This week I started my experiment with sourdough. I’ve been making my own bread for years but must admit to using yeast sachets for ease. I love having a loaf baking in the oven at the weekend but you can’t get the same depth of flavour in a simple white loaf as you can with a proper sourdough.
So, with a little prompting and the introduction of an element of competition (I am taking part in a sourdough-off), I have decided to give making my own sourdough starter and ultimately my own sourdough loaf a go.
The process is fairly straightforward in theory but that doesn’t mean it is without its difficulties. The basic method is to take 100g of strong bread flour and mix with enough warm water to make a paint-like consistency. Sounds easy – and it is. However, you are then meant to leave the mixture somewhere warm to bubble away and do its thing. And this is where the problems begin.
It is winter and a particularly miserable one at that and I live in an old mansion block in a flat without an airing cupboard. I have been forced to give my jam jar of starter a ski-sock hibernation jacket in an effort to keep it warm. Said jar actually spent its first in this world night tucked up in bed with me. I admit I am very determined to be the owner of a world-beating sourdough starter.
Sure enough, the following morning there were bubbles on the surface signifying that it was time for its first feed. So, in went 100g more of flour and enough water to maintain the thick paint consistency before being left again for another 24 hours. On returning to my growing starter it had doubled in size and was full of big frothy bubbles. Perfect.
Two nights ago, however, when I began the discard and feed routine, which should be done every day for the first little while, my flatmate strolled over and declared that my starter smelled ‘funky’. She was right. The mixture smelt powerfully acidic instead of the warm, nutty scent of the previous day. Undeterred, I carried on and added my fresh flour and water and popped my fledgling starter away for another 24 hours. Last night it seemed to be back on track and had doubled in size once again.
Starters take between seven and ten days to develop properly so I have a little while to go still before attempting to make my first loaf. Fingers crossed by that time I will have a fruity, nutty smelling mixture that will give me a loaf with great depth and a lovely open texture.
But for now I must simply wait, feed the starters and wait a little longer. More to come next week.