Adventures in sourdough
I’ve been interested in sourdough breadmaking for a while and have tried making it a few times, but have never been very happy with the result, so I decided I needed some professional help.
A couple of years ago a friend told me about sourdough workshops that Kate Flint runs out of the Garden Shed and Pantry in Cygnet. Lil Sis and I had talked about going ever since, and were going to gift a ticket to each other for Christmas in 2015. It never really happened, and I kept getting the emails about the workshops and never got around to organising to go. This time I said to Lil Sis that we were going, we booked, organised some accommodation for the night and on Friday afternoon we set off.
The workshop was run in two sessions. The first one on Friday night, was where Kate introduced us to sourdough and we made our dough using Kate’s starter. We then had to leave it overnight for an 8.30 start the next morning. Before we left for the night, Kate showed us how to make cultured butter.
The next morning, we went to the second part of the workshop, which was basically pulling the dough out of the proofing bowl, shaping it and getting it ready to cook, which was meant to happen about 1.5 hours later.
After we’d done that, Kate demonstrated how to get the dough into the oven, and her three demo loaves cooked while we were there.
Lil Sis and I put our dough into the fridge until we were ready to go, because Kate had said not to leave it out for much more than 1.5 hours before baking it, and we had a longer trip home than most of the other participants.
We got to try a selection of Kate’s breads for breakfast, which she had given us recipes for as well, and were able to stock up on supplies from Kate’s shop before heading home with our dough.
It took about an hour from Kate’s place to my place, maybe a bit less, and I kept the dough on the bench while I heated the oven, so it was out of the fridge about 90 minutes all up.
The instruction was to heat the oven and baking stone or pot to 240 degrees initially. Now what you need to know is that one of the many quirks of this house is that the temperature on the oven dial is not the temperature that the oven actually is – so there is a baking thermometer in there to monitor that actual temperature.
I heated the oven and the pizza stone to 240. All good. Possibly put too much flour on the pizza stone, as I set the smoke alarm off.
At least I know it works.
Tipped out the dough (forgot to slash it, never mind), filled the bottom tray with boiling water and put the dough in. Got my water sprayer and sprayed water into the oven as Kate had suggested to do if you didn’t have a pot with a lid to create steam. The temperature dropped to 150 or thereabouts.
I expected it to go back up to 240 or so.
I sat in front of the over for 35 minutes despairing as the temperature sat solidly on the 130-150 degree mark, depending on whether I believed the thermometer or the oven dial. Completely panicking! Slabs suggested I had interfered with the oven fan with the water spray as it’s a fan forced oven. I don’t know. Does steam work in a fan forced oven? I hadn’t even thought to ask this.
By this point I’m fretting that I’ve broken the oven. (You might say it was already broken, and I’d just advanced the case for getting a new one.)
Then finally about 35 minutes in, the temperature started to go up again. I had no idea what to do at this point, because according to the directions Kate gave us, after 35 minutes at 240 degrees, I was supposed to reduce the heat to 180. But it hadn’t even got to 240, let alone 180.
I decided I had nothing to lose, so I let it go for 25 minutes in the increasing heat. According to the thermometer, it got to about 220 in that 25 minutes. By that time it was starting to burn on the outside so I had to stop and hope it had cooked on the inside.
So then there was the anxious wait for two hours to cut it and see what it was like on the inside. One of my baking friends asked if it sounded hollow when I tapped on it, which it did, so that was apparently good.
And when I did cut it, it looked pretty good, much to my surprise. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best loaf I have ever made, so something went right somewhere!
So I was happy with the result and now that I know what I’m doing (I think) I’m going to try this again.
I want to learn how to make cultured butter! Butter is so easy with the cultmixer, but I’d love to do cultured.