Sometimes It Just Happens


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 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  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.

P1000603 (1024x768)

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."


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna says:

    I love being Oracle Jo! Gnomic utterances are absolutely my thing – the thing about the oracle is that no one really understands their strange utterances till after the fact, which is just about how it is in bread making. You can give people all the advice you want, but they still do something else, and swear blind that they did what you said, except they maybe changed the flour, or they didn’t chuck the old starter out, or they popped out to the shops to get something and forgot the time, or… anyway, all is fair in love and baking! xxx

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Then Oracle Jo it is! And I do listen to your ‘utterances’; intently and intensely. I sometimes kick myself for asking too many questions because occasionally I’m swimming in information. I tell myself that if I hadn’t had my moustache waxed that I’d able to keep my head above water more easily.

      p.s. – It’s amazing how much rain a pair of jeans can soak up whilst hanging on the line.

  2. Joanna says:

    PS Is Sedrick for sale? He makes the most beautiful round loaves I have seen in a long time ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      After I return from hols, I dry and post you a chip off the ol’ block if you wish. Just shout.

  3. heidi says:

    You and Joanna crack me up!
    In my family I am like Cassandra – often right with my oracular advice- BUT never listened to. I quit saying – I told you so- years ago.
    The second loaf is very beautiful and sedate- but I am always drawn to the blowouts! They have their own particular beauty and appeal.
    Either way, it tastes like great bread, right?

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      That seems like an infinitely wise way of looking at it. When Sedrick next renders a loaf into something looking like an abandoned larval sack from which an alien inhabitant escaped as a projectile object โ€ฆ well, Iโ€™ll just pat him on his bubbling back and say, โ€œWell done, my son!โ€ Pass the butter โ€ฆ. right? Right.

  4. teawithhazel says:

    both of those loaves look wonderful..i love all the nuances of bread’s a bit sad to say but it’s where i get my thrills these days ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Misk Cooks says:

    I love baking bread. The whole process is so mysterious, and although the result should be highly predictable, I’m still finding it occasionally hit-and-miss. Perhaps that’s what I love about it; it’s a living thing that sometimes has a mind of its own. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Do you have a favourite bread recipe?

    1. teawithhazel says:

      i’m so new to sourdough bread making that i’ve only really made the one style of loaf based on a recipe that joanna gave me..i’ve played with adding different seeds and so on but really that’s it for my repertoire..but i have ordered a couple of bread bibles so when i get them i can play the experimental (and probably temperamental) baker a bit more.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I love the look of that top loaf, monkeys bum and all. Sedrick has done so well, a fiesty lad who likes to show his personality now and then.
    …and swearing is completely therapeutic. Away from small ears and just muffled into a non committed oven… things usually feel a whole lot better ๐Ÿ™‚

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