Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Kneading Project

This afternoon, I stood in my little kitchen and pulled my long-neglected custom-made bread bowl (custom-made by this person - he really is very clever!) and stood with my bag of organic flour, waiting to create my very own sourdough starter from this recipe.

Given that I'd been, only this morning, to a lovely little deli and treated myself to one of the best sourdough loaves I've ever tasted, for less than the cost of my Saturday paper; why on earth would I bother to make sourdough from scratch?

I've always loved bread. From when I was very small and fussier than an injured barracuda, refusing all vegetables but carrots (peas at a push); prodding at all meat but beef and chicken with a suspicious fork; firmly clamping a stubborn mouth shut at any potato that wasn't roasted or chipped; bread was my saviour.
It soaked up the Sunday roast gravy. It pillowed a combination of cheese and tomato (the only way to get one of those red nightmares down my gullet - I will not ever never eat a tomato). Bacon butties on a Saturday morning. Spiked on a toasting fork and watched with an eagle eye as it browned over the fire. A mini cottage loaf, thickly buttered, to accompany a bowl full of soup. Sesame seed rolls toasted, with marmalade, as a second breakfast at my grandparents.

However, much as I love it, it can't be denied that there are serious problems with much of the bread you see today. Yeast and sugars used with abandon to make it rise faster; additives to make it last longer; the soft pulpy mass of your average bagged loaf is no more real bread than I am a Nobel Prize winner. I reject this bread.
The beauty of a sourdough is that the starter is created with just flour and water, using the natural yeast in the air that surrounds us to bubble and come to life. It creates a loaf both soft and chewy, that smells like bread should and tastes like angels made it. And it takes time. Time and patience, love and attention. Dedication. Care.

I don't make new year resolutions but, here on my little ship, I start projects. This bubbling, fermenting life feels like the right one to start now.
"I also kneaded bread and produced the finest pane rimacinato, the most delicious ciabbata and focaccia that had ever been tasted in the region. Sometimes I would add wild thyme to the dough, or fragrant rosemary, plucked fresh from the hedgerow, with the dew still on the leaves."
La Cucina - Lily Prior


  1. Oh, I so want to do this. Making my own sourdough starter has been on my list of things to do for years now, and my flat even has its own pantry so really there's no excuse. I've become a little bit of a sourdough nerd over the past two years; every time I find myself in some small, wealthy market town with its own artisan bakerey, I have to buy a loaf. My brother gave me one of those Herman cake starters which, due to neglect and a busy November, was left to triple in size. I think it had legs by the time I gave up and threw it away. Good luck!

  2. We're on a healthy eating exercise so no bread in our home, it's the butter & jam I slather on that makes it so unhealthy. What did you eat yours with?

  3. Am very pleased to announce that the starter is looking like I think it's supposed to - will be trying it out as a base for proper sourdough bread at the weekend!
    Ooh butter and jam. Or toasted as a base for eggs and bacon. Or... Or...!