Tag Archives: home baking

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 12

I realised last weekend that I was failing my bread making project. Not failing in the making bread sense, I was still managing to do that, but failing in the being present, and paying attention sense. Bread making had evolved into this beast, this large black shape bearing down on me as the weekend approached. I was still trying to accomplish the task  but I wasn’t allocating it anytime, or working out how to fit it into my day. Which is obviously how I found myself wrestling with a far too hydrated and possibly over proofed dough on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say it did not end so well.

52 week_s of sourdough wk12

So I watched this video to get inspired again. I was really interested when Kim talked about the choice of bread making as a form of meditation. One of the reasons I chose bread making as part of a wider project I have going on (all about recovery and finding purpose outside of work), was because I thought working and creating with my hands would be a good thing. I haven’t reflected on that a lot in these posts yet but I think it is true. ‘Making stuff is really really important. Using your hands is really really important’, Kim says in the video.

She also tells her audience to ‘slow the fuck down’, which I enjoyed. I live quite a lot of my life rushing from one task to another, or trying to clean the house and listen to a book and bake bread and make dinner all at once. It is sometimes exhausting. So this weekend I slowed it all down again. There were many things I probably should’ve done this weekend but I let most of them go. I went to yoga, because I’ve found yoga on the weekend is a game changer (and it is also the one consistent class I can make, as I travel so much during the week). I finished some knitting projects I had going on. I finished the work I had to do for Monday. And then I focused on making bread.

Everything about it was so much better. I was making one of the loaves as a gift for A-‘s family in Spain (yes, we are people who travel with bread) and I wanted it to be good. So I took my time about it. I wasn’t rushing. I didn’t organise anything on Saturday afternoon so I could be at home to do the bulk prove. I sorted the levain out before I went to yoga in the morning and came back in time to mix up the dough. Everything about the experience was so much more pleasurable than it has been the past few weeks.   And the breads turned out lovely. I had some to dip into bolognese I heated up for my solo dinner on Sunday. A- took a loaf to Spain and I brought half a loaf for my sister, and froze the other half for emergency bread rations.

There is a new report out on the benefits of bread baking for mental health too.

Verdict for week 12? I need to learn to take time, if I want to pursue creativity properly. It is weird it took several weeks of failed bread making for me to learn this.

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 9

I feel like this week was some sort of hump-week. I spent the weekend exhausted, wandering vaguely around the house, not really wanting to do anything but also not succeeding in doing nothing. I hit a slump I guess. On Saturday evening A- asked me about making bread. Wasn’t I supposed to be making some today, for this project? Yes, I sighed, but I can’t really bring myself to do it. Lifting my arms feels too hard today. Moving is hard. A- just smiled and encouraged me to try again on Sunday.

52 weeks of sourdough wk9

So on Saturday evening I mixed together a starter and set it on top of our boiler overnight, just in case I could manage some mixing and folding come the morning. Then I remembered that I wanted to take my sister a loaf on Monday. And that was enough motivation to get me out of bed and folding dough. That and the yoga class I’ve found on Sunday mornings in the city, which is magical. Even better, I tried out my own proportions of flour, levain, water, and salt. This was based on what I’ve learnt in the last few weeks. Brilliantly, it worked! My own proportions!

So week 9 verdict: hooray! I am starting to understand something about the proportions of sourdough breads.

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 8

Week 8 chaps! When I started this project I wasn’t sure I’d get quite this far along but already this practice (some might say habit) is taking hold.

52 weeks of sourdough wk8.2

I got home from Stratford-upon-Avon late on Friday, having been there for most of the week. (I did get to see Coriolanus, which was awesome!) but I had also spent the week eating ready-meals in my tiny Airbnb, so I was totally up for spending some time in the kitchen. I started a levain on Friday night, and then got up early on Saturday to feed it. I went back to following instructions from Small Food Bakery, and also used their recipe for guidance. This week, I added poppy- and sesame seeds and I must say, I love this combination. I added enough that the seeds add both texture and flavour to the bread.

