Once upon a time in 2020 there was a global pandemic. Enter telework and little distractions but for delicious food. Put one and one together and what do you get? Exactly: a love for sourdough bread! We recently celebrated the first anniversary of this covid pandemic (and let’s keep it at that) but that also means it’s been a whole year since I started growing my own starter and baking bread. One year later I would like to share with you what I have learnt.
… is a virtue, or so we’re told. Well, in the case of sourdough baking it is definitely a good character trait to have. Firstly it helps to let your starter mature and grow (and keep you up at night, worrying – like a teenager, really). Then you have to be patient when your dough rises and, after shaping it, let it rise again. You might want to find yourself a few new hobbies to keep your mind preoccupied when your starter/dough sits there and does it’s thing.
… but don’t forget about your dough either
Which has happened, more than I would like to admit. I’ll just leave it there to sit by the heater and then all of a sudden we are 3 hours later and I jump up and whack it (gently) into the fridge. Don’t worry if this happens, just follow the next steps of the recipe and try to tuck away that feeling of tremendous guilt. Sometimes your bread will stick to your rising basket or flop and look like a pancake when you take it out of the oven. But sometimes it will look perfectly fine and taste amazing. In fact, some of the better breads I’ve made were doughs that I forgot about along the way. So give it a try anyway!
Don’t skimp on feeds
A mistake I made over summer. I questioned the science behind sourdough baking (or rather, ignored the fact that it truly is science and not utter randomness) and started feeding my starters a bit less. So what was their response? Like any hungry person they got grumpy and occasionally even refused to cooperate. So I learned the hard way that I need to treat my starters like I want to be treated: with plenty of food.
Flour aka gold dust
Baking bread a few times a week is not my only new habit. Simultaneously you develop this tendency to check out the flour section IN LITERALLY EVERY SHOP you visit from now on. And so you end of with an excellent and most random collection of flour. Because who knows when the next pandemic will break loose and everyone will jump on the available flour in the shops?!
Find cook books/recipes that work for you
This one has made a big difference for me. Different bakers have different ways of working, so it’s good to do some research and find out which way works best for you. The book that has been an absolute deal-breaker for me is Super Sourdough by James Morton. I’ve learned a lot from his processes and the material he uses. I think at this point I’ve tried out about 70-80% of the recipes in his book and most of them were wonderful. A recent purchase after trying out a fair few recipes on her blog is Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa, also know as The Clever Carrot. The recipes are complementary to the ones in Super Sourdough and I’m totally ready to try them all out!
Invest and improve
I like to stick to something (a new habit or hobby) for a while before I buy myself all the gear to ensure it’s not a brief infatuation. But after more than 6 months I felt like I had reached the limits with the materials I had at home and decided to look out for new stuff. I ended up buying a scoring knife, a dough scraper, two rising baskets and a cast iron oven dish. And now my breads look as good as they taste!
Not just bread
An important point to make (and one you could already read about in my previous sourdough blog post): you can use your sourdough starter to make more than just bread! Crackers, chocolate chip cookies, pizza, brownies, cinnamon rolls and even these glorious doughnuts! See? Worth every bit of flour and water!
So all that is left is for us to do is count down to brunches with friends and family post-corona! Cannot wait to share all my bakes with them!
Have you started baking bread in the past year? Any favourite recipes? Always happy to try out some new ones!