Everyone meet Neil, Neil meet everyone! That sounds a little crazy I know but yes we have named our sourdough starter Neil. Mainly because we kept referring to him as the baby so we had to give him a name of course (I sound crazy, I know.) In February our friend Nic came to visit Dave and I in Ucluelet and brought us some of his sourdough starter, per my request. I had his bread numerous times when we were all living in the same house in Victoria and loved it and wanted to make our own. It was definitely a learning curve and still is come to think of it.
Dave took over the bread department of our baking duties, he was able to really get the sourdough to work and I was sort of afraid of it you could say (like I am of pastry.) We started with the straightforward plain sourdough loaves once a week and then we decided to start getting fancy. Working with different flavours and ingredients was fun so we didn’t have the same loaf every week. My favourite was cinnamon and raisin, which we did here in these photos. I have always loved cinnamon and raisin bread since I was a kid. We also made cranberry and walnut and a few savoury flavours. All equally delicious as the last. I really want to try using the starter to make other baked goods, other then bread, so stay tuned to see what I come up with!
While we were living in Ucluelet (the quiet and easy life,) we had a lot more time to dedicate to Neil, the sourdough starter. I think our best loaves were made while living up there, especially because the starter became accustom to the temperature and humidity of Ucluelet. When we moved back to Victoria at the end of July, our sourdough was not very happy. It was a very hot summer so I guess it took it awhile to get used to the different weather here. For about a month we had really BAD bread, I think I made one of the worst loaves where it came out like crackers, I am not joking! Neil is still very particular and I thought I was getting used to baking it and then made some disaster loaves. Dave took over again last weekend after doing some research and we had the best loaf we have had in awhile, so fingers crossed it keeps going that way!
The recipe is very simple, however, you need a starter for it to work! We feed the starter (Neil) every time we want to make a loaf, once a week usually. You feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. After you let it sit and eat for a day you can use it to mix your dough. Take 1/2 cup starter and add it to 5 cups flour and 2 cups water and some salt, then you mix! We use a KitchenAid dough mixer, but a bread maker works too. After it is all mixed we let it sit for a few hours, usually around 4 and let it rise. Next we shape it and leave it in bread baskets to rise again (usually for another 4-8 hours.) Finally we flip them onto a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees (or 400 for 15 minutes then turn it down to 350.) There are so many different ways of making sourdough, you really just have to get it right and see how it goes. Some weeks it will be perfect and get eaten in two days and sometimes you have to chuck it in the compost and hope the next loaf goes better next week! I don’t eat a lot of bread but when we have sourdough at home I love having it with butter and honey, now I’ve made myself hungry just thinking about it!