I attempted a second sourdough loaf, this time using the stretch and fold technique in place of hand kneading the dough, and a dutch oven to bake it in. A dutch oven is basically a cast iron or clay casserole dish. For the type of loaf I was making, you have to preheat the dutch oven in you regular oven, then turn your dough into it and bake it, covered, on high heat, uncovering it for the last twenty minutes or so. This treatment is supposed to give you an excellent crust.
I was a bit rushed for time and so did not preheat the dutch oven for the stipulated time, and I was hoping I could get away with it. Unfortunately, I did not get away with it. This was the resulting bread:
I managed to dig a slice out for sampling.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I didn’t like the taste of this bread at all! It had the sourdough tang but it was too much tang. . . unpleasantly sour. In terms of its appearance, though, in all fairness, I have to say it would never have the sought after open texture of a typical classic sourdough loaf made from white, or at least part white flour, because this was a 100% wholemeal spelt sourdough. The texture is therefore bound to be typically heavier and more closed.
I did notice, however, that the taste mellowed somewhat by the following day; perhaps another characteristic of sourdough: the taste improves with age.
In the days that followed this attempt, I also noticed that my sourdough starter itself had taken on a smell that I did not quite like. I wasn’t experienced enough to figure what needed to be done so I decided . . .yes wait for it . . . I decided to put the starter to death: I used up the rest of it and drew a line under it! (But don’t despair, gentle reader. This is just a temporary cessation from keeping a sourdough starter. I will begin a new one in due course but next time I think I will opt to get an established starter as insurance towards maintaining its integrity.)
And when all is said and done, I’m glad I did attempt to make my own starter because there’s nothing like hands-on for learning some things that inevitably just float over your head if you only read them in a book. I gained some valuable experience in seeing how a starter behaves: in a range of temperatures, at various stages in the feeding cycle, over a period of days and weeks; of smelling it, seeing and feeling its texture, and of having it get so active and bubbly that it overflowed and made a right mess on the counter! So, all in all, it’s been good and certainly not a waste of time.