My Sourdough Adventures, a New Start

OOOOh, that crumb! =) My first sourdough adventures began after I had suddenly started baking almost everyday on the 1st January 2009. That was the day when we agreed with my – at the time – school mate Vika to go to one of the ex-royal parks that surround St. Petersburg for a walk and talk (of course). Thanks to the fact that all the party people are normally still sleeping in their beds after a heavy-drinking night of 31st December (in Russia, after USSR propaganda, it’s New Year’s Eve that’s mostly celebrated, not Christmas), it is probably the only day of the year when there are no traffic jams around! Just very-very deserted, with occasional cars and public buses operating. That was also our ‘tradition’ to go for a walk in a deserted park, with its centuries old trees and everything covered in snow. But that year we got so cold while desperately waiting for a bus that decided to go to my place instead and bake some buns with my Granny’s recipe. Which we did. And thus I began the unstoppable baking=) well, I did stop it while I was studying abroad but there I didn’t have an oven so the only dough thing I was making were crepes (Russian blini).

So this is my story… Also that very year I was supposed to be writing my Bachelor qualification paper on the self-identification of the Scottish nation in Stevenson’s Kidnapped (?!?!?!?!?! blahhhhhhh) so you can easily guess that I was looking for any possible reason not to write it (and leave it till the end, a typical student thing=). And here it was – baking! As the last semester was much less loaded with lectures and I didn’t have to spend all the daylight in the walls of my Uni, I woke up early however to bake. Yep. I’m ready to do it as long as there’s this marvellous aroma of fresh-baked bread! Besides, in winter time it gets and keeps you warm=) That was and still is for me a kind of release of my creative powers (khm=), that were quite trapped during my undergraduate years, I should say.

After re-discovering shortcrust pastry, yeast dough, batter, etc., I eventually tried sourdough baking at some point that year but mostly failed, though experimented a bit with different cultures and recipes.  I’m still trying to bake such black (or brown) bread that will be close to what is called Darnitsky hleb in Russia, a very dense and delicious sourdough rye bread, my favourite! I’ve just read on the net that it was actually invented not that long ago, in St. Petersburg in 1933 and the bread that did it was also one of the few local bread-making plants that never stopped working during the terrible 900 day Blockade of Leningrad (WWII). It’s round in shape as is the modernist 1930s building of that Bakery plant #11, the crust is just mmm as is the taste. You will find the bread sold under this name all over Russia, but the original is in St. Pete =)

For my recent sourdough culture I’ve been following Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter posted on The Fresh Loaf. I do not still have a real mature culture, I think, but I’ve already started baking with the toss-offs from my sourdough – I’m truly Soviet in that respect, I just cannot throw away all but 1/4 cup of it each time (I now feed it twice a day, very early when I get up and then in the evening). So I’m collecting the discarded sourdough, I’m keeping it at room temperature and feeding it. I’ve already made Cranberry-Oat Scones (that I mentioned earlier) with it and yesterday it was a wonderful crumby … —–>

Light Rye Sourdough

Light Rye Sourdough Bread (adapted from cityhippyfarmgirl.com) will make 1 large loaf  ATTENTION: requires overnight rest

Ingredients

  • 350g starter – dunno how much of my rye sourdough starter I put in, around 300g I suppose
  • 300g rye flour – I substituted some of it with my ‘8 grains’ mix, wheat&rye bran and whole wheat flour
  • 300g bakers flour – I used all purpose
  • 480 ml water
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds – we’ve fed them all to birds so I used pumpkin and flax seeds instead
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Method

Mix all the ingredients except for the salt. Wait for 20 minutes, then add salt and mix again. Let it prove for 1 1/2 hours (it doesn’t have to be kneaded!). First fold (by that bakers mean taking a large plastic/rubber kind of spatula – or use whatever you can find that is rectangular – and gently transferring the dough from the edges to the centre, thus as if ‘kneading’ it – for better instructions google ‘folding’). Prove for another 1 hour (I was about to drop dead and halved the time between folds as it was already late). 2nd fold (do the same ‘kneading’). In oiled tin (here I suggest using such a tin that will stand quite vigorous attempts to remove the bread from it, so do not use tefal things, I used my round glass pan), rise for another hour. 11 hour ferment in fridge (cover the tin with plastic and put in the fridge, it will grow slightly). Take it out for 30 min (so that it warms a bit). Slash (I made several cuts). Then bake at 250 ‘C for 20 mins top shelf (here I had to put an inverted baking sheet over the shelf and to put the tin on top) with steam (when you preheat the oven, place a skillet with some water in it on the bottom of the oven, that will create enough steam for your bread – be careful, the skillet will be very hot as will the steam when you open the oven door!) then a further 15 mins on the second shelf (I left the skillet there and baked for more than 15 min, I was afraid the bread was still soggy, then I took it out of the tin with some effort and placed it back in already switched off oven, so that it gets the crust all over it).

Yes, you do need to start a sourdough starter for that gorgeous loaf!!! And there’s not that much effort that is required for this sourdough bread, only time and some kind of readiness for unforeseen results=) I mean, with sourdough (especially in my case with some sort of toss-off sourdough) you never know but that adds challenge and some zest to bread baking!

And finally, I would like to thank my dear Vika for that very 1st January 2009, cause it gave my life a very new start =)

All the best,

G.

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