Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sourdough - the boule

This was a happy moment. 

Sourdough  has been dogging me for weeks. The starter I, er...started...early in March, has been fed daily. Lately, it has been fed twice daily. After that first bright and peppy starter instruction I read, I realized that things were A Little More Complicated. I have felt persecuted, yet driven. 

And after three disappointing attempts at loaves (although each was an improvement over its predecessor) I started to read more widely, and with more insight as my familiarity with the starter-beast grew. I have been glued to the kitchen. Literally. Starter has to be the stickiest substance on the planet. 

Then I stumbled upon a sourdough tutorial, on Stella Culinary, and I learned more. Especially about stretching and pulling. Or is it slapping and tickling? Anyway. During the course of an evening I slapped that dough around, before turning and folding it, and allowing it to rest, just the way the man said, as many times as he said, and remembered a word I haven't thought about in a long time: technique. A word I absorbed from the old school French books that taught me to cook. If you don't have it, ain't gonna work.

At last, I put the tender raw loaf into my largest Le Creuset pot, which had been heated for 45 minutes in a raging oven. 

And the result was gorgeous. It even sang, as its crust cooled. I taped that. It was 1.26a.m. and I nearly woke the Frenchman, but I restrained myself.

So now I get what the fuss is all about.

It is huge. A week's worth of bread. 

And it tastes wonderful. For breakfast I ate it with the last of my black currant jam, from last year's fruit.

For supper it was grilled sandwiches - cheddar and mustard, and wilted dandelion with prosciutto, the hot bread rubbed with garlic as I lifted it from the cast iron pan.

So - thanks to Sarah, and her BK17 sourdough loaves, and thanks to Upstairs Wolfgang who asked me to feed his starter while he pressed olive oil last November, and thanks to Jacob Burton, the chef who made that video. I would also like to thank the Academy, my dog and my mom.


The sourdough bug has bitten me, and our bread life will never be the same again.

And to quote a Cape Town chef, who utters this phrase with a beatific smile, as often as he breathes:

Hap-py days! 


  1. YOU MADE THAT ?????
    and what about the cat ??????

    1. YES! Thank you for understanding. xxx

      The cat wants nothing to do with it. He says, Berber' steecky. Nard por cads. Doan' eben theenk abou' mentioneen' me.

  2. 'Tis a beautiful sight! Made with native neighborhood microorganisms.

  3. Marie, we are year four of the loaf and will never, ever go back to shop! It dominates your life at first then just slips in and becomes the norm. This is one of the best along with many others, Tanya's Black Russian is a favourite and comes requested we visit family now!

    I must say we treated ourselves to a 1970 odd ebay Hobart or as we call him Bumphrey Hobart, takes up a sizeable counter space and weighs a tonne but so worth it.

    Lisa, London

    PS What are doing up at 1.26am!!

  4. Now do you see yourself prospecting for gold or silver in old, OLD California with your donkey, your tent, your pouch of sourdough for next week and this week's boule to keep you going as you work your site? Your bread looks exactly like the wonderful rounds that were sold in the East (so many years ago that I am not dating myself by telling you) and supposed to be authentic California sourdough. I think you have re-invented it! enjoy.

  5. WOW - that is gorgeous bread!

  6. Beautiful! I recently made bread successfully for the 1st time (not sourdough) and so I can empathize with the " I MADE that all by myself"!!! Good for you!

  7. Gosh, what a beautiful creation.. And I'll bet Vince would not have minded being awakened to witness "Original creation."

  8. My first loaf *looked* like that, but it could have held the QE II against a high tide! I'll try again...the monsoon may be waning.

  9. You are a real inspiration Marie. This is a fantastic looking loaf of sourdough.

  10. (With apologies to Sally Field) - "We like you. We really, really LIKE you!!!"

    What a magnificent loaf!

    Living in near-poverty in Seattle years ago, I began baking bread for the family. In an all-electric house (no pilot lights) that was cold all the time, I found that putting the car in the driveway on a sort of sunny day and locking my bread in the car to rise worked like a charm.

    Baking bread is really such fun (though sourdough has always sounded daunting). This may be a project after some of the detritus of dailiness is cleared away.

    Thank you!


  11. Your bread looks a lot like mine, but mine is done without kneading or folding or slapping around. It is based on Mark Bittman's rendition of Jim Leahy's no knead bread recipe. And it is heaven.
    I know there is a sourdough version. Like yours boules, it is baked in a french oven. Here is a link -


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