SOURDOUGH BAKING ‘S
waddle it like a baby,” instructs Martha de Lacey [left of picture]. I’m one of six students standing around her kitchen island pinching and pulling our sourdoughs. One mother points out that’s not actually how you swaddle a baby, but what de Lacey might not know about babycare, she makes up for in sourdough knowhow. Living in sourdough-obsessed east London, the writer and caterer was spending “a small mortgage” on the hipster favourite each weekend. The solution? Make her own. Sourdough, with its natural yeast and mildly tangy taste, is prized for its lack of additives and keeping qualities, all of which has made it a brunch staple (usually smothered with smashed avocado).
“Making sourdough is not like baking cakes or roasting meat – there’s no one ‘best’ way. Everyone has their own method, one that fits around their life and into their schedule,” says de Lacey, a reminder that this is no quick process. She is a wonderful host, and aided by her miniature schnauzer, Olive, fermentation time passes in a haze of breakfast “trash” crumpets (made from excess starter) and a lunch of sourdough pizza.
A “starter” is a simple beast consisting of flour, water and naturally occurring yeast that makes the sourdough rise. A huge “feed” of flour and water makes a levain, which, when gloriously bubbly, is ready to be transformed into a loaf.
De Lacey follows a no-knead method pioneered by chef Chad Robertson at San Francisco’s Tartine. “Stretch and fold” works the gluten and traps air bubbles. “Some people think you should be incredibly delicate with it and treat it like a baby.