Appendix IV – Making My First Sourdough Loaf

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:

Dough Window Pane Test

The window pane test is where a small piece of dough will stretch thin enough between four fingers to allow light to pass through, without breaking.

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:

Sourdough dough rising in loaf tin

Sourdough at the beginning of its rise . . .

After some time, I could detect some amount of rising:

Fermentation at work causing my dough to rise

Fermentation at work causing my dough to rise

But perhaps my tin was a bit too small . . .

Sourdough bread rising in loaf pan about to overflow?

I wasn’t sure how much more this sourdough dough was going to rise . . .was it going to overflow?

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!:

My First Sourdough Loaf

My First Sourdough Loaf . . . okay, so I admit, it’s not exactly the most handsome kid on the block

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.

Side view of my first sourdough loaf

Side view of my first sourdough loaf

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.

My Fisrt Sourdough loaf after I managed to slice it

My first sourdough loaf after I managed to slice it

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

My first sourdough loaf, cut open and well on its way to being completely devoured.

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.

 

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