Even better sourdough

I honestly intended to write about the cake I made for Sophie’s birthday, after all, this is called cakes and cocktails, and I haven’t written about either cakes or cocktails yet. But that will have to wait a bit longer, as I made some more sourdough bread yesterday.

I did think that the first sourdough I made was good, but honestly, that was nothing compared to this. You see this was a rye sourdough, with the added bonus of caraway seeds. On a complete tangent, I didn’t ever expect to like caraway seeds after reading a book where the eating of caraway seeds was a characteristic of a murderer (Ela will know what I’m referring to). But I’m afraid to say that in this bread, caraway seeds are sublime!

This isn’t a difficult recipe by any means – after all, it’s mixing, kneading, proving and baking – but time is essential. From start to finish (and I’m excluding the time spent growing the sourdough culture in the first place), this took about 21 hours. Clearly this isn’t something you can decide to do on a whim, unless you need no sleep, or have no job, or no other responsibilities. But, if you can spend the time, you’ll be rewarded with a really lovely loaf of bread

The next recipe in the book is one of my absolute favourites – pumpernickel. I think a big part of why I like it is the name – it’s such a glorious word!

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Sourdough success!

Well, it has taken me quite a while, but I’ve just eaten my first slice (ok, two slices) of sourdough bread. Was it worth the wait?

The answer is a big resounding “YES!”

The finished loaf ended up being smaller than I expected, but actually, just right. It may seem like a trivial annoyance, but when a loaf is too big for the bread knife, it’s a pain. As for the taste, it’s chewy and soft, with a crispy crust, and just the hint of sour flavour. It’s not overwhelming, but actually has some taste – a feature sadly lacking in some bread bought commercially these days.

It is quite amazing to think that I made a loaf of bread only using 3 ingredients – flour, water and salt. And yes, even the finished loaf took quite some time – about 12 hours rising in total – but it was definitely worth it, and I will definitely be making it again.

Oh, and I did take some photos at various stages, which I’ll upload later.

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It’s been a while!

Well, I sincerely planned to write on this blog regularly. But I tended to find that when I started cooking, I never got around to taking any photos. I made a fantastic artichoke & basil risotto, and I didn’t take any photos. So I resolved that the next time I made artichoke & basil risotto, I would definitely take photos. I’ve made that risotto about 5 or 6 times since then, and no photos.

Anyway, long story short, this will be the start of more regular posts. Tomorrow I will make sourdough bread. This is something that I’ve attempted several times, but without real success. The first attempt, the starter just went mouldy. The second attempt, the bread didn’t rise because I was trying to rush things working with an underdeveloped starter. So I gave up for a while. I bought The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Rhinehart and I tried his sourdough starter using pineapple juice. Now I hate pineapple juice, so it’s not something that I ever have in my fridge. But being really keen, off I went to Tesco Express & I bought the only pineapple juice that they had. Anyway, it didn’t work. I honestly don’t remember what happened, but I do know that it didn’t work. (i blame the Tesco pineapple juice). But then I read Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. I turned immediately to the Sourdough chapter, but decided maybe I needed to start with something else. Maybe something a bit easier? So I did. I made pizza dough, Pugliese and most gorgeously, Bialys. Never heard of Bialys? They’re a bit like bagels, but better! All of these came out as advertised, with a lovely crust, and an even crumb, so I was encouraged to try the sourdough starter.

But success eluded me yet again. I fed and refreshed my starter for about two weeks, and apart from the first mixture, using organic rye flour, there was no sign of life in my starter. So I went back to The Bread Bible, and finally noted that really important fact – use organic bread flour. It made all the difference. At first it seems as if nothing was happening again, then one day, I saw lots of bubbles on the starter. So I fed it with more flour and more water, mixing in, worrying that I was stirring all the bubbles out. But no, there was life again each day. So after about 2 weeks of feeding & refreshing, I have my starter, and I’m ready to make my bread tomorrow. I haven’t quite followed Rose Levy Beranbaum’s advice and given my starter a name, but I may well do – any suggestions gratefully received!

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Something of a misnomer…

Well, I should start with a disclaimer. It’s not just going to be about cakes & cocktails! In fact, whilst trying to think about what I’d most like to cook for my first post, the thing that keeps coming to mind is bread. And not just any old bread, it’s a fabulous recipe for a pumpernickel bread. Just the name “pumpernickel” is enough to inspire me, I mean it sounds fabulous doesn’t it? And that’s before I’ve even posted a photo. It was the same with snickerdoodles. How can you not look out for a recipe for these once you’ve heard of them?

But back to the bread. I think my biggest inspiration has to be last night’s “The Great British Bake Off” on BBC2. The challenge was bread making, but to be honest, I was disappointed. The so-called signature breads were all quite dull, there was too much time spent on the technical challenge, and hardly anything was seen of the contestants final bread rolls. So, to make up for my own personal disappointment, I’m going to attempt to make pumpernickel bread when I get home this evening. Goodness knows if I’ll actually do it!

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