Sourdough Starter Days 4, 5 and 6…

…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leaven.

Day 4 in the Natural Leaven house, and the raisins have been evicted.

Urgh. I feel slightly soiled by that. Don’t you? Apologies for that.

Couple of days to catch y’all up on. One of them quite eventful. Are you sitting comfortably?

Starter Day 4 - as I found it

On Day 4 Señor Starter was looking much the same: the early signs of fermentation (pin hole bubbles), and a sheen on the surface where liquids and solids had begun to separate. There was more pronounced discolouration where the raisins had began to break down. They’ve served their purpose, i.e. to boost yeast and “friendly” bacteria at the beginning of the process, and so the time has come to remove them. Sniff. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter – Day 3, plus a Quick Primer on Natural Leaven

A confession: I recognise that a day by day update on a mixture of flour and water probably doesn’t qualify as a ripping yarn to most people. I am finding it a fascinating process, and I realise that there are people out there who agree. I also hope that some of those for whom this is proving a free treatment for insomnia may, in the fullness of time, see why a niche corner of the interwebs, and the populace thus represented, seems to enjoy peering at small jars of a smelly substance.

It is for the baffled, confused, and those peculiar few interested enough in what I’m writing who don’t share my fascination, that I will include in today’s post a wee primer on what it is that I’m doing. For those of you who are already on board, and just hang out here to get your fix of fermentation, skip to the end. Continue reading

A Plan So Cunning… Coming up on Leavened Heaven

So it turns out there are some people reading this wee blog o’ mine. That’s a nice feeling. Keep doing that reading thing, people, it flatters my ego and makes this doughy-distraction-tactic all the more worthwhile.

So I thought I’d give you “readers” (should I stop? I’ll stop) a heads up about those articles I have scheduled/planned. Is this a step to far? Almost certainly.

Firstly, I’d planned a review of the rather splendid El Guapo, a Mexican street food eatery on Baldwin Street, Bristol. But as it has announced its closure only a few months in, it shall be a lament to lost tortas instead.

I’ll also give my thoughts on the Breadstore, Gloucester Road’s ever popular dispensary of doughy delights. I tried a plain white bloomer, a 100% rye sourdough loaf, and their Spanish something or other, with peppers on top. Thoughts on them, and the shop in general, coming up soon.

Also, on the recipe front, there’ll be recipes for naan bread, flatbreads, and gravadlax, the scandinavian soft-top sarnie extraordinaire!

Too much alliteration? Too much alliteration. I’ll rain it in.

On Your Marks, Get Set… The Start of a Sourdough Starter

I remember when I first tried sourdough. I happened upon it at a farmers market, with my girlfriend at the time, and bought a large loaf. I couldn’t tell you what made us decide to buy it; perhaps the recommendation of the stall-holder, perhaps it just looked delicious. But I remember toasting a slice, slathering it with butter and Marmite (a fairly typical litmus test for me), and being completely blown away by the fullness of its flavour, and the chewy, firm texture. I also remember that we consistently failed to get to the market in time to pick up a sourdough loaf, before they sold out, in the months that followed. I blame shift work and a lifestyle it would not be entirely wise to describe in any detail in the public domain.

Though it made a lasting impression, it was a while before it cropped up on my radar again, and only relatively recently has it made anything other than an occasional, rare appearance on my menu. But when I realised that it was not only possible, but enjoyable, to bake my own loaves, it wasn’t long before the notion of making a sourdough loaf began to seem really rather appealing. Continue reading

Holy Mackerel Batman! It’s Nigel’s Smoked Mackerel Sandwich!

This one really is a no-brainer for me.  Nigel Slater is my kind of cook – simple (but never simplistic) food, based on good ingredients, attention to detail, and made with heart.  So his combination of smoked mackerel (winning), cheddar (bi-winning) and double cream (surely the Charlie Sheen of the dairy) in a grilled sandwich… I had to make it mine.

Read more for the recipe. Continue reading

My First (and Fabulous!) Tin Loaf

I’ve made a few loaves and shaped them by hand, and I’m beginning to get the feel for baking bread.  I’ve produced a steadily improving sequence of loaves, picked up some helpful techniques, as well as learned a few lessons the hard way.

Having watched the first Fabulous Baker Brothers show on Channel 4, I realised I’d not yet baked a loaf in a tin, and so decided to have a go following Tom’s recipe (the title was not just self congratulatory). Continue reading