It’s #sourdoughseptember so I’ve been casting back through the catalogue for some of my best bakes. I’m a weird combination of fast and slow, a mix of instant and delayed gratification. Maybe we all are?

To start with I was sceptical, I mean 2-3 days to make a loaf of bread?

Many years ago, my dear friend and talented architectural artist Anton is a master of sourdough and he generously shared some of his starter and his very detailed, 3-page instruction manual.

Then it seemed like a challenge that had to be tried and mastered, and slowly it became a way of life. Elvis the starter (who regularly leaves the building …) does duty a couple of times a week and this is critical for good results as a sluggish starter will give off noxious fumes, be overly sour and deliver distinctly average results.

I’ve travelled with Elvis in my luggage, I’ve travelled with the dough at various stages of its evolution, and I’ve stayed up til 2am because the dough was almost ready to bake.

Wild yeast can be unpredictable and frustrating – it’s untamed, spontaneous, and sometimes just isn’t in party mood.

But the texture, flavour and enhanced digestion that slow fermentation brings makes the jeopardy worth the journey.

There are many sourdough experts around (check out Dan Lepard, Michelle Eshkeri, Vanessa Kimbell et al) and I don’t claim to be one. The bread I make these days is mostly for home consumption, plus a few friends and neighbours who request it.

What has evolved is a method that works for me. I can’t be at home all day doing turns and folds every 30 minutes. I don’t have the patience (see above) to weigh in half grams and stress about whether the cold prove is going to be 6, 8 or 24 hours or whether I’ll get the ‘ear’ that is so highly prized for Instagram shots.

So I feed, mix, knead, leave, shape, prove, bake over a couple days without being too fussy about it. I do have a couple of non-negotiables. The first is organic flour, the No.4 from Shipton Mill, the second is filtered water and the third is a reliable oven that can get to upwards of 250C.

Over lockdown there has been much chatter about esoteric flours, shaping, Dutch ovens, razor slashes, intricate designs and patterns. Long may our creative bakers enhance their edible art and craft.

I mostly keep it simple and straightforward; bread is for slicing, topping, dunking, toasting, filling and satisfying. It won’t always be pretty, it won’t always be catwalk-ready but it will always be delicious.


© Linda Galloway 2020