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What is the Best Smell in the World?

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You know that mouth-watering smell that envelops you when you walk past a bakery? The smell of freshly-baked bread? Would you love your kitchen to smell like that? Mine often does and can I tell you, it’s good. If someone could bottle it up and sell it as a room spray I reckon they’d make a fortune!

I have had my rises and falls with bread making over the years, mostly falls, but that can be passed off as the flat foccacia. I usually just grab a packet of dried yeast and go from there, but sourdough is worth pursuing.

Why is sourdough so good? Because this traditional bread-making method produces the best-tasting bread and the best texture. With its beginnings lost in the mists of time sourdough or fermented dough encourages the baker to work with and enhance the bread’s natural ingredients as opposed to the modern method of engineering the end product to ft a plastic bag.

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Basically sourdough bread is made with a “starter” instead of commercial yeast. The starter is made by allowing a flour and water mixture to ferment, collecting natural yeasts from the surrounding air. The starter requires daily feeding with flour and water (similar to a ginger beer “plant”). If you are not making bread on a daily basis, the starter can be refrigerated for up to a few months (without feeding); this is called a dormant starter.

I once did a sourdough bread making class at Logan. Interestingly the teacher started to make her own bread because her children were gluten intolerant, but they can tolerate the sourdough. I was very enthusiastic and came home with a jar of starter and a booklet of recipes. I made a couple of loaves to begin with and then the starter stayed in the fridge and was forgotten about … and eventually … died. So it’s back to square one, I could contact the baker for some more starter, but I am having a go at making my own!

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There are numerous ways to make it, but they all have one thing in common, and that is the use of organic flours – the processed supermarket ones won’t work. There is one recipe that just uses flour (a mixture of rye and wholemeal) and water; it is left on the bench and beaten twice a day to encourage the natural yeast spores in the air into the dough.

The other two ways are with the addition of grapes and potato water. So I have three bowls bubbling away; my kitchen looks more like a laboratory than a food preparation area! In about a week I will be making my own sourdough bread again.

It is thrilling to bake your own beautiful bread. There are pleasures to every bake that I never tire of: the wonderful aroma that fills the house during the bake, the rising of the dough, the first exposure of the ‘crumb’ (inside of the bread) when you cut your initial slice – and best of all, the first taste. There is something grounding, calming, and deeply satisfying about baking.

It really is worth baking your own bread, so I am going to persist with the sourdough, but if that fails there are plenty of good bakeries that make it, including Phil at our local one at Eagle Heights.

Sour dough comes up beautifully toasted as a winter accompaniment to hot soups and under eggs. I like to use it toasted as a base for bruschetta. It looks great with a mixture of colorful vegetable based toppings. They look very impressive on a large white platter. Here are some of my favorites, using produce in season:

  • Roasted slices of red and yellow capsicum mixed with capers and anchovies
  • Thinly sliced grilled eggplant with feta cheese
  • Pan fried mushrooms with lots of freshly diced herbs and a splash of truffle oil
  • Pumpkin diced and roasted, mixed with olives and chives.

Soon broad beans and peas will be available and they are delicious mashed up with garlic, olive oil and parmesan.

November 18, 2016 / Uncategorized / thechef