Cost: 36p per 1kg loaf
In some ways, I find that the most satisfying things to make in the Low-Ceilinged Kitchen are those premium items that are cheap to make, but expensive to buy. Sourdough bread is the perfect example – in theory, it should be cheaper than scientifically enhanced plastic wrapped bread product, but in practice, a loaf of Poilane is about 8x the cost of a basic range white sliced.
I’ve tried sourdough before, but I find the feed-and-discard process of establishing the starter a psychological as well as a technical challenge – firstly, because I can’t bear to throw things away (even, as it turns out, semi-fermented flour and tap water) and secondly, because even keeping a basic organism like yeast alive turns out to be too much of a commitment. Many instructions mention that the starter needs consistent care, like a pet. Personally I have never really seen the point in pets, given that there’s no payoff – they are never going to learn to talk, or take care of me in my old age, or even produce an unbelievably economical loaf of homemade sourdough bread.
Anyway. This time, I followed the excellent instructions for a rye/whole wheat starter from a family friend’s blog – and a week later, a jar of gently bubbling, yeasty jar of starter had taken up residence on the kitchen counter. Now what?
I won’t traumatise you with pictures of all the breads and recipes that followed; the sad flat loaf like a redundant January frisbee, the loaf so dense that I worried it would collapse in on itself and create a black hole that would consume our entire house, the lofty loaf that turned out, on slicing, to be 50% interior air…because at last, after much iteration (i.e. gradually reinstating all the corners I had tried to cut) the results with this method have been consistent…both in overall loaf success and in interior texture.