It has taken me about two months but I think I am getting the hang of sourdough! I fell in love with sourdough after tasting Rustica Canteen’s spiced fruit loaf. It was a Saturday and I was finishing up my shift at the Celtic Club and Maddy was just starting. Maddy always shared her recent food discoveries with me and she said just down the next laneway off of Queen St there was a new cafe called Rustica. They probably closed at 3 but if I ran I might make it. One never to miss an opportunity I scrambled off home via Guildford Lane in search of the cafe. They were indeed closing but as we got chatting and I explained that I worked up the road and my co-worker had told me of this place I was deemed a neighbour as they come into the club every now and then. Then as they we only going to get rid of them they bestowed me with a sample of their sourdough baguette and fruit loaf. It was a
smart move on their part as I was instantly hooked and became a regular for their Chai Lattes and their breads. On a side note, they also make a killer peanut butter and chocolate ganache croissant. Anyway due to their sourdough I decided that learning how to make sourdough was going to be my challenge when I got home.
Twenty odd years ago my mom inherited my Great Aunts sourdough starter when she stopped baking bread. My mom in turn made a few bits and bobs and then froze it. Therefore, when I got home and began discussing starters my mom said “Oh, we have Aunt Helen’s in the freezer but it has been frozen for 20 years.” I read up and learned it was indeed possible to bring a starter back to life after it had been “cryogenically” frozen. I took on the challenge. It sat on my cupboard thawing away while I read up on how to feed it. A week later it was bubbling slightly but in no way at all like what the pictures showed. I decided to give it a go a week after that and made an absolute flop of my bread. I probably could have killed someone with the loaf it was so dense.
I immediately called my friend Devon who made sourdough successfully, and asked for help. First she gave me the best tip in the world. To test if your starter is ready to go, you take a glass of water and drop a spoonful of the starter into the water. If it floats it is ready. If it sinks, it is not and needs to be fed again. There is no middle ground with the floating and not floating by the way. It sinks or it floats. End of story. This nugget of wisdom was gifted through the Emilie Raffa’s blog, The Clever Carrot. She has a whole entry called the Beginners Guide to Sourdough and it has become my sourdough bible. While it is slowly becoming second nature I still check it at every step.
Slowly but surely, once I figured out the water to flour ratio for feeding my starter came to life and I decided to name him. I pondered for a while and then it came to me “Finnegan”. And I kid you not, since I named him he has been working like a charm. My first loaf after the naming worked really well and they have just gotten better and better and I have branched out to see what else I can do with my starter. Perhaps it’s all in a name.
My first foray outside of a loaf was to make sourdough cinnamon buns. I found them on this lovely site, Eat Real, Stay Sane. Thank you Pinterest. Cream cheese frosted gooey and squidgy cinnamon buns. I didn’t do the cream cheese frosting but they were everything else and quite yummy with a cuppa.
Next was baked donuts. I found a donut tray the other week in the grocery store and possibly scared my nephews with my level of enthusiasm. I was making another batch of bread so I figured, why not see if it was possible to make donuts using Finnegan. A little bit of googling led me to these gems of a donut on Practical Stewardship. I have never had baked donuts before and I must admit they were just as moorish as deep fried ones and I like to think a little healthier.
The latest which I have tried twice and succeeded yesterday was cinnamon raisin bread. Currently my breakfast main squeeze topped with my mothers crabapple jelly. For this, I used the Clever Carrots sourdough recipe as my base and then switched out about 150g of the white flour to whole wheat. The trick I learned yesterday which I didn’t do the first time is to add your spices and raisins ( I used 1 heaped tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of ginger and nutmeg and a little less than that of crushed cloves and 2/3 cup of raisins), after the salt is added to the dough and then knead them in until they are completely intertwined. Then let it do its bulk fermentation for however long, shape it, rise it, mark it with a slash then pop it in the oven for your afternoon tea.