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adventures with bread

Having a house has made me extremely domestic and one of my favourite activities right now is baking bread.

Freshly homemade bread is the best thing since...

...sliced bread.

I quickly got a basic loaf dialled with the addition of a few ingredients that, in the absence of wholemeal flour, add a bit of substance and interest  Рoatmeal is readily available and ground linseed, for example.

The next step is to try to master sour dough. There is a lot of mystery and fuss about sourdough but getting a starter going doesn’t seem very hard to me.

After a couple of attempts, I settle on a 100% hydration starter, which means that you mix equal quantities of flour and water by weight. My baker’s percentages are approximate at best however because I don’t have an accurate measuring cup and I certainly don’t have scales.

Most sources recommend starting your starter with either wholemeal or rye flour but since I have neither available I just use white flour and it seems to be working just fine.

I experimented first with a method that suggested feeding the beast every 24 hours but it didn’t come to life until I increased the feedings to every twelve hours. Now that my starter is an adult I can leave it in the fridge and only feed it when I use it. Or when the power has been off for long enough for it to come to room temperature – a common enough occurrence in Santa Catalina.

After a week or so I have a lively culture and the beast is soon christened 'Beastlie'.

In the early stages of raising a sourdough starter you have to discard part of the culture each time you feed it fresh flour. Discarding starter is an excuse to make a pizza or something else yummy.

My sourdough loaves are still unpredictable and the oven in my current abode isn’t really quite up to the task. Maybe if I get really settled in here I will build myself a wood fired oven….

Not a bad loaf but sadly pallid. The oven in my current abode just doesn't get hot enough, unfortunately.

Plenty of room for improvement but not a bad crumb for a first attempt with less than ideal resources at my disposal.

On disappointing aspect of sourdough is that most experts recommend against kneading the dough and that is one of the things that I enjoy most about baking bread. The current fashion appears to be an occasional stretch and fold during a lengthy proofing. I’m still getting the hang of it all.

Of course, one of the things that occupies me now is whether or not it is possible to travel by bicycle and maintain a viable sourdough starter. I gather that the early settlers in Alaska carried pouches of sourdough around their necks as they made their way through the wilderness. It won’t help with travelling light though.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Sarah | July 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    This has reminded me that I still haven’t sent you that photo of my bread that you requested – but I’m not sure I want to now! Yours looks fab! And by the way the “expert” who taught us did teach us to knead…. Agree it’s the most fun part (besides the eating, of course!) Mine is struggling to rise in the winter cold.

  2. anna | July 27, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Yes, I was going to remind you to send me a photo of yours! The word on the web is that less kneading makes for more open ‘crumb.’ I can’t say that my loaves are predictable enough yet for me to gauge this idea accurately yet. And I do enjoy kneading…..

  3. Tijen | August 9, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Since I’m trying to decided where to go in Central America, I’m researching on places, people with experiences about the places. I found your blog (I think through LP forum) and have been reading silently. When I got to the bread part, I couldn’t keep quite and wanted to say hi. I’m a food/travel writer and love good stories related to food. I wonder if I could ask your recommendations about where to go/what to do as a foodie. I only have 15 days from Sept. 15th till the 30th (or I may extend it one day and visit the sunday gastronomy festival at Juayua in El Salvador. I want to start in Guatemala.) Wish I could meet you!

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