(Sorry, no photos this time. I am remiss.)
Since getting my Leeds Bread Co-Op subscription I’ve more-or-less stopped making bread. This isn’t a good state of affairs, but we just don’t eat that much bread to begin with and one sourdough will last us the week. Anyway, I had a desire for flamiche (or pizza bianche, depending on how Italian you’re feeling) so sorted out some dough and did my usual trick of taking a blob off and sticking it in the fridge to use in the next batch of dough. This is a good habit to get into if you’re making a fair bit of bread, as it acts like a starter and will add more flavour and rise to your bread.
Of course because I’m not making bread any more it just sat in the box in the fridge, until I remembered it was there about six days later. I’ve made 48-hour bread in the past where I’ve left a full batch of dough in the fridge for two days without touching it and the slow ferment makes a very tasty, light, chewy, airy bread after shaping and proving, but six days feels like pushing it a bit. In fact there was almost no solid structure to the dough and it smelled like a very mature sourdough starter, beery and faintly acidic. I reckoned that the yeast was probably dead and there was little point in proving the 2oz blob, so just bunged it in the oven straight from the fridge and cooked until it was properly browned.
It did spring a bit, and the surface had those nice little bubbles just under the skin, but I wasn’t really too bothered about that; really, the most important thing was how it tasted. After cooling I broke it up into chunks, which were still quite airy and chewy, and had a nibble.
It tasted like Twiglets. I like Twiglets. But I’d not painted the blob with yeast extract, so where did that flavour come from?
Here’s what I think happened: so many life cycles of yeast had gone through this little blob of dough whilst it was in the fridge that when it was baked they cooked down into something that resembled yeast extract. As everybody knows you don’t need a lot of Marmite to make stuff taste like Marmite, so even though the proportion of yeast in the dough was still tiny, it imparted so much umami into the bread that I ended up with the same flavour profile.
Obviously further experiments are needed (as well as photographs, which I failed to take); breadsticks are the obvious way to bake these but I also think cracker shapes might do the job too. And it does go to show: slow fermentation will make your bread taste better.