Friday, 2 September 2011

Sourdough - revived

Spurred on by a friend who has been posting on Facebook about her sourdough bread, I retrieved my starter out of the freezer whence it has been languishing since Easter. After a couple of abortive attempts at sourdough (using Jamie Oliver’s instructions) a few years ago, I decided to have another go, inspired by Hugh’s instructions in River Cottage Everyday which I got at Christmas. I followed the steps meticulously and before I knew it, I had amazing and delicious bread. We decided that it was probably a bit of a faff to have every day, so normal fast acting yeast is what I continued to use for ‘day to day’ bread – the sourdough didn’t make for great sarnies because of the shape of the loaf for a start, but for the weekend, sourdough was definitely a great treat. I got into a routine for keeping the starter in the fridge during the week then ‘reactivating’ it on a Thursday or Friday to make a couple of loaves for the weekend, then putting it back to sleep. However, as the easter holiday approached, I knew that I was going to have to take that leap of faith and put the starter, that I had nurtured and cared for since Christmas, into the freezer.

Now, my freezer (or should I say freezers – I have 3) is a dangerous place to be at the best of times – you never quite know when you’re going to be attacked by an exploding back of 3 year old runner beans, or foxed by some unlabelled bag which looks like raspberries but turns out to be cubes of red wine, frozen after a particularly intensive period of Nigella addiction (I mean honestly, who really has wine left over to freeze after a dinner party – we just drink it). It is genetic – this inability to manage a freezer. Allotment Junkie once served up stewed gooseberries which she’d mistaken for soup.

Anyway, Hugh confidently assured me that my starter would be OK in the freezer, so I put it in a tub, labelled it and tucked it away. And there it has stayed, until yesterday.

I wasn’t hopeful - friend who had taken some of my original starter had tried earlier in the year, and it had died, cold and alone, in her freezer – but I decided that I owed it a chance, so I liberated it from the freezer, and thawed it out.
Once it was defrosted, I added some more flour (rye, to give it something wholesome after months in the yeast equivalent of Siberia) and a bit of warm water, gave it a mix and waited.  And it seems that I may not be disappointed. This morning, there were definite bubblings going on. I got very excited and thought about getting on with a loaf straight away, but decided to give it at least one more feed (the bit where you chuck away half, add some more flour and some warm water). After a couple of hours this morning, I am pretty confident that I am back in business – and very pleased I am too. Assuming it’s still looking happy this evening, I shall be baking sourdough again.

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