I was recently down in Tasmania for a bamboo fly rod makers weekend – “Cressy Cane” – at the Brumby’s Creek Lodge.
I was surprised to find there were quite a few home bakers amongst the group as well as other anglers who attended.
Two of the blokes presented me with a sourdough starter they had been using in the past. These starters were in the fridge a little too long and a bit neglected. But I was keen to try one of those starters out and see if I could make something that would impress them and the guests.
The plans of mice & men….. boy, I really screwed that up. My first effort was decidedly awful! Although it seems fly anglers – cane rod folk in particular – may have been too polite to really say what they thought about that bread. But I knew they thought it was as bad as I thought it was, since it wasn’t gulped down as it usually is. After the first taste the rest just sat there. Miscalculation, poor execution with a dodgy scale meant I should have carefully checked what I was doing but I flew on autopilot. I weighed up for the bread dough from the wrong formula column. The resultant bread was very poor – (I often point out to students that they should tick off their ingredients on the formula sheets as they weigh them to prevent just these types of things happening). The dough was far too salty and wet, so proper dough development wasn’t achieved. Nor did the dough, or the bread, have that typical floral aroma.
Too much salt has a such a strong toughening influence on gluten protein of wheat bread. That makes it next to impossible to impart the character needed to make good bread.
In the moment of the busy kitchen with copious amounts of wine, gin & tonic being enjoyed by curious onlookers, I didn’t have the presence of mind to taste and check the salt level. It was only after all the pain of a very slack dough, and awful bread was baked did I notice the excess salt as many others who commented on the unusual flavour.
It is said that “you can never make a second first impression!” So with my reputation tarnished, probably beyond repair, I decided to really take care, apply my knowledge and make some bread that would at least salvage my own pride, if not in the eyes of others, at least in my own eyes. I still had two keen students wondering if there was any hope for them given the disaster I spawned! So I started again, back to basics to rehabilitate the starter and make some bread these keen students could be happy with and even improve their bread quality as well as their starter.
After cyclic feeding the starter by applying basic sourdough parameters it was showing signs of improvement. Don & Peter were keen to see how I make sourdough bread from start to finish. So I made the sourdough, the bread dough and fermented it over 36 hours with shaping/moulding and final proof in between. It entered the oven at midnight the next day. The baking was accompanied with a few of Bill Lark’s exquisite single malt whiskey (Bill Lark, a bamboo rod maker and fly angler was also at this event). Back to the kitchen we were ready for something much better this time.
In fishing we often hear anglers say: “…..you should have been here yesterday…..” But in this case it turned out that: “….you should have been here the day after…” All those polite anglers who left the day before probably still have that poor taste in their mouths.
Anyway, here’s the result for Don & Peter before I left a few days after those generous polite anglers who couldn’t help vote with their sense of taste ….
A fantastic weekend with a great bunch of people from all walks of life made it all the more interesting. I should say the weekend was a great success in terms of cane rod makers pooling their knowledge and know how as well as casting instruction by the best casting teacher there is. But the Tasmanian bread is still a work in progress….