Sourdough

Sourdough

I’ve been meaning to write about my adventures in sourdough for a while. It was back in January that I first muttered on here about making some, mainly so I could have something to slather my marmalade on, while drinking a mug of freshly ground black coffee. Since then, I’ve made two different sourdough starters, one with Rye flour, the other with Spelt and had a bash or three are making some bread with them.

The Rye starter can't be contained!So far the results have been rather less than successful, with each batch having more resemblance to a lead frisbee rather than a light and airy loaf of bread. So I decided to change what I was doing at the weekend and produced easily my best sourdough loaf so far.

I’ve been following the method outlined in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, but my results, as stated, haven’t been very good. I think there are a number of reason for this though. Firstly, I’ve been using some stone ground wholemeal flour from a local mill, which makes for quite a dense crumb. I’ve also just been turning the proved loaves out of their banneton baskets, directly onto a baking sheet, so there’s been nothing to stop them from spreading out and collapsing.

The crumb on this sourdough made with the Spelt starter was great, shame it was almost pancake flat...Enter the sourdough episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, which I finally got round to watching last week. So on Saturday I decided to follow Paul’s method, albeit with stone ground strong white bread flour, rather than just strong white bread flour. This meant that I didn’t knock back and prove repeatedly, just the once and that I turned the risen loaf out onto a baking sheet with some semolina flour on it.

Paul’s method also calls for a lower oven temperature, rather than the “as high as it’ll go” approach (which for me is 270°C, although I don’t normally go above 250°C). I don’t know if this was a factor, but I got some rise out of the oven for a change, normally my loaves don’t do much other than cook in the oven, so it was nice to finally see one puff up a bit.

My first sourdough, like a lead frisbee...All this meant that on Sunday morning, I had a few slices of my sourdough, with my marmalade slathered all over them and washed down with some freshly ground strong black coffee. While it’s not the first time I’ve managed to do this, it is the first time I’ve stood there and been quite pleased with what I’ve produced.

Coffee

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I’ve hated coffee for as long as I can remember, something to do with a run in with coffee ice cream in Ullapool when I was a kid. I’ve also never got on with hot drinks, I’ve tried in the past, but I just prefer cold drinks. I’m not sure why, but a few week before Christmas, I decided that I was going to get into coffee. Not your Nescafé, or Kenco freeze dried nonsense mind, but proper artisan coffee from places like Has Bean and Hot Numbers.

So for the weeks leading up to Christmas, I started pinching my wife’s coffee and trying to get used to it, I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a struggle. Things got a bit better when I started to follow the Has Bean French Press brew guide, with the coffee having more body and flavour. Things improved again when I started buying beans and grinding them up for use in the French press, there was no going back to pre-ground after that.

So I decided to splurge a bit of my Christmas money and bought an Aeropress and a Porlex hand grinder from Has Bean, mainly so I could take them to work and have something decent to drink. The machine at work with the little pouches of coffee is just dire, all the flavours taste the same, at least to me. I think I’ve used the French Press about once since Christmas, it just doesn’t get a look in any more, even at the weekends, the coffee from the Aeropress is just better and a lot easier to clean up after!

It struck me one morning though, as I was chomping on a slice of sourdough bread slathered in marmalade, that I could make most of my breakfast. I started making bread because I wanted to make sourdough. I can’t wait for the Seville oranges to appear this year so that I can make a couple of batches of marmalade, as I missed them last year. So in a similar fashion to wanting to make all of my burger stack for lunch, I have a new mission, to make all the bits of my breakfast. While I think roasting my own green coffee beans and churning my own butter can wait for a bit, sourdough and marmalade and firmly on the immediate hit list…