The fact that Jane asked me to write this blog post last year, and I’m only sitting down to write in March is probably testament to the fact that I have a pretty busy life: I work long hours in the City, spend nearly 3 hours a day commuting, and my hobbies include things like walking up mountains and cycling, neither of which are quick to do. When I tell people that I bake all of my bread, the most common question is, “How do you find the time?”
Matt Probert, banker, mountain climber, baker and professional commuter tells us how...
I guess the reason for this is that most people think that baking bread takes a lot of time. Well, it’s fair to say that it does - I started on the sourdough that’s proving in my kitchen over two days ago - but most of that time doesn’t actually need any attention from me. Like most people, I started baking using recipes which said things like “leave to prove for an hour in a warm place”, but when I learned properly (inevitably on a Virtuousbread course), I picked up a couple of things which help me fit baking bread into an otherwise busy existence. So what are these?
Read on dear reader...
Firstly, when making sourdough, you can pretty much add the ingredients in any order you like, over a few days. So, while the recipe says that on day 1 you refresh your starter and on day 2 add 300g of flour and 200ml of water, you could, say, add half the flour and water on day 2 and the other half on day 3, followed by a spot of kneading. Knowing this gives you a lot of scope to be flexible on timing (oh, and the finished loaf tastes better - the longer you leave it, the sourer it gets).
Secondly, you can prove your dough slowly in the fridge. This seems totally counter intuitive if you’ve spent your life being told that dough should be proved in warm places, but it is actually true. Trust me. Once you’ve realised you can do this, you can leave your dough to prove overnight or while you’re out at work. Again, more flexibility.
So, yes, a sourdough loaf may take 2 or 3 days from start to finish, but I reckon I’ll spend about 20 or 25 minutes of actual effort. Not much is it? I’d struggle to get to Sainsbury’s and back in that time. Plus the finished product tastes wonderful, I have a sense of pride knowing I’ve made it with my own hands with just flour, water and salt, and I know that life is better when you eat good bread.
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