Hello! Happy New Year! &c.
It’s safe to say that we live in a cool house. And when I say “cool” I mean “cold”. We don’t have central heating, and really that’s not a bad thing. It means we only heat up rooms we’re using, and if we get cold there’s always room for another jumper. I grew up like this; my parents only got central heating towards the end of my permanent residence at the family seat, but they have an AGA and coal fires and I didn’t need it as a kid – I could just go & lean against the AGA if it was really chilly. Plus, with central heating there’s the inevitable panic when the first cold snap happens and everybody’s boilers pack in. Between fuel costs and maintenance I’m not that eager to get central heating anytime soon.
The downside to this is that when I’m making bread everything takes so much longer to rise. When using that dried yeast that lives in 7g sachets it doesn’t matter too much because I like to put bread in the fridge to rise anyway, as slow fermentation makes bread taste nicer. At this time of year I just don’t bother putting it in the fridge. No, the real probem is sourdough.
No boiler = no airing cupboard, by the way.
I kicked off a sourdough starter at the beginning of the year and it became usable last weekend. It’s a good starter, pretty lively but quite stiff (the Richard Bertinet method, which is drier than most other sourdoughs I’ve made in the past) and at the moment it lives on the worktop. I made some dough, and put it in a cloth-lined basin which had been heavily floured and left it to rise – 16-18hrs at 17°C is the preferred time/temp. Unfortunately we’re in a cold snap and if the kitchen gets above 10°C I’ll be surprised and I reckoned 24h would be pretty safe. Alas. The bread hadn’t risen after leaving it for a day so I thought I’d leave it for a second day, and that’s where my mistake was made.
It was quite a wet dough, sticky but coming away from the worktop cleanly. However 48h in a mildly acidic environment had made the gluten start to collapse and so when I turned out the dough it had stuck to the cloth and after peeling that off it started to run off the baking tray like a properly aged brie.
I did what I had to do. It is bad form because sourdough is supposed to be rustic and subscribe to all kinds of certain social mores, but it was just too gooey so I stuck it in a loaf tin.
It came out ok. Ish. The crumb structure is surprisingly ok and it has cooked all the way through, and it is tasty although perhaps a little sourer than I would have liked (and I didn’t put in enough salt). It’ll make great cheese & pickle sandwiches. Rise is not good and I lost a lot of dough in the “ack! where is it going now?” panic stage (probably about 1/6th of the total).
But… the weather is cold and the kitchen is freezing and, well, there’s a diagram in Crust which tells you what to do in certain weather conditions. And for this type of weather the book says “stay in bed”. Wish I’d paid more attention to the diagram before starting…
(NB: behind the bread is a jar of clementine and thyme marmalade, which I’m surprisingly pleased with and will write about at some point. Herbs in preserves is something to tinker with, I think.)
Edited to add: makes nice toast. Slightly odd toast, but nice.