Saturday, March 05, 2005
I'm not much of a bread-baker, but I desperately want to be. I can handle basic bread, and I usually have a fairly good result... but I don't feel like a baker. Or rather, I didn't feel like a baker. Yesterday, that all changed. Sourdough can do that to you. I am immensely proud of myself!
I have never tried to make it before myself, but I have been curious. My dad makes a wonderful Estonian sourdough bread, very very dark. He has an old wooden barrel that he uses each time, and never washes, so it has plenty of sourdough living in it. He just soaks it in water before each new batch, which reactivates the little darlings just enough to do their job. Bread is always great, but very, very dark. I hated it as a child, but enjoy it now, preferrably with a sharp cheese. He always gives me a loaf after each time he bakes.
Not that it was hard, but it is a little bit involved to start a sourdough. (I didn't dare to use the barrel - I don't know how to adapt recipes that well.) I started about a week ago, by combining coarse rye flour and water. I let it sit for three days, stirring it every day, and then on day four, I added more flour and more water. On day five, it was ready to use. I froze most of it in small portions, and used the last one to bake. I also made a poolish, which is also a kind of pre-dough, that has to sit for 24 hours. It has a tiny bit of yeast, fine rye flour and water. On the actual baking day, yesterday, I combined the two, added regular flour, more yeast, salt, honey and more water.
Nic posted about baking sourdough the other day, and was concerned that her crust wasn't quite crusty enough. Mine is really, really crusty, so I thought I'd share the method of baking. It was very simple, but it involves a couple of steps. First - put the breads in a very hot oven. Mine was 250 degrees Celsius (480F), and as I mentioned before, they went straight onto a pre-heated baking sheet. I also sprayed in a lot of water into the oven, to create steam. After ten minutes, I lowered the heat to 200 C (390F) and vented the oven door for a few seconds. I repeated the venting twice more, at regular intervals. In total, my bread baked for about 55 minutes.
So how did it taste? Marvellous! It was really, really good. Great flavor, very well developed, and a wonderful texture. I sliced and froze most of it, and will toast the slices directly from the freezer. Perfect for a hearty breakfast bread! I will definitely make this again, and now I will try other recipes too. I would love to make a wheat sourdough starter too, it'd be nice to have both kinds at hand. And isn't it convenient that it keeps so well in the freezer? I certainly think so.