I baked the loaf on Sunday morning, and then had a dinner of leftover beef stew with slices of bread (smeared with butter obviously) to dip in. On Tuesday, I made myself a sandwich for lunch using the loaf. I get an immense feeling of satisfaction whenever I eat my loaves as part of my meal. I guess there is a little bit of pride in my work? Who knows. And look at the holes guys! Holes! In my bread! Eeeek.

52 weeks of sourdough wk8.1

Verdict from Week 8? I am developing pride in my loaves. Who knows, maybe I will start to give them away soon!

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 7

I decided to mix things up last week and made an oat porridge loaf (well, two loaves – hello guilty person who didn’t quite read the recipe thoroughly before beginning).

52 weeks of sourdough wk7.2

I had some oats skulking in the pantry and it was high time it got used up! I found a recipe online that follows Tartine and had gone through several iterations with some wise advice so I gave that one a go.

The loaves turned out beautifully! I was very excited when my new bit of baking kit (an oval brotform from Bakery Bits) created a perfect sandwich loaf that A- could eat through the week. I really loved the flavour in this – the oats is not overly present but adds a pleasant nuttiness and stickiness to the finished product. I will be making this one again!

52 weeks of sourdough wk7.152 weeks of sourdough wk7.3

Verdict from Week 7? Excellent. Proud of now being able to adapt my techniques to new recipes and beginning to understand some of the lingo behind sourdough baking.

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 4

Sourdough babka! My goodness team. Who knew you could make something this delicious with sourdough? Okay, obviously you all knew. But I was ignorant. Totally unaware. Now I am converted. This might be dangerous.

Cross section sourdough babka

This weekend I decided to venture into the world of ‘other’ sourdough baking. Not because I feel I have mastered the sourdough loaf you understand, no no no. That is most definitely a work in progress. No, it was a desire to make a baked good. A sweet baked good. And what a bonus that you can make sweet baked goods with sourdough!

As it turns out, making sourdough babka, much like making sourdough bread, is a slow affair. Sloooowwwww. This is not something you can make in a few hours, when the craving hits. This takes time. Days, as it happens. There is a lot of down time while you wait for things to happen. You can go out and do things without risk of over-proofing, it takes that long.

I mixed the starter for the babka late on Saturday morning, at the same time as I was feeding my bread starter for the second time. The bread starter was then ready in 4 hours but the babka starter took a while longer. A long while longer. We went out, visited Small Food Bakery, bought wool at Knit Nottingham, made the bread dough and got to the bulk proofing stage before the babka starter was ready for use. But it did have fantastic webby bubbly goodness going on, so I forgave it…

Babka starter

I found the recipe on a blog online but it seemed very similar to that from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, apart from the sourdough beginnings. Anyway, mixing the dough and letting that rise happened around many episodes of Season One of Doctor Foster. Have you watched that? My god. So traumatic. So good. So unable-to-stop-watching!

As per the instructions, and guidelines for babka everywhere, the dough went into the fridge overnight to make it work-able in the morning. (I do wonder how anyone figured all this technique out, don’t you? The dough is impossible at room temperature but quite fine once cold. Who first discovered this magic?)

On Sunday, we went to yin yoga. This was my first yoga class since knee surgery. There is nothing quite like a yoga class on a weekend day to make you feel virtuous (and therefore entirely deserving of babka). Once back home, I rolled out the cold dough, smeared it with the chocolate filling (and some milk chocolate chips for good measure), braided it, and left it for another slow rise. I put all my yeasty-baked goods to rise in the boiler cupboard where it is warm and cosy.

Sunday afternoon featured more Doctor Foster, some Bordertown, and (to make us feel like the world wasn’t ending/wasn’t an entirely terrible place) some Green Wing. We slow roasted a pork shoulder and made all the trimmings. Only once we were sitting down to eat, approximately 6 hours later, was the babka ready for the oven. From start to finish, this came close to an 18 hour affair.

But it was worth the wait. Once out of the oven, I soaked the babkas in a sugar syrup and left them covered to cool overnight. Breakfast this morning? Slices of babka with coffee. An excellent start to the week I’d say.

Sourdough babka

It is sourdough September chaps! So get on with all your sourdough baking now.