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  • Writer's pictureGary Mack

The Lockdown Loaves

What day is it? Can anyone tell me? I think we are all having the same issue. Well, I hope we are and it's not just me. Everyone is coping with this odd time in different ways. I personally have become more creative and focused my time to growing veg and plants from seed for the allotment, as well as brushing up on my culinary skills. Every day can be a learning day.

A few weeks ago my lovely friend Liz gave me a wonderful present - 3kg of incredible flour, a sourdough starter, salt and instructions. She bought the starter kit from Astons Bakehouse the kit can be bought for £12 you may need to contact them to see if they will post it, at the moment they are doing click and collect.

So, since that day Liz gave me Astonia (she named the starter), I have not looked back. I have been a bread machine, learning so very much. I have never had much luck with sourdough but the Astons instructions were spot on. Looking back on my loaves, they never had enough water in the mix and I used to knead the dough too long. It turns out that making sourdough is a joy and easy on muscles. It takes time but very little time actually doing.

Can you see from the video above how alive the dough is? Honestly, I would love to rest my head on this pillow of dough. A few gentle turns every few hours and then you end up with a strong, sour, wobbly ball of natural yeast and air.

The second thing I have learnt about sourdough is..... wait for the ..... the starter should smell sour and taste sour too. I'd previously thought my starter had died. Little did I know that it happened to be perfect.

Never have I ever been able to make a sourdough loaf that I have been proud of...... until now. I have a feeling it's not just about the quality starter but the incredible flour I'm using, grown for Astons Bakehouse by Helen Browning Organic supplier.

The recipe that came with the bread starter pack uses 800gm of flour. Let me tell you, that's a lot of bread for two people to get through in a week. Remember, we are only allowed to go out once a day to do our essential exercise! I thought it would be a lovely idea to share the loaf with friends and neighbours. So, two free form loaves go in the oven and three half loaves get delivered the next day.

What a joy it has been seeing friends from their garden gates while out exercising and dropping off my sourdough packages of happiness. The first delivery I did was incredible. It was almost like jumping back hundreds of years, a real local network of sharing. I dropped off bread to Liz and she in return gave us a bundle of scraps for the compost (wish I had a pig) and a bag of wild garlic. Then on to Helen's house, she was very excited about the bread. in return, she had made macarons. Mary Jane had a little naughty glass of wine (well, we brought out own glasses and stood 2 meters away). Mary Jane in an inspirational creative maker of many things - check out her blog for her latest project, Craft in Quarantine. She presented us with the original junk rainbow she has featured in her project.

I love this way of sharing and loved the fact that the sourdough kit gift from Liz not only made me very happy but many other people. The best bit is my bread will get better and better. There are going to be some fail days but to fail is to learn. To see my friends faces when we delivered their bread was priceless and filled my heart with joy.

Do remember that when sharing things you do run a risk, so make sure anything you share is clean, wipe it before giving it and wipe it when you can once you receive it. Be safe, be creative and find what makes you happy. Making people happy truly makes me happy.

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