Last week I decided to enter a sourdough competition. I was quite excited and nervous and I thought at best I could pick up a few tips from some fellow bakers and get some feedback on my loaf. Or at worst I could poison someone with my starter.
I sort of gave the game away in the title so I won’t try to build any unnecessary suspense – I WON!! And nobody died (that I know of).
If you live in London and you love sourdough or doughnuts you’ll probably be familiar with the Bread Ahead bakery based in Borough Market. Ever since I tried one of their doughnuts I’ve been a big fan. I spend quite a lot of time at Borough Market and even late at night, after a few drinks you can see the bakers hard at work making bread for their market stall. When I saw that Bread Ahead were hosting a sourdough competition to mark the release of their new book; Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook and their fourth birthday I thought I’d chance my luck.
As I filled in the form, one of the fields asked for the name of your sourdough starter (mine is called Frenchie) and I already knew I was going to have a good day. My mum was also visiting me in London for the first time and I was so excited to show her the market (and the doughnuts).
I’m only on my 8th loaf and I still have so much to learn. I’ve only just really learnt what hydration means, and my dough often sticks to everything as I’m trying to proof it. But I thought I would treat myself to a lame and attempt a stencil pattern.
To prepare for the competition I followed the French Guy Cooking method but something had gone wrong, my dough was far too wet. Mum convinced me to try to make another loaf but I was worried I didn’t have time. I knew the wet dough wouldn’t bake well, so I decided to make a super quick sourdough loaf. My Friday and Saturday went a little like this
- 10am – Why is my dough so wet? I have digital scales, how can I misread my own notes!
- 11am – Wake up another batch of starter
- 4pm – Meet my brother and his girlfriend with mum and have far too much wine in the sunshine
- 5pm – Brother is trying to convince me to decorate the loaf with googly eyes – looks at Amazon Prime but they can’t deliver on time
- 7pm – Remember that I need to make my dough – head home to cook for family
- 8pm – Try to knead dough when tipsy results in dough on the cupboard doors and on the floor
- 12am – After dough has been proofing for 4 hours – the dough ends up in the fridge and I set my alarm for 6am to start baking
- 5am – Somehow wake up an hour early, have a very sore head!
- 7.30am – Attempt to score my loaf with my lame and try some stencil art – fail at both
- 8.30am – Get my dough out the oven, it doesn’t look pretty but it has a good rise
- 12.00pm – Competition time!!
There were about 20 or so loafs at the competition and I was so chuffed to make the top 4! Whilst I didn’t think my loaf was as pretty as some of the others, Matt really liked the taste and texture of Frenchie. When I made the final two that’s when the butterflies really set in! When they announced I won I think I cried, I can’t really remember. Mum cried a bit, and that’s when I think I welled up too.
I love baking and I’ve always found bread so challenging so this was a real moment for me! I won a place on the Bread Ahead 3 day sourdough course in January. They run about 25 courses and teach 300 people every week. Whilst YouTube is great I can’t wait to learn everything about sourdough from the experts and I’ll even learn how to make sourdough pizza.
Despite the hangover I had so much fun on Saturday. Not only had I spent the day with Mum at Borough Market, I ate doughnuts, copious amounts of sourdough, bought the new cook book and watched two demonstrations to see how the Bread Ahead bakers make Fougasse and Pitta bread.
If you haven’t tried their sourdough or doughnuts, next time you are in London or Borough market you’ll have to pay them a visit – you won’t regret it!
If you’re interested in the sourdough recipe that I use, you can find that here along with a few tricks that I’ve learnt along the way.