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The simmer-Part 2

So, I recently wrote about the heavenly slow-moving cookery I undertook on Sunday afternoon?

Well, in addition to slow-roasted vegetables which were turned into slow-simmered soup, I was doing some other slow-moving cookery.  Namely, I woke up my sourdough starter, Pongo, and fired him up.  There are two cooking streams feeding into this:

Firstly: Since we’ve been living in a share house with some family, I’ve kept Pongo in the fridge, which drastically slows the rate of yeast development in the starter and slows the need for feeding.  So yesterday I pulled Pongo out of the fridge and fed him up, developing the foam and robustness that indicates a healthy yeast colony. He responded really quickly, indicating that the yeasts were alive, awake, and rearing to make bread (or beer, I suppose).

Secondly: M and I have been talking about dispensing with our electric bread-maker.  We use it for kneading and rising, and M pointed out that if we could do those things by hand, we could get rid of yet another unnecessary Thing in our lives. To that end, he’s been developing some pretty l33t sk1llz in kneading and shaping by hand (rising just tends to happen naturally).  I learned from the best, and he showed me how best to knead a Pongo-based bread, teaching me how a hand-kneaded dough feels and responds when it comes together and the glutens start to develop.  So before breakfast, this was underway:

Sourdough--3

A hand-kneaded, wholemeal sourdough dough.  The ingredients: wholemeal flour, warm water, sourdough starter (i.e. Pongo) and a pinch of salt. A little elbow-grease was followed by a lot of waiting. I mean, nearly all day. Sourdough starters are much slower to get going than dried yeast, which is how the sour flavour develops through the dough.  In fact, this dough was sluggish enough that I worried it wasn’t going to come together at all.  I shouldn’t have doubted Pongo: the last two or three hours of rising saw an exponential BOOM in volume, as the dough suddenly swelled up in that way that excites all home bread-makers. Into the pre-heated, cast iron pot it went.

Sourdough--1

Sweet Zombie Jesus, I have never had a Pongo loaf come out this fantastic. I can hardly believe how richly-flavoured and delicious this stuff is. This is a really good picture: it accurately shows off the crumb and the thickness of the crust.  What it doesn’t show is the divinely rich, mature, tangy flavour of the wholemeal bread.  I am seriously in love with this stuff, and expect it will make up a significant part of my diet over the week.  I had fond hopes that this dough would come through for me: I didn’t realise it would come out this good.  And it is very, very good (needs a hint more salt). I’m so happy. Pongo is on the rebound, having been fed and responding with a rush of fermentation and growth: he’s happy too.  We might just make some more bread later this week.  Depends how far this one gets us…

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