When life is a bit chaotic, baking bread can help. Feed the starter, watch it develop bubbles and the right smell; set the dough, and fold it now and then, and bake it when it suits your schedule. Familiar rituals, which are also soothing. I might have to leave Rome later this year for work reasons, and I find myself alternating between severe apprehension and resigned stoicism when thinking about it. Then I resort to compiling mental lists at 3 AM of hierarchies of kitchen gear: what would absolutely have to be in luggage (sourdough starter, good knives, parmesan), what might go in a limited set of moving boxes (coffee grinder, moka, baking gear), and what we could certainly live without (ramekins, cocktail glasses, fondue set). And just how much parmesan and pecorino would one need to pack? Hard to tell when possible new destination is not yet known. Silly, I know, but it calms me. The move might not happen at all, but just contemplating the possibility is making it clear to me that I am really not quite ready to leave Rome yet, despite a number of years here. I have been very fortunate.
Rome is especially nice now in the spring, so I will just take a deep breath, try not to worry too much over what I cannot control, enjoy the spring and see what happens. Baking bread can be done almost anywhere, I tell myself. Here is a normal sourdough loaf with buckwheat flour bought in Northern Italy, in Varese. The speckled flour gives a nice chewiness and flavour to the bread, I will try that again.
Sourdough loaf with buckwheat flour
100 grammes mature sourdough starter, 100% hydration
400 grammes lukewarm water
450 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
70 grammes buckwheat flour
5 grammes salt
Stir the sourdough starter with the water. Add the flours and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt. Fold dough with a spatula. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it. This was quite wet.
Cover the bowl and let rise for about a couple hours at room temperature. Go for coffee and enjoy a nice spring day first. I just discovered a new lemon tree up the road.
For baking same day: move the dough to a floured banneton and cover it with plastic (a hotel shower cap works well), and let it rise three hours at room temperature. I cheat, and line the banneton with baking paper, less pretty markings but easier to lift over to the pot. Our kitchen is already 20C, so this rose quickly.
When ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot (or after at least 20 minutes), take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 250C for thirty minutes with the lid on, then 10-15 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.
Happy Easter to all!