This week I gave birth to Bertie.
Now before you get all excited and start congratulating me, you should read on.
Verd has had a couple of dreams where I’m pregnant. This is nothing either of us want; the dream is best interpreted as a nightmare. I’m putting it down to his generalised anxiety, so rather than dreaming about his teeth falling out, like others do, he dreams I’m pregnant.
Anyway, it’s not something that will happen any more than a dog will be added to the household. We occasionally dog-sit, it is enough to remind me of the trials and tribulations of ever needy babies, and my desire for two Irish wolfhounds (or more babies) diminishes. Why two wolfhounds? I have a secret yearning to be the triple-faced goddess Hecate, with her lamp and hounds, helping folks at the crossroads of their journeys. But for now, I’ll settle for being grandma and feeling the pride of hearing a more recognisable ‘hiya’ from the other end of the phone.
I digress. Let’s return to the tale of the birth of Bertie.
By birth I don’t mean the agony of labour and a squealing pink and wrinkly being. We also give birth to great ideas, ingenuity, creativity and creation itself. So this week, my self-imposed challenge was to create a living, breathing, in-need-of feeding, non-sentient(?) organism.
Not quite what you were expecting? Bertie is spelt sourdough bread starter.
But it was too much of a mouthful to say, “I need to go feed the spelt sourdough bread starter.” In recognition that this is a thriving community of organisms you’ll probably not want to see any more than the gloopy frothing substance above, I was told I should give it a name. It became Bertie.
Bertie underwent several embryonic stages. It started as a watery mix of spelt flour and pineapple juice. It was then left to its own devices, and it picks up all the natural yeasts in the air and ferments. You feed it a couple of days later to help the process. It already smells quite yeasty. It starts to bubble up a bit like this:
A day later, you replace the juice with water and bulk up the quantity. It thickens, doubles in size and becomes, dare I say it, glutinous. When you move it, it squelches and stretches with the released gases.
It doesn’t look that appetising does it? But after 6 days, finally satisfied it was mature enough for use, Bertie contributed to a whole spelt sourdough bread.
Does this look a bit better?
Although not free-from gluten, spelt flour is low in gluten. The fermentation process also aids the digestibility of gluten.
This is the first bread I’ve created that has the chewiness of bread, hasn’t crumbled when I’ve tried to butter it and tastes… wow! I’m so proud of myself. It has a sweet, nutty flavour, not unlike rye, but without its bitterness. But the real verdict will come from Verd who ventured a slice. He loved the taste and approved. Now I’m keeping fingers crossed that he has no adverse symptoms.
I’m a sourdough convert and looking forward to me and Bertie trying out some more recipes.
If you’re interested, I recommend Breadtopia. The instructions are really clear and he does it via video tutorial, so you can see how it should look as you go along. It seemed like it would be difficult and time-consuming, but although you wait around for the organisms to do their thing, there’s surprisingly little effort. I expended most in the eating!
I followed the instructions exactly, apart from using only spelt flour from start to finish, and I used a normal loaf tin rather than a Romertopf and lowered the temperature of the oven to 200°C rather than 240. I was sure my oven would burn it in no time at that temperature, and may have, but at this temperature the crust was more chewy than crusty.