About this blog & me.

This blog is a combination ramble of my day to day baking, and hints and tips that I have found work for me. I am in no way a “Guru” of sourdough baking and don’t claim to be.

There are many many different approaches and methods used in making sourdough, and I have come across too many magnificently talented bakers to say what is the right or wrong way about any aspect of the subject, so what you see here is purely and simply what works for me, and my personal views, right or wrong. If you dissagree with me then that is your right, and no hard feelings at all, just don’t expect me to get into an argument about it.

I hope you will pardon me if I start out on a particular subject and get a little sidetracked about a small point, before getting back on track. The small detour may be worth putting up with.

Next month (July ’06) I will be 62, and I’ve been baking sourdough bread, some good some not so good :), for 26 years. Up until 9 months ago I baked just to get decent bread, now I’ve retired I bake because I enjoy it, and the bread of course.

I grew up in a small country town where my war widow mother was the local butcher, and on the land behind her shop was the bakery for the area. Mum thought it a good idea that starting at the age of 10 I should spend my school holidays at the bakery where one of my uncles worked. This is where I learned the secret of kneading wet dough just using a tiny amount of flour. It is also the place where I learned what fresh fully prooved dough will do to snap a bent neck and back up straight quick time.

On my first morning in the bakery one of the bakers called me over to a wooden trough (in the bakery pronounced “trow” like throw) full of fully risen dough, he punched a big hole in it and bent me down face first in the hole and said “sniff”. The gas from the dough snapped me up straight so quick I nearly passed out, of course all the other bakers laughed their heads off at the “newby initiation”. The memory of that dough has not faded over the years. Funny thing, all these years I’ve managed to keep the bench knife (dough scraper thing) they gave me to use. I never did get the hang of using a 15 foot long oven peel to feed the ovens.
When I was 14 Mum remarried and sold the shop. We moved to an area of Sydney that now would be called “Multi-Cultural”. To me it was just a lot of good people who spoke a little differently, had great food, were friendly and hospitable, and their kids made great friends. This is where I learned about great food and great bread. Polish and Latvian rye and “sweet and sour” (Latvian carroway sourdough rye), pumpernickel, Mrs Montleone’s homemade Pagnotta and many others.

Well the years passed and I was one of the Construction Managers for a Danish Company and was selected to head up the SE Asia area based in Manila Philippines. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the country and the people and the food, but the bread was bloody terrible, it was so sweet, and had the texture of cotton wool. For six months I nearly went mental for the want of some salty decent bread, until I found a little bakery run by an expat German who had married a Filipina. He was catering to the needs of desperados like myself who would just about kill for “real” bread, and doing well too, people would get their maids to travel miles to buy his bread.

After about two and a half years Marcos was getting too greedy with the foreign companies and we, along with a lot of others, decided to pull out. In conversation with the baker I said I was leaving and asked him what the secret of his bread was. That’s when he told me about sourdough and gave me careful instructions on how to get a starter going, which I did shortly after returning to Australia.

The best piece of advice he gave me was “If you can get a white flour starter going, and bake a good plain white loaf, then the rest is easy”. Well he was almost right, I can do a white starter no problem, and even if I say so myself I make a pretty good plain white loaf, so how come I still make the odd complete stuffup. 🙂 The answer is “That’s Sourdough Baking”.

Well that’s me, I hope you enjoy the blog as it develops.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 4:19 am  Comments (9)