed again (I am hedging my bets and continuing the experiment in case the floaty one decides not to work); starters placed beside the hopefully-about-to- burgeon leaven.
An apology given to the scales expert and off to bed I go with a calming cup of chamomile.
Yesterday morning, I cautiously peered in to the airing cupboard to find that the leaven had really and truly done its thing in a big way, so on to the bread making I get - excited, but nervous. And I tell you it is difficult to do any kind of kitchen stuff with your fingers crossed! And the kitchen was a bit Piccadilly Circus-like yesterday as I had tomato and chilli relish (cooked the previous day) to reheat, blitz, then reheat and bottle; a huge amount of vegetables to chop and juice; and mushroom stroganoff to prepare (task assigned to David).
I decided that it was probably better if I printed out the sourdough instructions so that when David comes to use the laptop with the stroganoff recipe I am not also wanting it ...
So the next first of countless steps in the actual bread-making task is to mix in the carefully weighed flour and the carefully weighed (yes, weighed!) water that is at a specific temperature. So actually the first job is to find a thermometer. OK, found, but not that useful as below about 30 deg it just says Lo (without a w). Request follows to David to find the one he uses to register room temperatures. Yay, he finds it, once he knows what it is I am asking for - somehow my functioning use of language diminishes when I am in a hurry and his understanding reduces when I am in a hurry ... So the water is weighed and has its temperature taken.
The water is added to the leaven and stirred to mix, then the flour is added and squidged in with my hands, swapped in to a bigger bowl because I realise that if any expansion is to take place the smaller bowl will be overflowing, and the dough is turned and stretched a few times; shower cap put back on and into the airing cupboard.
There follows a process that is more demanding than a wakeful baby - wait for an hour to add the salt, turn, stretch and fold: turn, stretch and fold. Then every half hour for 4 hours: turn, stretch and fold several times, replace the shower cap, place back in the airing cupboard. Then leave it for at least 30 minutes to relax - WTF??
Before we played cards with Ann and Salvi, the dough was ready to be shaped, so out it came on to a floured bench and I hoped that I was doing it right, having been taught a couple of years ago by Sarah and in October last year by Chris. You have to put your hands on the far side of the dough and then pull it gently towards you, repeatedly. It looked and felt pretty good, so back in a floured bowl I put it and left it to rise in the airing cupboard. Instructions said 2 - 3 hours or overnight.
After cards and yummy dinner, I checked the dough and it had risen hugely, so I decided to cook it even though it was getting late for me (see note above re me and hitting the wall...) I turned on the oven, put in the cast iron pot to heat for 30 minutes, and waited.
Then I realised that Chris uses baking paper in the pot, and I hadn't put baking paper in the shaping bowl - could I tip it on to baking paper before I put it into the pot? Quick email to Bernice (I must get her phone number!) and a quick reply yes I could. So I did, but bugger and deep depression: the dough sort of squoodged and lost its shape. But in a fit of "well, F*uck it if it doesn't work" I lifted it up and put it in the pot, sprayed it with a bit of water, put the lid on and grumpily closed the door.
Bernice's instructions say not to open the door for 15 minutes, so I followed that instruction then when the time went off I gingerly looked in. Yay!!! It had risen in the intense heat. Lid off, loaf taken out of the pot, a roasting tray with water in placed on the rack below the bread and the timer set for another 25 minutes.
And here is the result:
|I didn't succeed in cutting clean slashes across the top once it was in the pot unfortunately, but who cares?|
Once it had cooled on the rack, I cut a couple of slices for late night taste testing - verdict: very yummy indeed. This morning we had it toasted with baked beans - delicious.
I think sourdough bread making is a bit like giving birth in that you forget the pain (or it recedes in your mind) once your eyes light on the loaf or baby, whichever ...
I'll give it another go. And I am giving one of the starters to Bevan today - it'll be left in their letterbox along with a jar of chilli tomato relish when I get up and go for a walk.