Jay Patey is the king of sourdough bread in Tasmania. His Pigeon Whole Bakers in Hobart is known far and wide for it. After my very poor attempts at baking sourdough breads in the past, it was time to learn from the master. Over two days at the Agrarian Kitchen, we made a stoneground wheat sourdough and a variation with apple and walnuts, a sourdough ciabatta, focaccia, a purple wheat loaf, a heavy Danish rye, a spelt porridge loaf, lemon rye bread and even sourdough doughnuts. Some of it was baked in a proper wood-fired brick oven and some in a traditional oven so we could recreate it at home. At the end of day one, I plonked some ham on roughly hewn chunks of the still-warm wheat sourdough and that was dinner. Perfect.
It would take years of practice and tweaking to get close to Jay's breads, but the most important thing is, I've regained some confidence and picked up enough tips, tricks and inspiration to give it a go again. Our teachers Jay and Sharon were patient and good humoured, happy to explain and demonstrate over again and polite enough not to laugh at our novice bread shaping techniques. And I arrived home this evening with seven different loaves to eat and a spare doughnut for David. I just love eating good bread (definitely not in the anti-carb or gluten intolerable camps) but that's the thing - it has to be good, tasty, nutritious bread. Not fluffy white stuff passed off as bread. I wanted to know how to cultivate wild yeasts in a starter so that if I go away for a few weeks, neglect it, and return to a nasty-smelling dead mixture in the fridge, I can start from scratch, all over again.
The 'Secrets of Sourdough' course is held in winter at The Agrarian Kitchen in Lachlan in the Derwent Valley near Hobart. Join their mailing list to find out the dates for next year.