Louie is back to behaving well these days. He went through the phase of turning a bit purple, which obviously couldn’t be condoned, and then remained obstinately acetoney even after we’d got past that. I read some advice here and there, and came to the conclusion that I should
- Start throwing some of him away every time I fed him
- Start feeding him more often
- Leave him in a cooler place, not next to the radiator. I thought that maybe the heat was encouraging bad bacteria more quickly than the yeast that I wanted to cultivate. I also started using cold water for feeding, instead of warm
He’s been living on my kitchen counter since then, and I got into a routine to nurse him back to health; in the morning, before I left for work, I’d throw out all but a tablespoon, and feed with a quarter cup each of flour and water. When I got in from work, I’d throw out all but a quarter cup, and add another quarter cup each of flour and water. Before bed, I’d add another quarter cup of flour and water, without discarding any. I decided that, as with any invalid, a plain diet would be better and used only plain flour. I carried on with this routine for about a week. At the end of this time, Louie was as strong and bubbly as ever, and he smelled much better – still a little acetoney but also very much like a banana that’s ready to be made into banana loaf or thrown in the bin. I was trying to explain this to the G man, who pointed out that usually saying something smells like an old banana isn’t much of a compliment, but in this case it is meant as one. A better way to say it would be ‘fruity’, but then I wouldn’t be describing the unique aroma to the best of my ability, and we can’t have that.
Once he seemed a lot healthier, I tried feeding him buckwheat flour again. Almost immediately, he started to smell like acetone. From this I think we can conclude that Louis is allergic to buckwheat. He’s high maintenance. I’ve dialled the feeding regime down to once or twice a day, depending how busy I am, and I’m alternating between feeding him plain flour and rye flour. He was originally a rye starter, so I wanted to get back to that, and the rye flour adds a lovely nutty smell and flavour.
Once I had my starter all sorted out and healthy, I decided to re-make the rye sourdough bread that had started off my whole bread hobby. I chose to exchange some of the rye flour for buckwheat, partly for variety and partly because I was determined to use that ruddy buckwheat flour if it killed me. For this bread, you refresh your starter with some flour and water before leaving overnight, then adding the rest of the flour and water and allowing to rise before baking.
Last time I made this bread I added more flour to the final dough because I was concerned that it was too wet. This time I trusted the recipe completely. I’ve realised that bread dough takes all kind of forms, wet and dry, a tight ball or a soft bowlful, none of them are wrong, they just give different results. I spooned the dough into my tiny loaf tins and into a deep muffin try to try making bread muffins – an interesting alternative to bread rolls to go with soup, maybe?
I came up with yet another system to give the dough a warm place to rise – for my first rye loaf I’d used clingfilm tented over the loaf tin, but found that it stuck to the dough so I wanted to avoid that. Instead, I sat the tins on a tea towel near the very low radiator, covered with a food umbrella and draped with a towel.
Not much to look at, but very effective. In fact, too effective; I lifted the towel three hours later to check the progress of the bread, and it had spilled up and over the tins. I was very surprised, but looking back there are several reasons for the strong activity of the dough. Firstly, I over filled those tins, I can’t deny it. The first time I made the rye bread it rose very sedately and barely doubled, so I thought I’d be OK to fill them two thirds of the way. However, the second point is that I followed the recipe exactly this time, so the dough was softer and therefore easier for the yeast to make bubbles and push the bread upwards. Thirdly, Louie is older and possiby stronger now, despite his time of illness, so of course the bread dough rose more. Hindsight. It’s a wonderful thing.
I neatened the edges of the tins with a sharp knife and baked the bread – 10 minutes at the hotter temperature and another fifteen at the lower temperature. It didn’t rise in the oven at all, so it didn’t look as nice as the Rosemary and Olive Bread.
I let it cool in the tins before removing (with a little difficulty, as it had formed quite a tough crust that was clinging to the lip of the tins) and slicing thinly. I took it to girls night with some cheese, as an alternative to crackers, and it went down very well indeed. It was soft with an open crumb, but was still very full in flavour with the requisite sour tang as well as the hoppy taste from the rye and nuttiness from the buckwheat. Another good result for Louie!