Posted by: Rachael | February 28, 2008

sourdough secrets

I thought I’d tell you about a kitchen mishap. But I’ll start with a success first. I’ve worked out why my sourdough starter is bubbling within minutes of joining the flour and water. It’s those organisms in the air. We have lots of them round here – because (wait for it) I Don’t Dust. I did enough dusting when I was growing up to last my whole lifetime, so now about the only times the duster comes out are before my mother visits (wink). The kids….now that’s another story…THEY dust…gotta keep the tradition going! But I don’t make them go back seventeen times to move those specks that settle when your back is turned. Maybe that’s why *I* have to do the dusting before Visits From Mother – because, quite frankly, the kiddos do a pretty shonky job of it! Anyway, at least I now have a reason to not dust…it’s to keep my sourdough bread alive!And that’s what the mishap was all about. The bread, not the dusting.
I completed steps one, two and whatever…and put the bread in the tin without leaving it to rise in a greased bowl under a damp cloth. I totally forgot about that step. I was too busy wondering if it really would work if you didn’t put it in a bread tin (as I had suggested the other day you might do if you didn’t have a tin). So there I was carefully arranging one blob of bread on a flat tray and putting the “control loaf” in a tin. After they had been rising for a couple of hours I realised my mistake. To my sheer delight, though, they had actually risen heaps, and I decided that not only would I try the bread-on-a-tray-trick, but I would try the bread-only-gets-one-rising-trick as well. Now I know you should never change two variables in a scientific experiment, but really, this is my *kitchen*, not a science lab (though the things that grow in the back of the fridge sometimes look pretty chemistry-lab-ish)
A mere two hours had passed since the kneading had been completed and my loaves were sitting there looking ready to go in the oven. The oven, which, of course, was not up to temperature – primarilly because I had not as yet turned it on.
I have been accused of being and all-or-nothing-chick at times…and this was going to be one of those times. If I had already changed two variables in my experiment, what would it matter if I changed three? So I slid the trays into the oven and turned it on. Didn’t even wait for it to come up to temp.

And. It. Worked.

The bread turned out great. Unfortunately I can’t remember if I had to let it cook longer or not, but even if I did, it certainly wasn’t 20 minutes longer, which is how long the oven takes to warm up, so I discovered a way to use less electricity.
How ecologically-correct of me!

Now can I tell you a funny story to finish?
I know an elderly gentleman who makes The Most Amazing Sourdough Bread. He gave me some of his starter once. And An Explanation. You have NEVER heard such an intricate explanation of how to make sourdough bread – no, not even if you read mine the other day. Man, that was tame in comparison. Not only did I get the full lecture, but he gave me pages of his notes. You see, he takes notes of every loaf he makes; how much the bug weighs before he begins, how much flour he adds, how much of everything he adds for that matter, how long he cooks it for and at which temperature. And he doesn’t only keep these screeds of information somewhere safe, he puts the Really Important Bits of Data on a sticker on top of his Starter Jar AND he refers to them.
Well……here’s the funny bit……this gentleman had to go to Australia for a month and he asked me to babysit his Starter. I think he doesn’t actually *know* me as well as he thinks he did. Just because I haven’t killed the starter he gave me two Christmases ago does not mean I am capable of maintaining his pet! (goodness me, our birds flew away and our fish died so we don’t exactly have a great track record). And he obviously had never read this post or he wouldn’t have even contemplated entrusting his Precious to my care.
But there you have it, Mrs MuddleBrainWhoDoesn’tEvenLikeTheKitchen is looking after
Mr Particular Gentleman’s Starter (couldn’t call that one gloop!)

Look at them sitting in the fridge – can you guess whose is whose?
Hint: my one has an ill-fitting lid, OK, so it’s not even a lid, its a round plate on a square container….his has the aforementioned stickers with each successive loaf’’s details written in a contrasting colour.

And THAT, my dear friends, is why I’m not dusting at the moment.

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