Starter not ready, underfermented, underproved – sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do …

Sometimes it seems things become more tricky when you revert from being a small bread producer back to being strictly amateur. Could always be my age of course.

When you’re a producer you have your own developed routine which you could, probably do, follow in your sleep. Your amateur has no pressures and all the time in the world to make mistakes. Always has too much or too little, or in this case, the wrong sort of bread.

I’m fairly laid-back with my starter. In theory I refresh it every evening before I go to bed. But if I’m tired and had a drink or two and I’m not mixing in the morning I just say “sod it”. Problem is, you might think differently in the morning and then there’s nothing you can do in a hurry.

We had some nice beetroot kicking around in need of using, so I ran up a couple of beetbrot, one for us and one for giving away. My standard method is mix in the morning, 4 hours fermentation with folds, scale and shape, prove about 3½ hours, bake late afternoon – terribly unfashionable in these days of long refrigerated proving, but hard luck. So, let’s say my beetbrots are baked by 7.30ish and looking pretty handsome and I can’t be arsed to refresh my starter because why would I be mixing in the morning?

Sometime during the night a thought struggles to emerge. There’s cheese in beetbrot. First thing in the morning cheese makes my partner Sue throw up. We have a couple of mini-baguettes for the morning but Beetbrot is the only bread available for the next day’s breakfast. I didn’t refresh my starter. Therefore no bread possible for the best part of two days …

11.00 a.m. made a decision and fed my sad-looking starter. Gave it a burst of encouragement in the oven at 30C. but not for long because I don’t like doing it. 5.00 p.m., at least two hours premature, I mixed a simple Campagne dough. Fermented for 2 hours as opposed to my usual 4. Shaped and proved for 2 hours, 1½ hours less than normal. Baked at about 9.00 p.m.

That’s a lot of sins all in one day and here’s the result:

Decent rise but totally erratic crumb from microscopic bubbles to emmental size craters. And that fine local Welsh honey runs straight through the holes and between your toes. But at least we had bread for breakfast …

And did I feed my starter last night? Naaaagh

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