I’ve previously posted about the emotional rollercoaster that is bread making. No one told me that it was easy to make sourdough bread from scratch, but equally, no one told me how all consuming it could be, particularly when things aren’t fermenting and rising as they should be.
I’m not particularly good at accepting failure in the kitchen and as such, I’ve spent the last few months (yes it’s been that long!) trying to work out what the hell is going wrong with this more complicated than anticipated bread making process. Each time a loving tended to loaf comes out of the oven like a frisbee, it’s like a stake through the heart. Sounds dramatic but it’s not far from the truth.
So where to begin? The starter is no doubt the most obvious place as it is responsible for creating the leaven that makes the bread rise. After exposing my starter to a little too much direct sunlight (I didn’t realise that yeast and sunlight were not the best of friends…), I decided to start a fresh with a new batch from a friend whose loaves always turn out perfectly. Coincidently, I got a new oven at the same time and my first couple of bakes turned out well. This early success lulled me into a false sense of (perfectly risen) security. Then the pancake loaves returned and I was quickly brought back down to earth.
Ok, so the starter is looking yeasty and rising and falling as it should and the new oven can surely be ruled out as the destroyer of bread… could it be the flour? I have been using a biodynamic white flour for the most part but on a couple of occasions I’ve gone for the good old supermarket white flour and surprisingly, the loaves have risen more. Coincidence?
Is it the water? My trusty bible Tartine says that any water you can drink is fine for bread making. So from day one I have used tap water. Recently I purchased Ferment by Holly Davis and Holly says you should always use filtered water as the chlorine in tap water can kill a starter.
Holly, you may just be my saviour. I have started making bread with only filtered water and the loaves turn out perfect every time, like the one you see pictured here. Funnily enough, my bread making friend with the perfect loaves lives a few streets away and uses tap water. How do you figure that one out?
So through the process of elimination I am finally starting to feel like I am mastering the art of sourdough making (well for today anyway, tomorrow is a new day). It’s a complex beast. Let the experimentation begin!
If you’re not a bread maker and you’ve made it to here, well done! And if you feel like joining the fun…I’ll happily hand over some starter ;-).