French country bread
Thu, 13 November, 2014
When I was a kid I vacationed for a few good summers in a small village surrounded by lush pine forests. There wasn’t much in the village: one eatery, one corner shop, a swimming pool (A pond. A puddle, more like) and a village bakery.
Most mornings I would volunteer to get a loaf from said baker’s. I pedalled happily on my bike, blissfully ignorant of pervs, strangers and health and safety (no helmet!), to slip my coins on the counter in this dusty white, heavenly smelling place in exchange for a rough, crusty like the devil himself, quite unevenly shaped and often cracked loaf of bread. The return journey took much longer because every now and then I had to stop off to tear another bit of still warm crust. Arriving back, I was invariably asked if mice had been at the bread.
Those were the summers with a glowing edge followed by, inevitably, years of supermarket sliced, until only a few years ago I managed to produce my first well-risen, crusty sourdough. Goodness - did it take me back. That was Real Bread. Is there a Campaign for Real Bread?
Sourdough starter I find fickle – I know it can live for ever, only refreshed every now and then, but my best results have been with fresh, four days old leaven so that’s the approach I suggest here. Veteran sourdough makers though – please use whatever wheat starter you have on the go.
SOURDOUGH STARTER - takes four days
In a large jar or a plastic tub with a lid mix 40g wholemeal flour with 40g warm water (at 35C, basically quite warm to the touch). Keep in the warmest place in the house you can find (airing cupboard does well). The next day add another 40g wholemeal flour and 40g warm water, the following day – 40g flour and 20g water and on the last day – 120g strong white flour and 100g water. You should get a bubbly starter – bubbles are the sign of life here, it doesn’t significantly expand.
PRODUCTION LEAVEN - four hours to make
About 4 hours before making the bread mix 110g of the starter with 33g wholemeal flour, 100g strong white flour and 80g warm water. Leave in a warm place.
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