My new favourite thing in life is baking bread. I absolutely LOVE bread and eat ridiculous amounts of it and ever since I moved to the UK I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with its quality over here.
A while ago I bought myself a bread machine and was baking a loaf every other day. Eventually, I started taking the dough out to shape and bake in the oven so that it looked prettier, and soon I ditched the machine all together. For a few weeks now I’ve been perusing a bunch of blogs of incredibly talented bakers around the world and picking up techniques and recipes.
My attempts, for a complete novice, have been pretty encouraging! I use flour from various grains, so far apart from wheat I’ve tried spelt, rye, barley and kamut and I like to put seeds in like chia, sunflower, pumpkin or linseed resulting in very nice, very healthy loaves. I even found an incredible oak smoked malted flour at Waitrose, you can just imagine from the name what it tastes like.
But the queen of all bread is no other than PAIN AU LEVAIN of course, aka sourdough. This bread does not use commercial yeast, it’s made taking advantage of the yeasts that reside naturally on the grain. But these yeasts have to first be cultivated. I had been thoroughly horrified with how complicated the instructions were for the thing, and I set off to make one without really fully understanding what I was getting myself into. To my surprise however, it worked out perfectly and now I can proudly present to you Blobby-chan, my 100% hydration starter!
Making pain au levain is no easy business and certainly not a quick one. Normally you will feed your starter with flour and leave it for 12 hours, then feed it again and leave it for 12-24 hours, then make the dough, knead, ferment, knead, ferment, shape, let rise, bake. This can take up to even 4 days if you’re feeling adventurous. My first loaf was a bit ugly but tasted so good I couldn’t be happier.
The next one was prettier, with a better, more open crumb. What every sourdough baker is after is huge, evenly distributed holes in their loaves. I’ll get there eventually!
My prettiest loaf yet was this soda bread.
Baking has become some sort of therapy for me now, I can’t describe the sheer JOY I feel every time I take a new loaf out of the oven. Blobby-chan is like my pet now, she lives in the fridge and I feed her every other day. I always have some dough fermenting that will need a fold from time to time, and it’s always (ALWAYS) amazingly fun to watch it double in size. I could go on and on. I wish I had some baking friends!