I recently posted about my new obsession, making sourdough bread. As it turns out, I had some beginners luck for the loaves that you can see on my previous post. The dough fermented as it was supposed to, the scores opened up nicely to give the loaf lovely height and I was revelling in the marvels of bread making and the apparent ease with which it could be done.
Then I cooked a couple more loaves….and the results were not so impressive. Apparently ‘pancake’ loaves are a thing and I had just produced two of them. For some reason the dough didn’t rise as it should when in the oven and while the bread is still delicious, the flat form is quite disappointing after a 16+ hour process to get the perfect loaf.
So what causes this? It’s an interesting question and it appears that there are many different theories; the leaven was not ready, the room temperature not warm enough, not enough gluten in the dough, not enough time given to develop the dough properly… It seems bread making is a much finer art than I had originally thought and that practise makes perfect.
I don’t yet know the reason for my pancakes loaves. Instinct tells me the leaven was not as active as it needed to be to give the loaf height. So now I find myself checking on the readiness of the starter as if it was another child, as if I needed anymore! I feed it each morning and I watch it throughout the day to see if it’s rising and falling. It does. But it doesn’t always float when I drop a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and this is the best indicator of readiness I’m told.
It’s quite an emotional process. The starter eventually floats, you bulk it up to make your leaven, you give that the float test too and everything looks like it’s coming along nicely. The right bubbles in your dough, an increase in dough volume, nice elasticity… and then when said dough emerges from the oven – it’s as flat as a tack. It’s a rollercoaster I tell you. I’m going to get to a place where this bread does not toy with my emotions, it’s only a matter of time (and a fair bit of patience).