I don’t do much in the way of cooking for myself – I normally just chuck some veggies in the steamer (I can forget about them and they won’t go on fire) and do some quick stir-fried mushrooms or tofu on the stovetop. But I do like baking my own bread, and I think I’ve got pretty good at it.
A few days ago, I was putting together my usual dough mix and accidentally put in too much water. So I had to add more flour, leaving me with some excess dough. Now, I don’t like throwing things away, so I thought “I can maybe use this – isn’t using leftover dough how sourdough bread is made?” So it was off to the computer to look up recipes.
I was almost right about sourdough – you actually use a ‘starter sponge’ made from a mixture of flour and water. You take a few ounces of bread flour, mix it to a batter with warm water, then leave it somewhere warm (an airing cupboard is ideal) in an open vessel; feed it daily with a little more flour and warm water and in a few days, you should have a bubbly, beer-smelling ‘sponge’ that has fermented entirely from wild yeast. I figured that my already-yeasted dough lump should do, so I mixed it with water (using my hands and breathing on it so as to encourage the wild yeast) and put it away in the airing cupboard. After three days, it was indeed bubbly and beery.
At this point, I divided it in half, put away half in the fridge for another loaf and put half into a mixing bowl. Then I mixed in some oil and a tablespoon of honey, then slowly added a pound of bread flour and some warm water, mixing well each time, until I had a good firm dough. After that, it was a matter of letting it rise, knocking it down and kneading it, then letting it have its final rise before popping it in the oven for 40 minutes.
I rushed it all a bit – it was getting late – so that it didn’t rise fully. But it came out looking good and tasting great!
I shall certainly start making it regularly – I just have to be organised enough to get the starter sponge out of the fridge and fed with more flour and warm water several hours in advance.