Before and after the Phoenix Baking School, that is.
To accentuate the positive, I’ll start with the “after”. The second attempt after Aidan Chapman’s course was pretty successful:
It’s by no means perfect, but the crumb isn’t too uneven, and the crust dark without being burnt. Following Aidan’s advice, I’m beginning to get a feel for the dough. Just beginning, mind you. But most important, the bread was absolutely delicious.
This one was half and half Batcheldre Watermill organic rye flour and Marriage’s Manitoba strong white flour. The rye is 7.9% protein, the white 13.7%. I added a good shake of sunflower seeds, and enough cracked caraway seeds just to give a hint of flavour.
But back to the beginning of our sourdough journey. After the Cake & Bake Show, I tried to emulate Aidan Chapman’s demonstration. And failed. In hindsight, my sourdough starter didn’t work. It looked wrong and smelled wrong, but I persisted anyway.
It even tasted horrible.
With our wonderful starters donated by the Phoenix Bakery, we tried again. The first attempt was a simple white sourdough. Taste and crust were good, but I made the dough too wet. I was aware that I’d under-hydrated my dough on the baking course, so I guess I over-compensated. The result was that the dough didn’t prove anything like as well as it should have done, and more or less had to be pulled out of the bannetons.
You can see that there are large holes at the top of the loaf, and it hasn’t risen as it should. But lessons learnt and all that, and we did eat every scrap.
So to come up to date with our most recent attempt, this time we got a nicely shaped dough that wasn’t too wet or too dry:
It’s a continuous process of improvement, of course. I’ve been re-reading Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Crust and Crumb. But first things first. Once we’re confident with our basic techniques, we can move on to more sophisticated formulas.