Slow Starter

Because I’m clearly Not Busy Enough, with the new year my thoughts have been idly turning on possible resolutions. In 2017 I not only managed to stick to my standard resolution* for the first time in ages but also managed to ‘turn left‘ for a new micro adventure every month, even if it was sometimes a very token effort indeed.

This year, as well as attempting not to start any more cycle campaigns (I need to be very careful if I see Back on my Bike coming anywhere near me with cake), I have decided I will attempt two things and you, dear blog readers, get to be bored rigid – sorry, bear witness – to my attempts. The first is to get better at maintaining my bike, of which more anon when the weather has warmed up (remind me in March or April; I have a plan for this).

The second – after a rambling new year’s eve twitter conversation (which as actually far more enjoyable than a lot of twitter conversations are these days, involving as it did no references to Donald Trump or Brexit or cycle helmets) – is to start baking sourdough bread.

I have made bread occasionally in the past, mostly wheaten loaf (or soda bread), and it’s nice enough but it’s never really stuck as a habit. The attraction of sourdough – apart from the fact that it’s complicated enough to be potentially interesting – is that your starter seems to take on the status of something between a chemistry experiment and a family pet (the most concrete advice I have been given so far is to give it a name, to encourage me to look after it properly), complete with the need to get a sitter in when you go on holiday (are there starter kennels? There probably are by now. If not, I offer you the Hipster Business Idea of 2018, coming soon to a crowdfunder near you). This seemed to me the best way to encourage me to actually keep the habit up as starter thrives on you regularly baking with it, and I’m much more likely to do something when someone is expecting me to do it, even if that someone is in fact a bunch of yeast cells named Jimmy Carter,** rather than an actual real person.

And then there’s the complication side of things. New Year’s eve found me rummaging around in the Scottish Water website trying to work out what water treatment chemicals were used in the Bigtown area to find out if I needed filtered water (it’s the chloramines, you see, they’re much more likely to kill off the organisms than plan old chlorination), and wandering the house trying to find a spot that would remain at a steady 21C (this is the problem with following American instructions for starting your starter. Also with moving out of the house with the Rayburn …). Twitter has been reasonably reassuring on this score and provided enough contradictory advice that I can go ahead and do what I was planning on anyway (sticking it next to the hot water tank).

So far – day three – and Jimmy Carter is beginning to bubble away although I suspect it will take a bit longer before he’s fully fighting fit. This weekend I will attempt to bake my first loaf of bread and hopefully the results will be at least palatable enough that I continue the experiment. And maybe even successful enough that I can quietly sweep that foolish ambition of getting better at maintaining my bike come the warmer weather …

* not starting any more new cycle campaigns – although Back on My Bike has conned me into continuing with the supposedly ephemeral Walk Cycle Vote campaign even though there won’t (we hope) be any voting to be done in 2018.

** Why, what do you call your starter?


6 Responses to Slow Starter

  1. Charles says:

    Have you tried “Do/Sourdough by Andrew Whitley”. He is very good on keeping starters alive. However my bread always smells great but comes out like a brick. I gave the last loaf to the local jackdaws, they flocked down ate it, and then struggled to fly off…I think it could be used to line the reactors at Hinckley Point.

    I think my dough is too wet, but apparently if it’s too dry it also turns into a brick, there is apparently a sweet (or sour) spot somewhere in the middle. This could take some time.

  2. Kiyomi Camp says:

    I keep my starter in the fridge in between uses. I feed it, let it sit for an hour or so, remove a cup for my bread, then stick the container in the fridge until next time. The method described in this article has worked very well for me, although I let it sit longer in between turns due to forgetfulness and multitasking. I’ve also started the dough in the evening and let it sit out overnight, with good success.

  3. disgruntled says:

    @Charles – I haven’t tried any books yet, though I’ve had lots of recommendations
    @Kiyomi – aargh, autoplay video, will try again later

  4. […] I promised you an update on my sourdough baking adventures, and who am I to disappoint, especially now that all the picturesque snow has melted (it’s […]

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