One of the interesting things about blogging about activities I am learning, is that I discover friends who are already experts in that field. This had been the case with sour dough baking and have been lapping up advice and suggestions from across Europe. Yesterday, I used a Paul Hollywood recipe to make my first loaf, but I now have several other versions to try to see which suits me and the kitchen here at our friends’ house in Perth best.
The dough was a mixture of the flour and water ‘starter’ that has harvested ‘wild’ yeast and bacteria from the atmosphere, strong white flour, water, and a little sugar and salt. Very wet and gooey, kneading it on the oiled work surface proved tricky as it kept on sticking. In the end, I used a combination of olive oil and flour (used alternatively) to keep the dough separated from the marble. After ten mins of stretching (the dough not me) and folding the dough was ready to rest and I had to wait an hour before I could tell whether the magic starter had worked and the dough was rising. I was thrilled to discover that the dough was ballooning up the bowl and four hours later, having doubled in size, it was ready for a quick knead and to be placed in floured cloth lined bowl to contain it in a loaf shape whilst it stood to rise a second time.
I made use of the time by heading out for a walk around the nearby fields and footpaths surrounding Perth with Bobby the dog (we were dog sitting for the weekend), Jerry and some friends visiting for the weekend to look for some cup marked stones.
Back in the kitchen three hours later, the dough had again risen and I tipped it out on to a baking tin, placed it in a hot oven with steam wafting up from a water filled tray in the base and waited. And this is the result …..
The evening tasting session proved popular and comments mostly positive. The bread was full of air, tasted a little sour (this is apparently from the ‘wild’ bacteria in the starter), though could do with being a little less rubbery. My experience from making bread with dried yeast tells me that this may be due to over kneading, so I will be a little less enthusiastic with this next time.
What amazes me, is that it is possible to make a loaf of leavened bread without using brewer’s fresh yeast or dried yeast. It seems like pure magic to me. Apparently, this method of bread making was used up to the middle ages in Europe and is still used to make rye bread in northern Europe today.
I’m not sure that it will translate to being able to use on a bike tour. We don’t have an oven and maintaining the starter in the varying climatic conditions we encounter, and on bumpy roads would be too much of a challenge. So far, we have mostly bought bread, and occasionally I have made Chapatis that don’t require a rising agent. Perhaps I will investigate other unleavened bread that we could make on our next adventure.