Sourdoh! (Part 1)

I decided to dispense with yeast entirely and make rye sourdough bread. I got the starter going successfully – after four days of adding doses of rye flour and warm water to my little covered plastic tub, which was resting on the heated conservatory floor tiles, I had created a frothy sludge with a good salty-sour sort of smell.

This is the ‘raising agent’ for the bread, of which I use 50g to make a large loaf and nurture the rest as a pet. For the first stage, you add 150g flour and quite a lot of water, and let the starter work away on the mixture. Then you add the rest of the flour (330g) and water, have a second proof, and then bung it in the oven – hey presto. It’s not been quite that simple for me yet!

To lazy me, the attraction of the rye sourdough bread was that it didn’t need kneading, only mixing (there isn’t the gluten in the flour that needs working in a regular loaf). For the final proof, you just dollop the mixture into a baking tin and wait for it to rise. It starts off looking like half a loaf tin of hummus, and ends up looking like – well, a whole loaf tin of hummus.

Sour dough, ready for baking

The first loaves were rather experimental, as I had no idea how long the proof stages would take. I had let the production sourdough work for 24 hours (which was by the book), and then put the mixture into loaf tins on a Thursday evening, kept in plastic bags to stop them drying out. The book said to allow 2-8 hours: even allowing for variations in house temperatures and liveliness or otherwise of the sourdough yeasts, that’s pretty vague…

After two hours I couldn’t see any change whatsoever, and didn’t fancy staying up all evening waiting for yeasts to work, so I left them to work overnight. Of course, by morning they were risen all the way up to the top of the tins and even bubbling a little – uh-oh, I thought, they’ve probably gone too far – so I put them in the fridge hoping to slow down any further activity until I got home from work, and hoping that the worst that would happen would be a sunken crust. I baked them when I got home that evening and this was the result:


The loaves had a nicely risen but impossibly tough, dark crust, and a thick stodge of sticky grey dough compressed at the bottom, with a pocket of air between the two so big I could slide in my fingers. The smell was lovely, the flavour was good (the doughy mess was just about edible toasted – to me, it was penance) but the texture was deplorable. I put out the crusts on the patio and even the birds rejected them.


~ by jobes on April 28, 2008.

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