Success!

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I’m very pleased to be able to report my latest attempt at a sourdough loaf has been a definite success. After getting the production sourdough going last night, I got up too early this morning considering I’m on a night shift tonight, and have spent the whole day making vast amounts of bread. 

I’ve made two white French baguette type loaves using a sponge I also made last night with fresh yeast, and four sourdough loaves, which have turned out far better than I expected they would. They’re nice and light, with a crisp, crunchy crust, and more importantly they’ve got a beautiful complex, tangy, sour flavour to them. This was something my previous efforts were completely lacking, so I’m starting to get somewhere.

When I’ve got time I’ll write up some instructions, from creating a sourdough starter to making the loaves themselves, so anyone reading this can have a go too.

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Sour.

I’ve learned a lot on my bread making odyssey over the past couple of years, and am now able to produce a loaf of a fairly good standard. There’s still the odd brick (I don’t quite get the point of rye flour yet), but generally the feedback from my victims is positive.

My tentative forays into the world of sourdoughs, however, have been a little disappointing. My loaves made using naturally occurring yeasts have ended up barely distinguishable from those made with instant yeast, and have lacked an essential element; sourness. 

So I’m going to start again, and stick with it this time. Andrew Whitley’s essential book Bread Matters has been a great help, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to make bread properly, and understand the reasons why mass-produced ‘Chorleywood’ loaves are such a bad thing. 

Having read, re-read, and re-re-read the section on sourdoughs, I’ve spent the last few days turning a simple mixture of flour and water into a bubbling mass of yeasty goodness, and have used some of this to make a ‘production sourdough’ tonight, ready for an attempt at a loaf in the morning. 

Whether it works perfectly or goes horribly wrong, I’ll document my efforts here tomorrow…

Trafalgar.

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Tomorrow is Canada Day, and I’m catching a train down to London to spend the day as an honorary Canadian in Trafalgar Square, in the absence of my good friend Susie. She’s stuck in Ontario, celebrating Canada Day in Canada, of all places! I’ve got her permission to be Canadian, and spend the whole day saying all of the following;

Eh? (What did you say?)

Eh? (What do you think?)

Eh? (To end any sentence)

Hoser (Loser, or good friend. Not confusing at all…)

Take off! (You’re kidding, no way!)

Skates (What all Canadians wear as their first shoes)

Lumberjack (See Monty Python)

To mark tomorrow’s festivities, I’ve baked a loaf of bread. But not just any loaf of bread. This is a Canada Day loaf, made with Canadian maple syrup. The following recipe belongs to Dan Lepard, a fantastic baker who writes regularly for the Guardian.

Simple milk loaf (or ‘Canada Day loaf Eh?’)

1 tsp fast action yeast

350g whole milk at 20C

20g Canadian maple syrup

250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

1 tsp fine sea salt

25g warm melted unsalted butter

In a jug, mix the milk and syrup. In a large bowl, mix the flours and the yeast, then the salt. Add the liquid to the flour, combine, then add the melted butter. Knead the dough energetically for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back into the bowl, and cover with cling film, leaving the dough to rise for around an hour, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough, then divide into two equal pieces. Shape these into balls. Oil and flour a 2lb loaf tin, then place both balls of dough into the tin. Cover the tin loosely with cling film.  Preheat the oven to 210C.

When the dough has risen above the top of the loaf tin, and the oven has reached temperature, brush the top of the dough with milk, and place the tin in the oven. Cook at 210C for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for a further 25 minutes.

This bread is particularly good for your morning toast, due to the fact that it contains syrup, so it will produce lovely golden, crispy slices of toast. It also makes great sandwiches and is quite strong and sturdy, so will tolerate a battering in a lunchbox.