In recent years Artisan bakers like me, have been springing up all over the country baking 'honest-to-goodness bread' in retaliation against the awfulness of ubiquitous industrial loaves (I refuse to call it 'bread' because it isn't) which have been filling our shops and supermarkets over the past 50 odd years.
Unless you're living on the far side of the moon, you must be aware that the term 'Sourdough' has crept into the nation's psyche. A Sourdough loaf is made with 'wild' yeast or levain, which is simply flour and water. No commercial yeast is added and the bread is made with entirely naturally occurring yeasts (with a little help from human intervention). I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, just follow Vanessa Kimbell's instructions to create your own sourdough starter - she's the sourdough 'guru' after all - and you shouldn't, (I'm not going to say 'couldn't' as sourdough's like that) go wrong,
There is something wonderfully atavistic about knocking up something that's been made in the same way for around 6000 years and, if you're lucky enough to be able to bake your loaf in a wood-fired oven, then you've got your inner CaveWOMAN in spades. (CaveMEN were out hunting dinosaurs remember!)
If you're a Sourdough virgin I would recommend making a Hybrid loaf, which is a great way of introducing you to sourdough bread. I make a Pain Rustique using a sourdough starter 'Poolish', 12-18hrs before my bake, adding a tiny amount of commercial yeast before allowing my final mix to proof for several hours, or even overnight, before shaping and baking. I love the crust, the crumb and the wonderful Sourdough flavour - but I've achieved that subtle 'lightness' from the additional yeast. Also, I have a few customers who find the flavour of 100% Sourdough a tad strong, so they are very happy with this alternative.
Also, unfed sourdough starters (yes, you feed them like pets) adds wonderful flavours and textures to crepes, cakes, biscuits and even pastries. Sourdough Croissants - Died. Gone. Heaven.
The Real Bread Campaign is fighting for better bread in Britain and has a wonderfully informative website, which I urge you to have a look at. It contains just about everything you need (knead) to know: WARNING the world of real bread is littered with puns!
They've published a new book full of super recipes which I can thoroughly recommend, for even the novice bread maker. The money from their merchandise helps to fund this campaign and you don't have to be a baker to join the fight!
OK, back to where I started SOURDOUGH SEPTEMBER. During the month The Real Bread Campaign are promoting all things Sourdough, and many bakers are running classes, workshops, community events etc, to highlight the wonderful breads that are now available in this country.
As part of my contribution, I'm giving away some of my sourdough starter - Krakatoa, East of Aston End. I rescued Krak from a Poolish that I'd forgotten about until, a month later, I opened the tub expecting to be assaulted by The Creature from the Black Lagoon but was amazed to find a kracking (sorry) starter. I have three others, Etna, Vesuvius and Stomboli (there is a theme going on here - you would understand my logic if you've experienced an over-excited sourdough).
I'm away for a chunk of Sourdough September, so I'll be extending this offer into October. It would fill me with delight if you used it to make a loaf (full instructions and advice given) even knowing that you've smelt that wonderful 'beery' aroma and observed a 'living' ingredient - rather like the ginger ale 'plants' that used to round when I was a child. A sourdough potion is magic stuff which wouldn't be out of place in a Hogwarts laboratory! Simply, email me to let me know when your coming and turn up with a container - one with a sealable lid is preferable - and a name! My Chef son Max has two - John and Jane. ................... Dough - geddit??
I run bread classes from my own kitchen, which is a unique feature of a heavenly host of bakers called Bread Angels. Students find a warm, domestic kitchen comfortable and reassuring. My course is for beginners or keen bakers who want to 'up' their bread making skills. Making bread is a totally tactile experience which you cannot get from recipes or YouTube. I also introduce you to the dark arts of sourdough!! There are dates from now until Christmas.
To get you in the mood have a look at this TED video by the marvelously inspiring US educator and baker Peter Reinhart.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!!