Full disclosure: this post is written in retrospective, simply because I wasn't sure if I wanted to post something that's not fully cooked (pardon my pun). If people are interested in reading about my experiments with sourdough, I'll try to keep these more current as I go along.
I am about to embark on the kind of journey from which few come back unchanged. Ahead of me lies a long, winding road, shrouded in mystery and full of deceit and danger. Those who complete it discover a brave, new world, full of extraordinary pleasures beyond our wildest imagination. But many live to tell a tale of failure and disappointment. I pray that that won’t be my fate; I hope that my first sourdough bread will be a success.
Though I have done my best to prepare for it, reading books and guides written by much wiser men and women, nothing can truly prepare you for the unknown. The attempt to coddle a sourdough starter into being is a fickle matter, dependant on the quality of air, the temperature, the season, the vessel in which it lives, and the unpredictability of wild yeast. But I am buoyed by my desire to save money, enjoy superior flavours, improve my intestinal health and control the impacts of my gluten and yeast sensitivities, and even protect the environment. But mainly I want to save myself the trouble of walking to the local bakery in winter just to buy one loaf of specialty bread.
This desire has been brewing in me for quite some time, but I have not found the courage to take the plunge – until now. A dear friend has written on Facebook that she was successful on her second try, and that a world of new experiences was unlocked to her. That was all the push I needed to start my adventures in sourdough.
I am armed with hope, intuition and some past experience, and I am full of childish excitement. I believe I can succeed. Dear friends, I am about to pour my first blend of water and flour into a bowl. Wish me luck.
Full of hope, I am going to add my second installment of water and flavour to my bowl. A quick glance is showing me that not much is happening, just some water separating from the muck in the bottom. It smells, but I wouldn’t call it yeasty. Hmm.
I’m still not sure too much is happening in that bowl atop the fridge. Maybe my plastic wrap is too tight? Or too loose? Or maybe I’m not feeding it enough? It is winter, after all…. I’ll proceed as instructed, and hope for the best…
My starter is now a week old. I have been discarding some of it, albeit with great remorse, once a day, and adding more. I am about to start feeding it twice daily. I am still unconvinced much is going on, but it does smell like yeast, and there are bubbles up top…
Day X – Christmas Day
Today, the day on which millions of people gather to celebrate the purported birth of Jesus Christ, seems like as good a time as any to try my first sourdough bread baking experiment. My starter is effervescent and tangy, and albeit the activity seems to be fairly mild, I figure it’s worth a shot.
I am going to follow this recipe. Hopefully, I’ll live to tell the tale.
Day X, late morning
Alright, so that was the worst. My arms are hurting, I have spent 35 minutes working on what was supposed to be a 20 minute knead, and I am actually covered in sweat. My kitchen looks like a Pillsbury Doughboy murder scene. The recipe also took all the flour I had left – an incredible 5 ½ cups of white flour, and I skimped on half a cup because I ran out. Not a good start. I am going to let the dough rest, but my optimism is waning by the moment.
Day XI, later that afternoon
Well, that was a failure. My two loaves baked for longer than instructed, and they still seem a bit raw inside. The bread is dense, the colour is a bit off-putting, and I am confident that I royally messed up this recipe, the process, and possibly even the starter itself. I won't give up though - my starter is smelling nice and ripe, I will keep feeding it twice a day (when I remember...), and simply try a different recipe, which I will follow through this time. Though I am in no way blaming the recipe - that site is wildly popular, the recipe is very detailed, and I am certain any failures are more the result of my inexperience and failure to follow directions, rather than faulty instructions.
Hopefully, you'll stay tuned. If you've got any advice on sourdough, please share it with me!
P.S. - The bread starring in these photos is failed bread #3, which is actually marginally better than failed bread #1. The starter is a new one I started (pun intended).