Celia almost foiled my baking intentions. I’m a novice baker and i’d been procrastinating (as my last diary entry attests to). Baker’s elbow, I like to call it. But i had good intentions of putting hand to dough, that is until Celia dropped off a loaf of her freshly baked grain sourdough. Suddenly i had another excuse to procrastinate longer: bread sufficiency.I returned one night from my evening shift on the online news desk at The Australian Financial Review to find an adorable flowered bag on my doorstep containing:
- a bag of grain mix that Celia picked up for me when she was stocking up on baking supplies (she tried to convince me to buy a 12-kilogram sack of bakers’ flour, but i resisted!)
- a fresh-baked, flour-dusted grain loaf (“I’ve been experimenting!” Celia‘s hand-written note said.)
- a scraper to use when working with claggy dough (yes, i need all the help i can get!)
It was an impromptu initiative, which was sparked when i raised the Question of the Week: Is boutique bread worth its dough?. But i’ve been dragging my heels, and Celia had just given me another excuse to procrastinate longer. I didn’t need to bake, after all I had a whole loaf and just a two-person household to feed.
By the following morning, however, it was evident i’d be baking sooner than expected. We’d been wolfing down Celia‘s loaf as if it was the best thing since sliced bread — which of course it was. It was time to prime the sourdough starter ready for baking. Celia gifted me some of her starter, Priscilla, a few weeks ago. I’ve renamed my batch Stella — Stella the sourdough starter.
I scooped some of Stella into a bowl and fed her equal parts flour and water at lunchtime and dinner time, and again before bed to help her through the night. Before bed i also soaked some of the grain mix in water. Celia had shared her recipe for a grain loaf and early the next morning i began following the steps in her basic sourdough tutorial: mixing the ingredients into a dough, letting it prove, shaping it, letting it prove again.
Something to prove
The process took much of the day as it was cooler than usual in temperature, so the dough took longer to rise. Fortunately, Celia, Alison from This Blooming Life, and I were baking simultaneously, so we’d check in with each other on Twitter. Celia suggested putting the bowl of dough in a warm water bath in the sink, or heating water in the microwave then putting the bowl of dough in the warm microwave afterwards.
Another Twitter friend suggested leaving the dough to prove in the car, with the windows up, where it would be warmer. Unfortunately my cat was snoozing in the car (it’s his new, favourite spot) with the windows down in a ‘don’t leave your pet to swelter in a hot car’ kind of manner. I put the dough in the only sunny spot, on the porch. She started to swell with pride.
My cranky old oven was problematic the last (first) time i baked. So i invested in an oven thermometer. There was a bit of confusion in the kitchen for a while (confession: i was using the fahrenheit dial, not celsius so it took a while to get the temperature back to the right setting). When the time was right i slashed (not quite with the requisite panache) the top of the shaped dough and spritzed it with water. I popped her in the oven, and plonked myself on the floor to watch!
I was quite impressed with Stella‘s (not quite stellar) loaf. She rose nicely in the oven, developed a decent crust and had a good crumb. Texturally, she was drier than my first plain loaf (which was a little too moist) and the grain added a pleasant bite. She had the nutty taste that our two-person household adores in bread.
In short, she was well worth the effort. And hopefully i’ve got over that bout of baker’s elbow. I’m planning on baking more Stella Sourdough this weekend. I’m even considering making Celia’s bread rolls.
Maybe i should have bought the 12-kilogram sack of bakers’ flour after all.
What are you baking next?