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Ben Bread 1 – sourdough white loaf. Starter originally from the Wild Yeast Bakery – the San Francisco culture. Fed and nurtured in Orkney by Fenella and passed on to me.

I think Fenella had been feeding the culture with wholemeal flour. I gave it two feeds of stoneground white before use.

When I taste-tested the starter it was so sharp it was like being pricked with a pin on my tongue. Really, as sour as lemon. Slightly fizzy.

For this first bake, I followed the instruction sheet from the Wild Yeast Bakery folks… more or less.

I used 50/50 of the Stoneground Organic Un-bleached and the Stoneground Strong Bakers White and put 475 grams of flour to 300 g of starter. My mix took more than the measured 210 ml of water – maybe as much as 50ml more. I intended to leave the salt out at this stage but ended up sheepishly following instructions.

Beautiful dough

Beautiful dough

Thirty minutes after mixing a soft sticky dough, I kneaded, Bertinet-style, for 7 minutes. Three more kneading periods (brief ones) followed in the next hour. I was surprised went I went to do the first of these at how well-tempered the dough was. It was smooth, elastic and relaxed. Just a few turns on the  table tightened it up beautifully. I was worried though by how chilly it was feeling. After the kneading, I swaddled my bowl in a bath towel.

An Aside

As I was giving the dough its final kneading, Mr L came into the kitchen and said he had been thinking and that I should buy the electric prover. Like me, he has worked out the economics of purchase and running costs of that versus the fuel oil for the Rayburn. So, maybe I shall let him buy it for my birthday. I have NO idea where I would keep it – there’s insufficient storage space already. I guess it would be almost always in use though. Of course, it could be left in the utility room, where the cold would no longer matter.

Back to Business

Following the third of the brief kneadings, I gave the dough a couple of envelope folds, popped it into the bowl, covered it with a shower cap and a towel, and left it in the utility room to rise overnight next to the very gentle warmth of the deep freezer.

Dough in 1Kg Brotform

Dough in 1Kg Brotform

Over lunch, I remembered something and that caused me to have a change of plan. The dough was instantly moved to a warmer spot, in my studio. The new plan was to shape the bread later in the day and then leave it overnight in the banneton in the utility room. The last batch of sourdough that I made worked brilliantly that way, the dough had risen to the top of the basket by the time that I got up on day 2.

After three hours in the server cupboard, I shaped the dough and popped into a 1Kg Brotform. The dough was very soft and malleable – I found it difficult to get it to tension into a proper ball and think it a good job that I have the Brotform to support it.

Sunday Morning

I retrieved the dough from the utility room and popped it on top of the Rayburn when I got up to feed the menagerie. I noticed that it had not risen to the top, as the previous sourdough did overnight – this one came to about an inch off, not a bad rise for a sourdough, I think – comparing it to the before-rising photograph. I left it on the range for an hour in the hope of reaching a working temperature. I noticed a cold draught from somewhere… and took coffee to bed while the oven pre-heated. I worried a bit about over-proving. A bit daft that, really, considering the ambient temperature and the fact that it takes about 2 hours to get the stove to something that you might term  hot.

We lack photos of these stages, due to my having left the camera on overnight and needing to recharge the battery.

You know, in the event, I think perhaps it was not sufficiently proved. the spring back when I poked it was fairly slow, but maybe not slow enough. I think too that the dough had warmed insufficiently to get the yeast active enough to get that lovely oven-rise.

Oven Spring? What Oven Spring?

Oven Spring? What Oven Spring?

Anyway – this is it, oven-baked at 230°C as per the instructions (I usually deploy max temperature, 250) for 40 minutes. I even used a temperature probe, instead  of relying on knocking its bottom. The instructions say that the internal temp should be at least 90°. I registered 96°

There was not much in the way of what you might term oven spring, though some oven rise was evident. The loaf felt quite heavy and dense when I handled it but turned out to be reasonably light when I cut into it.

Wonderful crust

Wonderful crust

The crust is amazing, and very tasty. The bread is distinctly sharp in taste, but not yoghourty-sour as the Spelt loaf was, more lemony-sharp. I could certainly eat more of this without being over-faced. ( I found the spelt loaf quite full-on and difficult to eat more than a slice at a time.) It might do well with rich soft creamy cheeses, or with a good preserve. Still slightly warm, it was excellent dressed with just plain old Lurpak. I may cut another slice…

Best just buttered?

Best just buttered?

I am rating this one at least 90% successful.

Sadly, Mr L is still not keen, so I suspect that I shall not be maintaining the starter. Sourdough is a lot of trouble if there is only one person around to eat it.

* That draught? When I went back to take the bread out of the oven, I realised that the window was swinging open… on the wrong side. The wind had blown it off the hinges and it was hanging only by the handle lock. We have wrangled it back into position and are hoping for no more southerlies before a wind-free weekend day is available to fix the new hinge in place.

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