Last weekend Sedrick embarrassed himself by producing a loaf of sourdough that was worryingly reminiscent of a baboon’s bottom … a crusty carbuncle that, had it fully blown, would’ve propelled the loaf across the oven and into the next county. God help Kent. After spending 3-days refreshing Sedrick with rye flour (I swear it wasn’t high-octane petrol), plus 16-hours preferment, then a couple of hours here, another couple of hours there, coax and cajole, stretch, fold and swear … well he had the audacity to blow like Moby Dick.
Several bready friends who I consider Oracle-ish, suggested causes ranging from quantum mechanics, the weight of the loaf, crust hardening before oven-spring had finished springing, high hydration percentages, expanding air, slashing not doing its job, not enough steam in the oven … all of which seemed perfect explanations and applicable to my lack of methodology and due diligence. I can always trust Oracle-Jo at http://zebbakes.com for reliable information and guidance on baking bread. I used to call Jo my guru but she seemed displeased with that, so now she’s my Oracle. I suspect that within a month or so she’ll be begging for the guru title again. I particularly liked Carl Legge’s http://llynlines.blogspot.com/ suggestion that "it just happens sometimes" which bolstered my confidence somewhat in that an experienced baker sees this happen, too. I was also encouraged by the insinuation that he possibly swears at his bread when it misbehaves; I do this, too…in the privacy of my kitchen and behind a closed door. Stealthy swearing is great fun; it’s very therapeutic. It’s imperative that your starter knows who’s boss.
And with that in mind, I sat Sedrick down on the kitchen work top and I told him the facts of life. His life, to be precise. I read him the dictionary’s definition of starter – that a starter is just that – when you’re finished starting, you’re finished. You’re not the Energiser Rabbit or a Ferrari or Michael Schumacher or a baboon’s bottom. When you’re done starting, you’re finished. No more blowing up because, trust me: Anything you can do, I can do better. And, I continued, you really don’t want to see me blowing up because it’s not pretty – my face turns all red, just like a baboon’s bottom.
And so Sedrick and I made bread.
I did a few things differently this time. 1) I started steaming the oven about 20-minutes prior to putting the loaf in to bake. 2) I sprayed the loaf with a fine mister (that’s a mister, not a Mr.) at 10-minute intervals for the first 20-minutes. 3) I used a very sharp paring knife rather than my homemade lame for slashing. I’m tempted to toss that sucker out. 4) I used Waitrose bog-standard organic strong bread flour rather than their pricey Canadian version. 5) I dusted the loaf with Tesco standard rye flour rather than Plain Flour. The result was far less flour adhering to the loaf. 6) I did a combination of 3 Stretch and Folds at 10-minute intervals, plus I slammed and slapped the dough on the worktop like a maniac … just for the fun of it, mostly, and because I was ticked-off that the slugs had eaten their way through three begonia plants.
Other than that, I have no clue why this latest loaf turned out so beautifully formed and golden in colour. As Oracle-Carl says, "sometimes it just happens."