I had heard about this mythical bread many years ago, but it wasn’t until I was safely ensconced in London, where wonderful bakeries abound, that I finally tried some from an artisan baker in Hackney, E5 Bakehouse if you happen to be passing, their Hackney Wild is a thing of beauty, a truly wondrous bread and one day, I shall pay out and have classes on how to make it, its just that good.
I’ve made lots of bread in the past, but when your on your own, its just easier to eat oat cakes or buy a commercially produced wholemeal when the call for a bacon sandwich becomes too strong to ignore and then leave the rest of the loaf on the side to eventually, when the green spots begin to illuminate, throw it in the bin. The memory of the flavour of the sourdough won’t go away and it calls to me in the night and I’m too lazy to catch the train to Hackney, just for a loaf, although it was a close run thing, I nearly did. One night last week, at about midnight, I got out of bed, flung a dressing gown on, made my way downstairs towards the kitchen whilst Toile stared at me with a quizzical look on her face and then proceeded to throw water and flour together in a jar, gave it a quick stir, left lots of lumps, didn’t close the lid for fear of explosion – yes I know, but it may have worked that quickly and I was half asleep and went back to bed.
Bubbles, lots of lovely bubbles, which was more than I could possibly have hoped for. So then I started looking on the internet along with giving instructions to hubby to bring some of my bread books down whilst at the same time feeding this little baby every twelve hours, equal parts water and flour. I had no idea if this was correct but it felt right.
And when Crust by Richard Bertinet arrived with hubby I was able to go to stage 2. To recap, I’d made the ferment and now I was making the sponge, I think, different bakers call them different things. Anyway, stage 2 looked like this.
to form a gloopy mess the type you imagine life would have formed from in the murky prehistoric bacteria ridden swamps. There was a smell, it wasn’t overly powerful but you could smell the yeast’s and you can see the bubbles, I shivered with delight. This might just work. Then I added spelt flour, strong white flour and salt.
Then you knead it and it really is a very wet dough, I’ve never worked with such a wet dough and it was very messy, but I think I will get better with practise, but basically you knock it about a bit and stretch it around rather than kneading with the heel of your palm. There are lots of videos on utube.
I think it could have been left longer, but it would have been overflowed by the morning, sometimes you just have to go for it. I made my proving baskets with cereal bowls and some cotton fabric, and dusted with lots of flour. Then in a preheated oven ten minutes at 230 c and 45 at 200 c, I had these little babies.
I must say, they are absolutely delicious. They were crunchy and chewy and melted in the mouth, the flavour changed with every mouthful from slightly acidic to toffee flavoured caramel, it was amazing fresh and days later made the best toast. From start to finish was six days. When we are told about bread being the staff of life, this was the loaf that they were talking about. I am absolutely hooked.