Meet my starter.
It’s an easy pet really. You feed it now and then. You don’t need to wash it or walk it. The first week in Ballymaloe, Timmy gave me a small amount of the school starter to feed and produce as my own. So I bought a kilner jar and looked after my new child.
With no name as yet we haven’t done too badly, I have made every kind of shape and size loaf, and am still perfecting it. Last week I changed my proportions of strong white flour, adding more than I previously needed. Our flour must be slightly different to what I was using in the Ballymaloe Cookery school.
I also need to work on making the “spine”. Each loaf seems to burst exuberantly from its shape at some stage in the cooking, giving a nose or an unsightly pimple appearance. But I’m getting there. When Nigel went to Richard’s course in Bath, Richard spent a lot of time on the importance of creating the spine, so I am learning, albeit slowly.
I think the things with having you own yeast is that every loaf will be different, but that’s a good thing. Uniformity in food does not always mean quality, or consistency of flavour. But if I could get them a teeny bit better looking I’d be happy!
Bread, if you can believe it, is older than metal, thereby pre-dating the Bronze Age. There have been what are thought to be neolithic grinding stones, used to grind grain to make flat or unleavened breads. There was a “bread” found in Switzerland in 3500BC. And undoubtedly there was an overlap between the evolution of brewing and bread making, and the Egyptians have recorded the use of “leavening” in food, but the actual origins are probably impossible without a time machine.
Until the time of the development of commercial yeasts, all of the leavened bread was made using naturally occurring yeasts – i.e. all bread was actually what we would call sourdough, with it’s slower rise. Indeed, one of the reasons given for the importance of unleavened bread in the Jewish faith is that at the time of the exodus from Egypt, there wasn’t time to let the dough rise overnight.
But enough history- more another time!