If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my recent obsession with sourdough baking. How did this happen? Well, simply because I saw something on my twitter feed about a workshop ‘Learn to make bread using sourdough’. It couldn’t be that hard. Could it?
I arrived at Nelson’s workshop, only ever having baked bread in a bread maker. Even then I think I just used pre-prepared packs.
So here I was sniffing a pot of bubbly, porridgy goo and nodding as if I knew exactly what I should be smelling. Well, that’s what everyone else was doing, so it must be right. As I dived enthusiastically into my first dough mix with both hands, I learnt my first important lesson. Don’t use both hands! I realised all my new baking friends were mixing with one hand, keeping the other hand clean and free to pick things up, without getting sticky dough over everything!
When we were ready for stretching and shaping, I watched Nelson and my friends move the dough easily around the counter, shaping it into lovely boules. That doesn’t look too difficult I thought, as mine stuck to the counter and refused to form anything resembling a boule.
We had a busy, packed day. Making plain loaves, seeded loaves, croissants and hot cross buns, all with wild yeasts. I spent huge amounts of my time scraping dough off the counter and my hands, feeling a little envious of everyone else who seemed to just get it.
By the end of the day, I was hooked. The bakery was filled with the heady smell of bread and pastries. My rather irregular shaped ‘artisan’ loaf looked like a thing of beauty to me. And I went home with arms full of freshly baked goodies, dough to make a loaf the next day, and most importantly my starter that I now knew was the lifeblood of my future bakes.
As I’ve continued the journey, experimenting and learning, I’m finally getting the hang of it. Working with the mixture (using one hand!) I think ‘yep that’s enough water’ or ‘hmmm, just a little more flour’. I can feel the tension in the dough and tell when it needs to rest. I’ve even caught myself searching the internet for ways to use ‘discarded starter’.