It all began on twitter in December of last year as Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial inquired if I would be interested in receiving her sourdough starter, called Priscilla. Celia wanted to add more offspring to Priscilla’s expanding family tree and spread more sourdough love across the globe, by sending bloggers dried sourdough starters. As I waited patiently for the envelope to arrive, Celia ended up sending a second one (which arrived) and then a third, just in case… which arrived yesterday.
Although I had never made sourdough bread until now, I had seen a demonstration on making a sourdough starter and bread at a cooking school I attend some years back. It was a month-long course and we had time to see how a sourdough starter over a period of days became active with few ingredients. The consensus at the time was that… it looked like a lot of trouble and a waste of flour if your weren’t baking sourdough bread regularly. And, not knowing until now, you can dry a sourdough starter and make use of the parts you discard with other recipes.
At first I was slightly nervous activating Priscilla… what if I killed her before she fully activated… Celia did assure me that Priscilla was pretty robust. Celia thought it would be nice to re-name our sourdough starter and I decided to call mine “Sabr” and translated from Arabic means patience. Making sourdough bread from scratch does require patience and a process you shouldn’t rush.
Although pale, not rising as I had hoped and with a dense crumb, I was excited and happy with my first attempt… but I also knew I could do better. The reason for this may have been, using the starter when it was somewhat sluggish and probably could have done with an extra feed of flour. After all, “Priscilla” had travelled from Sydney to Bahrain and was probably tired and hungry 🙂
Another blogger called Emily had mentioned, a teaspoon of sourdough starter dropped into a glass of water should float when ripe and ready to use.
Armed with a little more knowledge and with a live bubbly “Sabr,” my second loaf turned out beautifully and that left me grinning from ear to ear all day long. On both occasions used a preheated dutch oven when baking the bread. I was familiar with baking bread in a dutch oven, as the same cookery school introduced us to Jim Lahey’s 18 hour rise no-knead bread and on many occasions I have also baked this fabulous rustic bread.
Celia has now bought a dedicated enamel roasting tin with a domed lid to bake her sourdough bread in, lighter and easier to handle than a heavy dutch oven. Also, Selma has decided to follow the same route, subjecting your dutch oven to very hight temperatures can take its toll. My dutch oven has darkened in appearance with a few more defined marks on the outside. I always unscrew the top handle from the lid of my dutch oven and plug the hole with aluminum foil… just in case.
Celia you have inspired me to keep “Sabr” going and to continue making sourdough bread on a regular basis. Also, it has inspired me to go back to the notes given to us from the cooking school I attended and create a sourdough starter from scratch. I am traveling soon and will leave “Sabr” in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so I may dry some… just in case. But I do have the extra dried starter to fall back on but most likely, will pass it on to a friend.
My sourdough skills are still in its infancy, more practice and experimenting needed before I can pass on more of my experience. I followed Celia’s Basic Sourdough Tutorial and she has posts dedicated to the subject (we know you love bread) that have been very helpful. This sourdough project has given me immense culinary pleasure and one I expect to continue… I now want to buy a dedicated proofing basket… lol… more kitchen tools! Thank you so much Celia xx