Finally I have done it. After 2 weeks I have given my starter a go, and combined it to make one of the simple recipes in Dan Lepard’s book. The recipe was for The Mill Loaf, a simple sourdough, with a 1:2 ratio of leaven (starter) to flour (a mix of white, wholemeal and some rye). Technically he recommends a white leaven, and mine is rye, but I’m not sure that matters.
Despite the simplicity of the recipe and method I am going to stick by my statement of not sharing his recipes or methods, out of respect. For those with the book, or access to the recipe I will discuss what I did differently. Firstly I halved the quantities, as it is only the two of us I prefer to make small loaves, often, than one large loaf that takes a week to eat. I also shaped it into a boule, rather than an oval (as I only have a 500 g oval proving basket, rather than a 750 g).
I also missed out a few of the kneading sessions (there are 6 of them, I am out of the house for most of the day so not ideal). For the actual baking I also turned the oven down a bit, 220 °C for basically an hour was getting too much, and I was afraid it would burn so it came out closer to 40 mins. Additionally to achieve a better base I have also taken to turning the loaf over 10 mins before the end, just to crisp it up. Not sure this is recommended by anyone, but it works well for me. The pizza stone is great for getting even heat, but the lack of air flow means it doesn’t crust as well on the bottom.
Given I have been craving sourdough for about a month, is it everything I expected / wanted? For a first attempt yes! Sorry that is the perfectionist in me. It is a beautiful loaf, the crust has a lovely colour to it. We all know its about the crumb and the taste, and these are both good. I was hoping for a slightly more open crumb, with a dry texture. I guess I shouldn’t have played with the oven times, or just baked for longer at lower. You can also taste that the starter isn’t as developed as possible, the sour kick is too delicate, but that will (hopefully) improve over time.
I have called this a sourdough all the way through, but I should mention that it doesn’t use the standard sponge method of ‘fermenting’ a mix over night. The was a striped down, in a day loaf. For that I got what I should expect, and for a first try I am very happy, it is a far more interesting vestion of my normal loaf, and I made it from flour and water! Still I hope to take my sourdough experience further, now that I am started, there is no stopping me. Though I may have to find people to feed with my loaves, as there is only so much bread that one person (or two) can eat, fortunatly Dan comes in very well here too, in the preamble to the book he uses a lovely phrase.
“If I have too much, then I know I have enough to share.” – Dan Lepard
So a lot of my doubt has been around my starter, but a very friendly baker (Joanna @ Zeb Bakes)friend has kindly sent me a bit of hers to bring to life. I am not so sure I really need to keep two starters on the go at the moment, until I can get mine in the fridge. I honestly don’t antisipating making more than one sourdough loaf a week, so I may be overflowing with starter before long, but I love the idea of experimenting, and seeing how the flavour develops over time. Also once one of them has settled I hope to move it over to white flour, to have more choice.