Or, The Knead and Bake.
Day 4: First dilemma, is the starter ready to use in the actual recipe? James’s section on Starting a Starter is a little unclear. There is still another stage, but this suggests the start of feeding the starter. I call Kirstin and we agree that I should use what I have. No more feeding and waiting at this point.
Second dilemma, what of the raisins? Where are they? What if they end up in the dough? I look out for them when I pour the starter into the flour and salt, but can’t see them. Someone may get a lucky bite later…..
Here’s a piece of advice: when kneading don’t ‘Slap and Fold’ in the presence of babies. I thought Isabella would find it fascinating at worst, funny and captivating at best. In fact it terrifies her. The loud slapping noise combined with the simultaneous shaking of the table reduce her to immediate screaming tears. With dough all over my hands and 10 minutes to go I can’t do anything except sing and smile in the hope she’ll calm down. This doesn’t happen. The kneading process might have been therapeutic had it not been so stressful, for both of us.
I leave the dough to rest for the suggested 4-6 hours, checking it frequently to see if it has ‘noticeably risen’. 5 hours in it doesn’t look like it. I’m going to take a leaf out of Peter’s book and just leave it.
After 7 hours I decide it’s time to shape the dough. It has to have proved by now. This proves to be an impossible task. The dough is so wet it won’t do anything. Sourdough is always wet though, I’m not going to be deterred. James has filled me with the confidence that this will work. Like a runaway blancmange I fight the ‘shaped’ dough into a proving basket. Rise goddamit.
3 hours on and l check. It has spread out. It has not risen. Bugger.
Sod it. I am going to bake it anyway. James says that you can’t underestimate the ‘oven spring’. It will spring in the oven. I just have to get it into the oven. Come here pesky dough!
Suffice to say it is an epic fail. The loaf is flat and undercooked. I am so annoyed but not surprised. And I’m not sure where I’ve gone wrong. I go to bed reading the book again. Maybe the starter wasn’t actually ready – too much bacteria and not enough yeast. Maybe I didn’t knead it vigorously enough. Maybe it wasn’t proved for long enough.
I will not be defeated. Peter helpfully tells me, “baking is a cruel mistress”.
I am going to start again tomorrow.