It’s hard to imagine that the sourdough you are creating will be shared across a family network a decade in the future.
But that’s what happened and today I baked a loaf based on a sourdough starter that was 8 years old. This one started from the fermentation of Kilmullen Farm apple juice left over from a wedding and started in the Gate Lodge where the couple lived at the time.
It’s a wonderful thing to have a starter with a story in the fridge. This was something I wrote about this day last month too.
An inversion thing at the moment is happening in Germany, where sourdough is a staple. Irish soda bread is suddenly very popular in many homes. Wonderfully efficient, sodabrot can be put on the table within 20 minutes of realising you need a loaf of bread.
Madly inefficient, I relieved our mother sourdough of two hundred grams and combined it with 320 g of warm water, 430 g strong white flour and 50 g of wholewheat flour. This is a recipe we’ve used before, more or less though it’s been a few years since we last baked a sourdough.
I put it in the hot-press for 45 minutes where it’s about 25C. Which was good because we could dust and vacuum the house while the bread was ‘proofing’.
Then I added about 12 g of salt and put it back for another 45 minutes. That freed me to steam clean the floors around the house while Lia overhauled the kitchen.
The mixture was more liquid than I’d expected after the first 90 minutes. It needed another 400 g of flour and went back into the hot-press for 45 minutes. Which was good because we could move the flower pots around in the garden now that the wisteria is blooming.
This is becoming a shaggy dough story. So I’ll cut to the end. It took four more ‘proofs’ before I had a dough that I thought was ready to bake. It was eight hours before I turned the oven on. We had a visitor coming to stay during a time of chemotherapy during a pandemic. We so wanted the welcome to include the smell and taste of baked bread on the ground flower. And we matched that with the perfume of freshly picked lilac in the bedroom and the uplifting enthusiasm of its colourful floribundance just beyond the window.
Meantime, back in the real world, I was a bit worried that the 240C oven exhaust would bother the Coal Tits who are raising a family in the outlet of our extractor vent. It was a cold but bright day and they seemed content, making their usual ten sorties an hour to bring grubs and insects back to their nest.
Then some books arrived from The Gutter Bookshop. Among them,Until the End of Time by Brian Greene was there for me. It’s a mark of the times that when the doorbell rang, I opened it to find a package on the ground and saw a man jumping into a van. It’s not that long since that would have been interpreted in a very different manner. Indeed, I should have thought about that at the time, come to think of it.
Then the bread came out of the oven and the bread was good. Not our usual sourdough baking experience but I noticed afterwards that the flour was at the end of it’s shelf life. It had doubled in size and was tangy and dense. Perfect. And much appreciated by our chemotherapied visitor. Then there was a one of life’s surreal coincidences: her oncologist was interviewed for the evening TV news about the status of breast cancer screening and treatment during the lockdown.
Another mark of the times, a friend who was taking a permitted walk observed social distancing rules and left the gift of a novel in our recycle bin and informed us with a text message. I may wonder why the dog didn’t bark for a book that one reviewer described as ‘… a novel that will change the world’. We look forward to reading Colm McCann’s Apeirogon: A Novel in its 1001 chapters.