Throughout “The River Cottage Family Cookbook,” Hugh and his co-author, Fizz Carr (and bonus points for having such an awesome name) suggest “Projects” that we can do. The projects are scattered throughout the book and include things such as “Making Butter at Home” or “Hosting a Pancake Race” or “Building a Campfire for Outdoor Cooking.”
The one that takes the prize for “I Will Never In A Million Years Do That” award is “Making Your Own Salt.” As if. I mean, really, he says a litre of sea water will produce about one tablespoon of salt. Why would I go to all of that trouble when I can buy a whole BOX with 250 grams of Maldon Sea Salt goodness from a shop five minutes away? But I digress.
Tim decided that he wanted to tackle the project, “Making Sourdough Bread,” because he had tried (and succeeded) with the same project years ago, B.C. (before children). In those days, we also tried (but failed) to start a wheat farm on a small patch of garden at our house in Chicago. We think we would have succeeded, but for the roofers who didn’t notice the wheat farm. I think that’s a story for another time, however.
Making sourdough bread is a multi-page and multi-day project, because you have to make the starter four days before you’re going to bake the bread. However, once you do have a successful starter, you can save it in the refrigerator for next time, saving you that step. This is what we did years ago, and had many lovely sourdoughs from the same starter.
Did Hugh’s project work? Yes and no. Yes in that we got a loaf of sourdough bread, but no in that it wasn’t an unqualified success. The bread was good, but not, “Blow Your Doors Off” good.
Tim said, “I can’t tell if this is operator error or a recipe error.”
I think the problem might be that once you spend that much time on something, and four days would certainly qualify, you want it to be absolutely perfect. Just a few weekends ago, I made a cake I decided to call “All Day Cake” because it literally took all day. Was it good? It was fine, but it certainly didn’t seem to reflect the amount of effort I put into it, and I think the same is true here.
Will we try again? Sure we will. But we’ll have to start all over again, because we threw out the starter. It might have been cursed or something.