We’ve had a bit of an affair with sour dough at PJ taste this year. This is ever since my moment of “Damascus” in February when I visited the probable Mecca of bread baking in England – Hobbs House Bakery in Nailsworth (excuse the cocktail of religious metaphors). It’s been a rollercoaster ride – sparked by desire, moments of elation and low points when the fire has just plain gone out. In this post I am going to explain why the heck we decided to have a go and part two in a few days will have our step by step pictorial recipe guide ready. So go on play gooseberry and indulge in a little voyeurism of our affair.
So in February to Hobbs House. This small bakery and cafe has a wood fired bread oven and importantly a passionate fifth generation baker in the shape of Tom Herbet. I was made aware of him after watching an excellent programme called “In search of the Perfect Loaf” which was aired on BBC Four. His quest was to produce great sour dough, good enough to displace the Parisian sour dough then used in the best cheese toastie in the world and he achieved this with the Shepherd’s Loaf. The concept of a restaurant/stall just doing one dish but doing it to perfection also captures my imagination – this would be a good topic of discussion and I would be interested in any other examples.
My enthusiasm to have a go was inspired by a couple of other associations. Firstly the amazingRiver Cottage Bread Book which describes in simple terms great recipes for all sorts of breads including sour dough. Secondly we came across Caroline from the Side Oven Bakery in Driffield. Caroline and her husband grow organic wheat at Carr House Farm (at least her husband does – Caroline does all the other stuff like mill it and bake it). They also cultivate some interesting varieties such as Spelt wheat. The farm is brilliant and inspiring and I was keen to have a go at sour dough putting our own stamp on it by using these great Yorkshire ingredients and adding spelt wheat.
I had read that Spelt Flour being an older form of wheat originally brought to this country by the Romans has possible health benefits for sufferers of coeliacs disease. This was interesting and seemed to fit our ethos of making great tasting food which as a by product is actually good for you.
The only other ingredients required were to be water and salt so now this sour dough suitor was ready to make his move and overcome the mysteries of the “Starter”. See part 2 and discover how the courtship went. What a tease.