Sourdough Days

Yesterday I recommenced my sourdough breadmaking for the first time since packing away my tins and baking my final Western Australian loaf last September.

Yoke, my Perth-based baking guru and friend, first introduced me to the wonders of sourdough in one of her fabulous breadmaking classes. She kindly gave me a small container of ancient sourdough starter which I lovingly looked after and fed daily.

starter:

Before packing up in Perth, I gave away portions of culture to other bread fans, and kept a small container for myself. When I flew to Sydney early this year, I brought with me (in my hand luggage) that small packet of frozen starter, the magic ingredient that yields all sourdough desires.

The man on the x-ray machine did a second check on his screen, but didn’t bother to ask me what it was; not that it’s illegal to carry frozen bread culture, I am sure. I would have been quite happy to show him, though it was wrapped in multi layers of paper to avoid it growing and taking over the whole plane [‘flight deck to ground control, we have a problem…’]

It lay asleep in my freezer until a few weeks ago when I transferred it to a larger container and thawed it out, giving it a big feed of flour and water after its long hibernation. Boy, was it hungry!

That’s a bit of history. Anyway, here’s some step-by-step photos of my breadmaking adventure yesterday. The photos are actually from my Perth breadmaking days, but since the steps were the same, and the results looked identical, there was no need to shoot more pics.

That delectable-looking brown substance above is my sourdough starter. It has a rich, fragrant, sour aroma, and will now sit submissively in my fridge between bakes.

double the size:

I combined flour, starter and water. I left the dough (above) in a plastic sealed container for 10 hours until doubled in size in a cool place.

see the holes:

Nice big holes in the spongy risen dough are a sign that all is well in sourdough land.

tins are ready:

These are great bread tins, by the way. They have an actual tin lining.

divide:

I divided the dough (since I always make enough for two loaves) without expressing too much air. No punching down with sourdough bread!

gently lower:

The dough was lowered into the tins. Some air was naturally expressed in the transfer, so I waited another 6 hours for the dough to double again.

waiting game:

And so it sat, while I did other things. I forgot to photograph the dough just before I baked it, but it was well-doubled, and approached the top of the tins.

risen to the occasion:

I baked the bread, then I turned off the oven but left the tins in for another 10 minutes.

fresh bread:

And here’s the result. I tapped the bottom of the loaves, and enjoyed that reassuring hollow sound that only fully-baked breads make.

best thing since sliced bread:

Look at those lovely holes! The bread was wonderfully moist, with a complex, appetizing depth of flavour, and that bouncy, slightly chewy texture that classic sourdough bread offers. And just four ingredients: flour, water, starter and salt. No oil, no chemicals, no yeast, no preservatives, no raising agents – nothing. Just loads of love, and patience.

My father, a bit of a bread connoisseur, was hooked on it after one bite. And I just can’t get enough of it. Once you taste good homemade sourdough bread, you can never go back to eating the yeasted variety again. Long live sourdough!
Posted by Kurma on 15/5/08; 5:16:38 AM

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