Bread of Heaven

So, I’m certainly no baker. The extent of my baking expertise was, and still is, pizza bases and foccacia. Those two things are pretty much the same, I know. But a couple of weeks back Jono, one of my work buddies,  passed something onto me. He and his partner Juliet, dubbed the ‘oracle’ of sourdough, have been doing the bread thing for quite a while now. I only just got onto him about i. He knows all about fermentation, yeast and all other things wonderful, because he’s a super amazing beer blogger. But he’s also a dab hand in the kitchen. He handed me some of their ‘starter’, which I assume Juliet gave rise to(HA).  The idea is not totally unlike the ‘mother’ for kombucha, but far less gross.

I’ve been looking into it and some families have starters that have gone through the generations, tried and true, used and re-used time and time again. There’s this one ‘sourdough evangelist’ who has a starter passed on from his father, which was from his neighbour, and apparently the Alaskan gold rush. I can’t confirm this, but there are many stories like it. He may make pancakes with it, but it’s the same idea as bread. I don’t know whether I’ll have kids, but if I were I’d be keen to pass this on to them. So a big ol’ chur to Jono for passing me his starter, this bread could truly be for posterity.

The result of my endeavours so far? Tart, dense, sourdough bread. Now I can’t claim to have perfected it, far from that, having whipped up about three or four loaves since he passed it to me. I mean, the fact that I consider sourdough to be dense is probably enough to tell you that yes, I’m a novice.

But the first week or two, albeit a possible honeymoon period, has been awesome. I’ve been waking up early to prove or bake the dough. It’s almost given me a routine: work, bake, sleep, repeat. The satisfaction of spending days on a product, and for it to come out well, is immense. Just like beer or butchering, baking is an art. And god damn, it’s satisfying as fuck.

My elementary understanding of bread making, combined with my impatience when it comes to learning, means that I have a tendency to jump the gun; running before I can walk. Last night, I decided to do something weird. I don’t know if it’s pan-treason or not, but I whipped up some bread with regular yeast. I kneaded it into what I had already prepared, your regular wheatmeal sourdough. I may or may not have been looking for a marbled brown-white loaf. Anyway, it came out brown. That’s okay.

My goal was to get some of those air pockets that make crusty French bread awesome. I mean, it’s the best bread I’ve done by far, but I failed to that much more air into it. It was much lighter (as can be seen above), the crust was still bomb and all-in-all, easier to eat.

Now, what I see on the inter-tubes tells me that there are several variables in the way of getting those good air pockets. It could be a lack of gluten, the starter could be a bit out of whack or that the sourdough is too weak. Now, I’m not going to claim that my sourdough game is strong, but I seriously don’t know whether it’s weak. But one thing I certainly think could be valid is the fact that I don’t like getting the dough all through my hands. Apparently the wetter the dough, the more likely you are to get the air in there. So that’s my next move: get messy. I’m going to see whether I can get the right air into this guy, hopefully it works out.

On the bright side, there are so many things you can do with this once is done. After all, it is bread. So far I’ve sliced it thin and turned it into crostini (bourgeois word for bread-cracker), slathered it in pesto and have made my own ghetto versions of croque monsieur (again, bourgeois word for toastie).

So, it’s in your best interest to stay posted on my bread game, for when I perfect it, I will pass on my knowledge to you. You’ll be the house/flat/homestead’s breadwinner in no time, even if you don’t work.

First attempt: like eating a Chux sponge betwixt two sheets of ply.

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