Sourdough, Baby. An Experiment – Day Seven.

Blimey, a week has gone by so quickly and it looks like I’ve got about two more days to go before I can cut myself a fresh sourdough slice. I love the instructions in the book (the fantastic Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding). They tell you just to “MAKE BREAD!”. So easy, I thought, so doable. But, it seems, one does not simply make bread. Insert meme here. Turning over the page and reading ahead it appears that theΒ make bread section will in fact take a full day, maybe more. This loaf had better be pretty darn cute to merit all this time and effort. I have faith in Demi though, she’s done well so far.

So after divvying her up once more yesterday, she looked small and a bit useless. But after 24 hours she has grown and grown and grown! She’s probably more than twice the size that she was at 10am yesterday. Phenomenal.

She didn’t look too promising…

The process so far has made me think a bit about how we tell stories – about each other, about ourselves, to ourselves even. In following Demi you’ve been following her story how she has grown, changed and developed. Luckily, so far, there hasn’t really been much to report – she is a content being, happy to do her thing and live her life with little to no drama, at least so far. As I’ve written about Demi I’ve also covered a lot of personal things going on in my mind. I’ve covered parts of my story, and the process hasn’t been so simple. This isn’t a diary, after all, I have selected things and approached my own life from different angles to try and portray it in a light that might carry some meaning for others. And this is a strange concept – does that make me an unreliable narrator? Or just someone trying to get to the point and find meaning along the way?

We are all the major protagonists of our own narrative. Whether you live your life like a Greek epic or a graphic novel we all carry a set of traits, prejudices and assumptions that come into every action and reaction we give and receive. And, whether we like it or not, we are side characters in other people’s stories. If we’re really lucky we might become major characters in some narratives, eventually. But alas, it has to be said, to many we will remain peripheral, we become part of the backdrop of their story.

Have you ever walked down the street or sat on a bus and thought about all the journeys of people around you. Where are they going? Where have they been? What is their narrative? If you never have, it can be a scary experience – the sheer mind-boggling complexity of the world and its simultaneous interconnectedness and separation can make one feel quite queasy. But I can find it quite a comforting thought. It makes me feel very present. I may just be a side character, seen only once on this single journey – they will never learn my name nor I theirs, we’ll never argue, never get to bond over the things that unite us. But we are on the most basic and primitive level part of each others’ stories. I am there and so are they for the briefest of meaningless moments. There is beauty in this transience.

I don’t know how long Demi will stay in my life. I don’t know, from moment to moment, how long I’ll be there to look after her. But she’s now part of my story, the experiences I’m weaving, and she has given me a lot to think about over the past week. Not life-changing stuff, by any means, but enough to give me a reason to pause and re-evaluate. Because our stories are all to short and must come to an end. So while we’re writing them – while we live out our time – let’s make them happy stories that would be a delight to flick through and read. Let’s make them an adventure, something to savour. And let’s all help each other write their stories well too, let’s collaborate and cooperate to together write the best Anthology we can.

Ready for folding

400 g strong white bread flour, plus extra
50 g wholegrain rye flour
50 g strong wholemeal bread flour
220 g sourdough starter (that’s Demi!)
350 g water
14 g fine sea salt
A little semolina

Stir the flours together into a dry mix and add, with your mother and the water, to the bowl of an electric mixer (I’ve been very lucky to steal my mum’s Christmas KitchenAid), set up with a dough hook attachment. Mix at a low speed for 2 minutes before upping the speed to medium and mixing for another 4 minutes. A ball should form (the original recipe claims this will be ‘a bit sticky’, we’ll see). Leave the ball in the mixer bowl to rest for 20 minutes, uncovered, before adding the salt. Turn the mixer on to a medium speed once more and mix for another 6 minutes.

Take the dough out of the bowl and lay onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a ball, then flatten it. Fold the bottom edge to the middle, then fold the top edge over the bottom to form an oblong shape. Turn over the dough so the seam faces the work-surface. Dust with flour and cover. Hopefully the bulk fermentation has now been activated. Return in 30 minutes time to fold the dough in half. Repeat three times over the next 2 hours to give a total of five folds altogether.

After your last fold, leave the dough for an hour before rolling it into a tight ball, the pre-shape. Let another hour pass and reshape into a tight ball. Place the dough top down into a floured proving bowl and leave to prove for 6-8 hours.

Sprinkle a baking tray with a little semolina and sprinkle semolina on the top of the sourdough. Turn it out onto the prepared baking tray and use a sharp knife to score a square into the top of the dough. Put in the oven to bake at 220C – splash a few tablespoons of water in the oven to make some steam before quickly closing the door. Bake for 30 minutes before removing it from the tray and putting the loaf directly on the oven rack to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven when golden brown and set onto a rack to cool.

Job done! Until next time.

As evening drew I was worried I hadn’t done enough for Demi

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