Bread. Sourdough. So many of you are posting (and tweeting) about your starters sent to you from Australia by Celia, a regular font of sourdough knowledge (see her latest in Sourdough Tips). Her starter, which goes by the name of Priscilla, is very prolific. In fact, I believe Priscilla has gone world-wide. It really would be interesting to do a googlemap of Priscilla offshoots – all of whom have acquired new names. Or, perhaps a family tree – like genealogists make. Funny how we’ve anthropomorphised this blob of yeasty dough. But, then, it is a live thing, growing and constantly needing feeding.
As I mentioned in my last IMK post, I have three different starters: my original starter that I’ve called Vaso made with a bit of Greek kitchen superstition (which I posted about in The Basil Effect). Then there is Sven, the 100% rye starter and, finally, baby Muriel, an offspring of Celia’s sourdough starter, Priscilla. I love all of my starters. They each have their own unique personalities. And, luckily, since I have been busy outside the kitchen lately, they can be left to their own devices in the refrigerator for a week (or two) at a time.
Vaso is both traditional and magical. She is part stoneground spelt and makes a great pain de campagne – a classic French sourdough “country bread” which is 1/3 whole wheat and a little bit of rye to the predominant white bread flour.
Sven is robust and not very glutenous, but good at attracting all those wild yeasts. Naturally, he is brilliant with many rye based Scandinavian breads. So, he will be of particular use with creating breads from my new cookbook, Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann. At first page through the book, it looks like all those starred reviews were telling the truth. I think it might be a winner as I’ve already bookmarked a few recipes – although not all bread. The cakes and pastries look sumptuous. But, it was the crispbreads that first drew me to experiment with my rye starter. This one is a seeded rye, much like Ryvita, that is brilliant snacking on its own or with soft cheeses or possibly with classic Scandinavian pickled herring and a dollop of sour cream and dill.
Muriel…what can I say? She’s definitely bubbly and makes the best crusty white flour based bread, rolls, pizza dough, and baguettes.
With those baguettes – actually, probably they should be called demi-baguettes as they are about 40cm long – I had help in the form of a wonderful perforated baking pan. All those little holes make for a really nice crispy loaf. But, it only holds two baguettes. I got this one ages ago when we lived down south in Oxford and only had a miniscule gas oven (in a correspondingly minuscule kitchen). Argh… I still remember the angst, as if it were yesterday, when I realised I would need to buy all new (tiny) baking tins. Well, no more. I now have a brilliant – larger – oven. While doing a bit of internet “window” shopping, I spotted a marvellous covered clay baguette baker by Emile Henry – alas, at an outrageous price. We can’t always have everything we want (sigh). But, I have spotted a pierced baguette tin similar to the one I have that holds four, so next shopping spree….
My breadstick tin is similar. But it is as rare as hen’s teeth. I bought this well over 20 years ago from William Sonoma in the US and have been looking for another one (or two, or three…) since – obviously with no luck. So, if anyone has seen them for sale, please let me know. You will notice in the photo that the ends have been crimped up – that was to accommodate the tiny Oxford oven! It just fit.
I’ve been reading about the benefits of using stainless steel bowls for making bread and pastry, but haven’t yet found the right bowl. Everything I’ve looked at seems too small, too deep, or not wide enough. Honestly, perhaps I really didn’t look all that hard since I do have a not-so-secret fetish for lovely ceramic mixing bowls. So, last in the Mason Cash series, a lovely fox bowl, 29cm wide.
Meanwhile, despite all this bread baking…
Pancake Day (February 17th this year) or Shrove Tuesday didn’t escaped my notice. I adapted Celia’s fabulous recipe for sourdough pancakes for my buckwheat crêpes – dessert ones filled with caramelised apple slices, drizzled with salted dolce de leche and served with a scoop of my homemade apple butter gelato. And, of course my lovely barley pancakes I posted on last year were also adapted for sourdough starter – lighter and better.
This, I hope is the first in a series of posts I’ve dubbed Sourdough Chronicles. As I experiment with my three sourdough starters and learn more about baking with them, I’ll be posting an occasional Sourdough Chronicle separate from my regular IMK posts. They will be listed under Kitchen Chronicles in the menu heading Diaries above.