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Okay so for those of you who don’t know, I am doing my summer school project (The History of The Book) on an OLD cookbook. The earliest copy that I can get my hands on is 1894 – second edition.

Because I’m me, and I love food – and bread in particular – I decided to have a couple of goes at making bread. See this is what happens when I read about food! First I made a sour dough starter (just flour and water – no additives), and set it aside to ferment. Then I mixed up a yeasted no-knead white bread, which spent the night in the fridge. So it was all very hands off (for bread). This morning when I got up I took the really well risen no-knead out of the fridge and set it on the counter, to wait until about morning tea time for shaping. Then I went and checked my sour dough – oh boy! I was really excited, because I often don’t get great results with yeast, because by the time I go to use it… well let’s just say that it is 6 months past it peak, it’s not off, it just doesn’t rise well.

Unfortunately, my starter smelt rather strongly like vomit. I’ll admit, I’ve never made sour dough before at all, so I have to go entirely off of description. I will also point out that I was not using the sour dough recipe in the old cookbook (which was called yeast – because you are actually cultivating yeast when you make sour dough), for a couple of reasons: I didn’t have the book, it had to stay in the Hocken Collection; and I don’t have any hops, it’s not actually something that we grow (by we I mean my Dad – he grows 70% of our vegetables) or otherwise just have lying around – yes the recipes (there are two) call for hops and potato. So I’m left with a vomity smelling frothy glue, which had little black spots on top where it had grown a skin, which I gifted to my Dad for his compost heap.

I think where I went wrong is that while working away on my research project, I forgot that it was summer. And it has been Hot the last two days – right now it is 26 degrees C, which my dual thermometer tells me is 80 degrees F; you should also know that it is 7pm, and cooling slowly. It would have been at least 30 degrees at midday. But wait it gets worse, normally I only bake bread in winter – bread smells cheerful and warming – so I have to put it in the top of my hot water cupboard, which is exactly where I put my starter yesterday out of sheer habit.

In the mean time I baked my no-knead, and got a pretty good result. It could have done with maybe five more minutes in the oven just to really finish the crust, but it was delicious with our curried pumpkin and kumara (sweet potato) soup.

Don’t think that I have given up though. As soon as the vomity smell has finished blowing right out of the kitchen I’ll be right back in there making the same recipe, if only to prove that I put it in the wrong place for high summer. I’ll try to remember to take photos of it next time – even (and especially) if I kill it again.

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