My sourdough starter was ready, and I was ready to try baking my first loaf. I decided to use the basic sourdough bread recipe from Cultures for Health. I measured my ingredients-all four of them, three if we’re going to be really technical-and set about mixing up the dough. I didn’t have a mixer but I didn’t mind doing it by hand. Things seemed to be coming together. I kneaded for a while and then tested a bit of dough to see if it passed the window pane test:
It didn’t pass the test, so I kneaded some more. . . and some more. . .and still some more. My hand was getting very tired by now but every time I did the window pane test, the dough was still clumpy and not stretchy enough. I wondered if it was anything to do with the fact that I was using spelt flour instead of regular wheat flour-I vaguely remember reading somewhere that spelt flour could not handle as much kneading as regular wheat flour. Anyway, I persevered, and when my arm was well and truly aching about half an hour later I decided to stop.
I put the dough to rise:
After some time, I could detect some amount of rising:
But perhaps my tin was a bit too small . . .
It didn’t actually rise much further, and the next day-some 12 hours later-I put the tin into the preheated oven to bake. Within an hour, I pulled my loaf out of the oven, Tah dah!:
The view from the top might not be much but I think the side view is a bit closer to the holey texture that is supposed to be what one aims for in sourdough bread.
I waited for the loaf to cool down a bit and then I sliced it. I tried my darnedest to slice it! It soon became apparent that I needed a saw to complete the job. It was so hard!
It brought back memories of the first time I tried to make a cake many, many years ago. I used to see my mother throwing in some flour, some sugar, spices, a few eggs, and other ingredients, without the use of a scale sometimes, and turning out a fabulous cake. I thought there’s nothing to it and I did the same. My cake looked fine but like this bread it was as tough as wood, and it sounded just like wood when I rapped my knuckles on it. It did in fact taste nice though, and I softened it by eating it with hot custard.
As for my first sourdough loaf, I turned it upside down and tried slicing it from the bottom-it was the crust that was the toughest part; the bottom wasn’t so bad. And surprisingly, the inside wasn’t so bad either.
It actually tasted nice too. The inside was a bit chewy-I’m not sure if that’s such a bad thing; I didn’t mind it anyway. I set about devouring it, tough crust and all!
My first sourdough loaf was soon history, and I turned my thoughts to making a better one next time round.
Winston Churchill is attributed as saying that ‘success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm’. I was still enthusiastic because for one thing I had been able to eat the bread-it wasn’t so bad that it had to go in the bin. For another, my first attempt at making a cake wasn’t exactly a success either but today I can make a half decent cake that isn’t as tough as wood or nails. All it meant is that this was going to take a bit more practice.