One of the best things about sourdough baking is that once you have persevered and got going with it, you can return to it and like riding the proverbial bicycle just get a starter going and well, make a loaf when you feel like it.
I found myself making up a couple of lots of starter to send in the post and was left with various bits of starter in various stages. I had one semi dried bowlful, another a bit past its best squidgy one and I looked at them and thought, chuck or bake, chuck or bake? So I baked.
I started late afternoon (not the best of times to think about making bread) and then around 7 pm when the dough was ready to shape, arrived at another decision point. Chill or shape, chill or shape?
So I shaped, then I tucked the banneton in the oven with the light on and ate supper. And then I fell asleep. I woke up and was just about to crawl off to bed at around midnight and I remembered the dough. I thought, oh it will have just collapsed, oh no, but in fact it was puffy and bubbly and so I heated up the oven and sleepily slashed it and chucked it in. Went back to the sofa, watched forty minutes of TV, read about yeast water on the Fresh Loaf, took the loaf out, left it and here it is this morning.
The point of this is to say that sourdough in a cool climate can work to the advantage of the scatty brained and forgetful. It will wait for you for a surprisingly long time, where a yeasted dough would just collapse in a hiss and a froth of frustration. So if you are starting out on your sourdough experiments, it really does get easier as you practise, trust me! If you can find someone to show you how to shape and give you all their little tips, the things they do without thinking then that is invaluable, but you can pick up loads just from reading and thinking about it. We all get there in the end.
Have a look at Celia’s brand new tutorial if you want to see how it is done superbly in the hotter climate of Sydney, Australia. Or if you want to read a bit more about how I go about it when I am concentrating, ahem, have a look at this post Weekly Sourdough Bread.
Forgetful Person’s Sourdough
- 150 g of starter
- 320 g water to start with, maybe add more once you have mixed
- 500 g bread flour
- 10 g salt
- Mix all but the salt, if the dough is very tight then add water 20 g at a time and mix in till you have a dough you feel comfortable with.
- Leave for half an hour, tip dough out of bowl, sprinkle salt on and work into dough.
- Shape into ball and
- Put in lightly oiled bowl
- Leave somewhere sensible, in winter near a radiator or in an oven with the light on until the dough shows that it has started to grow, and you can see bubbles under the skin.
- Then either put in fridge till the next day
- or shape into a ball, this time using flour to shape
- and put seamside down in a well floured basket
- cover with a shower cap or a teatowel or cling film
- put somewhere warm
- try and remember it before you go to bed
- put the oven on for 20 minutes or so before you bake, nice and hot 220C at least,
- put a little tray in the bottom of the oven on a lower shelf
- tip dough out of basket, dust with flour if needed, slash the top with a sharp knife
- slide dough into oven onto tray or baking stone
- Boil kettle and put boiling water into hot little tray below
- Bake for 10 – 20 minutes till bread is browning and is fully risen, and open door, let out steam for a few seconds
- Reduce heat to 200C and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your loaf
- Leave on wire rack to cool
- Go to bed – 0100 knowing there will be fresh bread in the morning