When I was a student, I spent a year in a lab in France, conducting research into the SodA mutation of Streptococcus pneumoniae. My French, whilst bob on for town centre directions and lively discussions about my pets, hobbies and La Rochelle, was pretty shaky, and I knew a heck of a lot less about microbiology than you might hope after two full years of tertiary study. It was a testing time.
HOWEVER, the baffling texts I waded through then, my Collins pocket dictionary clutched in one sweaty hand, the Larousse de Poche in the other (oh, for Google Translate) as my spirits plunged to their lowest recorded ebb, were as nothing compared with the book on making sourdough that has recently confounded me.
My husband pointed out, as I rent the hair from my head in frustration – bless him – that my brain isn’t what it was (very true – and my intellect was hardly setting Toulouse alight in ’99) – but honestly, I’ve never been so confused by anything I’ve read. In the end, I wasted DAYS, a fortune in organic flour and every last shred of patience on an enormous mess with a vaguely unpleasant aroma that I ended up slopping, aggressively and resentfully, into the bin.
At this point, that same husband informed me that there was a page (a page! Not a book!) in River Cottage Everyday with directions for making sourdough bread and it seemed very straightforward. If only this had been mentioned a week earlier as I considered giving up work to be able to give the ferment the attention it demanded.
Anyway, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is more my kind of cook, his instructions were easy and faff-free and involved plenty of leaving it around to suit me. It turned out okay. If rather flat. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to get involved in all this, but do let me know if you’d like the instructions.
Here are the lessons learned from the experience:
- There is nothing on earth with greater adhesive properties than sourdough starter. There’s a splash welded to my worktop that I fear I’m just going to have to learn to love.
- Having a big pot of fermenting yeast around the kitchen is actually a bit of a nuisance.
- Sometimes a 99p Kindle book offer can be a false economy.
- A sourdough loaf costs £2 in Waitrose. This seems very reasonable.
- Nobody in my house actually likes sourdough bread.