Sunday morning, my first sourdough loaf is in the oven, it’s cold and crisp outside, William just came downstairs and gave me a hug, Immie and Oscar are fast asleep, Gardner’s world is on BBC2 and I’m about as happy as a 47 year old half Hungarian can be.
The sourdough starter has been alive for a week now and this loaf started its journey yesterday evening at about 6pm, so it better be good. But we before we tackle the bread situation, I’m going to start with a plug for my new best friend Nigel. Nigel owns a truffle business. He imports truffles from around the world and sells them online through his site http://www.trufflehunter.co.uk. We became acquainted on a course aimed at helping small businesses grow – the idea is that you meet other business owners and learn from each other, share experiences, grow your network etc etc. I met a bloke who sells truffles. Pretty much hit the jackpot I reckon. Not that it matters, but he’s a pretty good bloke too – it’s not all about the truffles you know (yes it is). Anyway, check out his site and buy something – I hear the minced summer truffle is very good – mine hasn’t arrived yet but I’ll report back when it does. And I will most definitely be using his black winter truffles for dinner at my sister’s on Christmas Eve (mates rates!). Oh yes I will.
Anyway, back to the bread…
Before you can start baking you need a sourdough starter, which takes about a week to get going. There are a bunch of ways you can do it – I used wholemeal flour, water, honey and yoghurt in mine, but I’m sure there are better ones out there, so I recommend googling it and picking one that suits you.
Making the bread don’t require any more effort than a normal loaf, but it does need time as the sourdough starter works more slowly than yeast, so you need to get going the day before you want to eat your bread.
Start by making a basic bread mix with your preferred flour (I used a strong white flour for this one), a little salt and plenty of olive oil, and then rather than pouring in water, use the starter instead (and then replenish the starter with fresh flour and water). Mix and knead the bread throughly until you have a lovely smooth and very elastic dough. Let it prove for a couple of hours in a bowl at room temperature covered in a damp cloth.
After a couple of hours, knock back the bread, shape it into a ball and put it in a banneton. I don’t have a banneton (yet) so I used a large bowl lined with a teatowel well dusted with flour. Cover it all and put it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, heat your oven to 225c and place a tin in the oven filled with boiling water to ensure you get a nice steamy atmosphere in there which will give the bread a good crust. Once it’s reached temperature, tip out the bread onto a baking tray dusted with flour, slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife, dust it with more flour and stick it in the oven for about 45 mins. I turn the oven down to 200c after about 10 minutes. Check the bread from time to time to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Take it out, cool it, eat it.
Postscript – I’ve just broken into it and had a few chunks with a slab of butter. It’s so much lighter, crunchier, airier and tastier than bread baked with yeast. You have to try this.