sourdough bread

Making sourdough breadThis week’s food experiment has been sourdough bread.

I’ve never quite had the knack of making bread. I’ve made it a lot, but it often gets referred to as ‘speciality bread’ and is only really good for toasting or soaking in soup. I have had better success using a bread machine (when I’ve followed the instructions) but I’ve never found a loaf I was happy to have as our everyday bread.

My main issue seems to be the rising stage. Recipes say things like ‘leave to rise for 2 hours until doubled in bulk’ – only mine never does. I’ve left dough for four hours or longer before now and it still hasn’t risen properly, and at that point I get impatient and cook it anyway and we end up with bread like concrete.

Books always give helpful advice about where to put your rising dough – usually ‘in the airing cupboard’ or ‘near a hot oven or open fire’. Well, I don’t have an airing cupboard, and I don’t have an open fire or old fashioned range, or an aga. What hope is there?

I’ve wrapped dough in blankets and put it by the radiator. I’ve put the bowl in another bowl of boiling water, covered by a towel. I’ve replaced the yeast, and tried different types, and nothing seems to work.

I thought I might be on to a winner with this sourdough bread recipe. You don’t add yeast – the flour and water mix ferments naturally over the course of a week or so. You leave it to rise for two days at a time (surely that’s got to be long enough, even in my house?). Would it work?

Sourdough bread 2This dough got special treatment. Wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle and placed on a chair near the radiator, I was hopeful it would rise.

It did – but only a little. I’m afraid my impatience overtook me and after a week of waiting for my bread I baked it anyway.

sourdough bread 3Looks just like the picture, but is hard as a rock. I had one slice, but I can’t in all kindness persuade anyone else to. I might grate it and feed it to the birds.

I confess I get rather grumpy about bread making. People have made bread for thousands of years with no technology, no special equipment, and I just can’t seem to manage it.

However, I am not going to be deterred. I don’t need light, fluffy white bread that’s more air than flour, but I would like eat a slice without my jaw aching. I might try this artisan, no-knead bread next. It looks pretty straightforward…

In the meantime, all you sparrows and wood pigeons looking for a gourmet meal, our garden is the place to be.

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4 Responses to sourdough bread

  1. Lorraine says:

    You should have said, I love making bread! We could have made bread instead of cake when you were here. Hope the birds like it!

  2. Mitty says:

    I know nothing about sourdough, but have good luck with 5 min. a day bread. I have made a lot of yeast bread over the years, and I suspect that if your bread never, ever rises, you are killing the yeast by mixing it into water or milk that is too hot. That will produce a doorstop loaf every time. Try mixing the yeast into lukewarm water with a teaspoon full of sugar. Let it sit until foamy (5 min.) and then mix it into the flour. With the 5 min. bread, you mix the yeast with the flour before adding the liquid, but it is still important that the water be lukewarm and not hot. Good luck!

  3. Hazel says:

    I was going to suggest you try Artisan/no-knead bread and the one on Attic 24 is more straightforward than some.

    As long as you’re not killing the yeast, as Mitty said, a long/cool rise is actually better than the hour-in-a-warm-place rise. The bread has more flavour and it’s probably better for us as the flour has a chance to react to the yeast, making it easier to digest. (I’m convinced that more people are deciding they are gluten-intolerant because of how fast shop bread is made now.)
    Planning a longer rise into your baking might help- make the dough in the evening and leave overnight to bake the next day so you’re not anxiously checking the dough every few minutes!

    Root Simple is another good blog to look at for discussion on sourdough and long-rises for bread.

  4. Thanks all! I shall buy some new yeast, investigate long slow rises, and no-knead breads too. I can see lots of bread adventures on the horizon!

    Lorraine, I didn’t realise you made bread! How much can you not know about your own family?!

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