Is it a brick or is it a block of PU foam?

It’s hard to tell at first glance but this was in fact my first sourdough loaf and it certainly left plenty of room for improvement. Where did it all go wrong, if it did indeed go wrong at all. Gorging on ‘how to’ YouTube videos left me brain fogged so that instead of following one recipe carefully, I mixed various recipes together, a sure fire recipe for disaster.

– Was my sourdough starter ready? Well, it did float in water.

– Was it a mistake to prove it overnight in the oven rather than the fridge?

– Did I knead correctly and for long enough? Well my biceps are twice the size now.

– Was it a mistake to keep adding flour because the dough was so wet? (probably)

The final proving (after 24 hours) was done in a bread tin where it did, much to my delight, manage to rise to the rim (300gm flour). However it subsided somewhat after I slashed the top soon after putting it in the oven, having forgotten to do so beforehand. This may well have been a bad move, particularly as the knife was not too sharp and the sticky dough was dragged rather than cut cleanly.

Through the oven window I watched with mild despair as it sank in the middle, normally a sign that it had not been kneaded for long enough and lacked structure.

After cooking for 40 minutes at 210C, plus curing and leaving it to cool for half an hour, it did have a reasonable crumb but the crust was hard as apposed to crisp. It tasted OK but overall it was far from what I had hoped for and had all the visual appeal of concrete rubble.

Having had a run of less than reasonable successes recently I was really on the verge of abandoning the whole idea of baking my own bread. What makes it all the more frustrating is eight years ago I was baking bread in the same place and having nothing but successes. Could it be my oven? My age? Or maybe just bad luck. Certainly I am more forgetful these days, which does not help. At least I have sussed how to make a sourdough starter so there is hope yet for a perfect loaf in the future … with no yeast available and the lock-down continuing there is nothing else to do but try again.

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