A Litany of Disasters Leads to Sourdough that Tastes Like Angels Singing...
Ta da! OK, the title contains a teeny spoiler, so as there is no sense trying to build up the tension, I will tell you now that I truly accidentally made some of the best bread I have ever, ever tasted. Truly. I am (almost) speechless.
But the day did not start well. You know how I decided yesterday that my sourdough starter was ready, with all that bubble action? And Fran said in the comments that I would really know when it was ready, because the starter would foam up? And I decided it had, and started in on making a bread sponge anyway? Well, this morning I woke up to discover that my starter was well and truly, perfectly ready. Foaming and airy, and unmistakeably looking just how a starter should look when it is begging to be made into bread. Not just bubbly, but positively perky as well.
That is the end of this loaf I thought as I looked at my bread sponge. I will have to try again tomorrow. Sigh. But the sponge was spongy, so I thought I would give it a go. For practice. I took the sponge out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature during breakfast. Then I poured it into the big mixing bowl. It was encouragingly glue-like. Those long strings of dough are where the gluten has developed beautifully and is holding the dough together.
Then I turned on the computer to check the recipe. DISASTER! The King Arthur Flour website was OFFLINE. Why, technology gods, WHY? The only thing I could remember was that I needed two more cups of flour. Gulp. So I added that. And some salt (not quite enough as it turned out). Oh lord. Then I guessed. I knew it needed to rise, but did I knead it? Couldn't remember, so I did anyway, my usual ten minute knead for bread dough. A bit more than the recipe requires as it turns out. Then I let it rise for about five hours because I had to go out.
This time I didn't knead, because I seemed to remember that that is not what you do with sourdough. Website still not working. I just shaped it into loaves, and hoped for the best.
Now it needed to rise again. I went to dancing with Posy. Just in case you are tired of photos of bread rising, here is a nice picture of comfrey, or possibly borage in my garden. This is the old blue watering can we use to defrost the car windscreens in winter.
OK, ready for more bread shots? Here are the lovely risen loaves of bread. At this point, I am using baking instructons from Joanna's gorgeous bread website. Joanna and Fran are having arcane discussions about kefir bread, but I am only up to basic sourdough, and need all the help I can get at this point. She holds my hand and tells me how to slash the bread, and pour boiling water onto a tray in the bottom of the oven to make it all steamy for the first ten minutes of baking, which helps the bread rise better. It works! And here is something I did not know - bread is baked when it registers 92C in the middle. I took it out when it looked done, and it was 94C. Fascinating!
Now I know you have seen this photo already, but LOOK at this bread. It is amazing. Perfectly chewy crust, beautiful, even crumb, with that wonderful tangy sourdough flavour. Apparently, you are supposed to let the loaf cool completely before you cut it. HA. As if that was ever going to happen. There was pumpkin soup ready, and Rosy had to run out to her school social, so we had to eat it right there and then. Oh my. This bread is gold. It could be used as currency. It is my new retirement plan.
I only hope I can make it again....
PS The website finally came back on-line, and I had only forgotten to add sugar. Seriously, sugar? In sourdough? And although the angels did sing, it needed more salt. I can do that.