Swedish bread baking, Assistent-making sourdough bread
I'd thought I'd seen it all, cookery-wise.
That was before I started making my own sourdough bread. What a revelation: that out of flour, water and time comes the sourdough starter that harvests the natural yeasts from your air (so that a New York sourdough has different yeasts than, say, a Luton one).
The first time I baked, I followed this How to make sourdough bread BBC recipe - the video is very entertaining in a very British way.
I'm still experimenting and each of the four batches I've baked so far has been different, but they were all very satisfying breads, with the distinctive, previously-for-me unachievable sourdough taste (I've made bread before, but always with shop-bought yeast).
Baking my own sourdough bread was also a great excuse to finally buy a kitchen mixer (to help with the kneading). I had so far resisted the temptation to have one of the likes of Kitchen Aid or even a Bosch (by the name of, wait for it) 'MUM' to clutter up my worktops.
I found this little Swedish number, from a company called Ankarsrum (used to be made by Electrolux). It's an Ankarsrum Assistent N30. And apart from (with the right accessories), filling sausages, milling grain, making muesli, chopping vegetables, mixing shakes and pressing citrus fruit, it kneads sourdough.
The flour is from Redbourn Watermill, about 15 minutes drive from Luton. It's a working watermill in a beautiful countryside setting. The mill is a museum and they sell bread and home-milled flour. An absolute treat for a Sunday afternoon excursion. Have a look at the Redbourn Watermill website for opening times and flour prices.
Inspired by Hitchin Bakehouse, I set off to get another essential bit of kit: proving baskets. I think they're German-made, from wood pulp, but I bought them in Colanders Cookshop - also in Hitchin.
Here you can see a video of how peculiarly the Assistent kneads dough.
After the first rise (I made the dough a little too wet this time)...
Dough in proving baskets. Ever watched bread rise?
And turned over, tops cut, followed by 40 minutes in the oven.