The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - FOOD DRINK -

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.

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