||[May. 7th, 2012|10:24 pm]
Among the goodies I scored in desperance's grand clearing out sale was a sourdough starter: a jar of sinister, nondescript beige, not exactly liquid, not exactly solid, and a sheet of instructions for the care of same.
It didn't do much. It lurked in its jar, and we peered at it, and it peered back. "What does it want?", asked durham_rambler, who has seen Third Rock from the Sun. I fed it, following the instructions to the best of my ability (with hindsight, I think I know where I ernt wrong, but I won't interrupt the flow of the narrative to go into that now). Nothing happened. it didn't bubble away merrily, it didn't do anything much, and eventually I abandoned it and went off to California.
Where I confessed to desperance that I am a bad mother, and that my shoggoth had failed to thrive. He was surprisingly encouraging: restart it, he said, and it will revive. You'll be surprised, he said - with such conviction that I believed him utterly. I came home, I mixed up a new batch of flour and water, I prepared to seed it with a spoonful of the original starter. And it was only at this point that I realised my starter was not only inactive, it had grown green fur.
I didn't want to stop now; and besides, I had this bowl of flour and water. So I cheated. I took down the Tassajara Bread Book (which was in my mind, since I'd been reading about Tassajara in a foodie magazine I'd picked up in Santa Cruz; the monastery isn't far from there, relatively speaking) and followed its instructions for making a sourdough starter: mix yeast, honey, flour and water and leave for five days, stirring from time to time. This started fizzing almost at once, and kept it up for three or four days, becoming pleasingly elastic to stir.
By the fifth day it had pretty much stopped, and I was afraid I had waited too long. But I referred to my instruction sheet, and followed the recipe for Chaz'z Sourdough Bread - followed it, I admit, at a respectful distance, because it demands that you return to your loaf at half hour intervals for most of a day, and I kept forgetting. Despite which, my lump of dough gradually came to life, and began to swell in a most promising manner. I removed enough dough to make some bread rolls to accompany dinner, put the rest into a little loaf tin with 'LOAF' embossed on the side which I had removed from desperance's house while we were there to retrieve his baking trays, let it rise again and put it in the oven with the roast.
So there is no material connection between my sourdough loaf and the sourdough starter that Chaz gave me: but it was prepared with his encouragement, and a cross between his instructions and those of a book written in the region where he is now living, and baked in his loaf tin. It isn't, of course, as good as Chaz'z Sourdough Bread - it isn't as distinctly sour as I'd like - but the texture is as good as any bread I've ever baked, which is more than satisfactory for a first attempt.
And there's a jar of starter just going off the boil, beginning to clamour for attention.