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Sourdough September

Life wouldn't be the same for me if I didn't have good home baked bread. No exaggeration.

I love baking bread and eating it. Covered in too much butter of course.

Every time a loaf comes out of the oven, that crunchy, toasty crust with sweet soft crumb underneath, I'm always in awe and slightly shocked. It's like magic to me, putting water, flour, yeast and salt together, then in a matter of hours you have a heavenly loaf ready to be devoured.

Of course I've made bread for years, it's something we all do at school, remember those curly snail shell buns and plaits? So proud eating them on the bus on the way home.

Then years ago I fell in love with the Sourdough. And the obsession has grown over the years, culminating in lots of Bread cookbooks, hours whiled away researching the perfect loaf and what seem like hundreds of ways to bake the best Sourdough. It's also lead to Simone, my Starter. Having been loved and nurtured for a good few years now, I think Simone and I are beginning to crack it, producing steadily improved loaves with consistently better results.

Of course you can buy great Sourdough. We have some fab bakeries in Birmingham with mouthwatering loaves to buy, but where is the satisfaction in that?!

So with the start of a new chapter in my Birmingham life and a little more time on my hands (at last) I'm dedicating bread baking this month to the Sourdough and embracing real bread in all that Sourdough September brings.

My first port of call is a book that's been hanging out here for awhile. How To Make Sourdough by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Recommended to me by bakers in London I have to admit to glancing at it very rarely before now, convinced I can master this myself.

I've made very tasty sourdough loaves over the years, they've been demolished by friends, but mostly myself and Marc, yet I've always felt something was lacking and I never felt confident that the load would turn out just how I wanted it to.

This book is a revelation! The explanation behind the science of our Starter, the different flours to use and their properties. It's so wonderfully in-depth yet understandable for the home cook. I won't go in to it, if you're that keen, get the book(!) but it's given me a real basis for the process which I'm now steadily building on.

Two loaves in, a basic white and my first ever 100% wholemeal and I'm hooked.

Emmanuel's super clear kneading instructions are very different to my previous bakes. He suggests a simple fold method, 10 times, then a rest for 10 minutes - to be repeated 4 times. Then a rise over night. You can't go wrong. Or at least I haven't yet. You just need to plan your time right for when you want to eat the loaf as the next step is knocking back the dough, shaping and a final prove for 2 - 6 hours, what the dough has nearly doubled in volume.

So if you want a lovely loaf for Saturday morning. Start the process off Thursday night, mixing and kneading. First rest overnight through to Friday morning. Then shape and leave until Friday night for its bake! Of course if you're like me you'll need to have a fresh slice when it's cooled a little and not wait until the next day! But if you're an early riser you could start the process of Friday morning and bake very early on Saturday, but who wants to do that unless they really need to!

We've been devouring our loaves, using them for the weekday sandwiches and morning toasts, but we're running out... onto the next Sourdough bake.

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