Sourdough Sunday

This week I’ve been experimenting with – and eating – sourdough. I am happy to report back that it is DELICIOUS! It all started with the sourdough starter that my sister gave me back in May. Presenting me with a plastic tub of sloppy, bubbly, light brown batter I was slightly bemused however when she said it was “Herman” all was revealed.

The results of today's baking session: Herman the German friendship cake (sourdough) and bread rolls for Portobello mushroom and mozzarella burgers!

But because not everyone know who Herman is, I will explain. Herman’s full name is “Herman the German friendship cake” – essentially a delicious fruitcake made using a sourdough starter. Your starter is basically a fermented mixture of flour and water, or in the case of Herman, flour, milk and sugar.

When presented with your pot of goo (as these things are generally given to you, although you can make your own starter) chuck the whole thing in a bowl, give it a stir then cover it with a tea towel. Leave overnight then the next day follow the instructions below for your schedule of stirring and feeding Herman. In ten days time you can bake your cake! (Now that’s what I call Slow Food!)

These instructions are taken from the Herman the German Friendship cake website. I’ve followed them for both the Herman’s I have made and will add my findings underneath.

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Day 1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
Day 2: Stir well
Day 3: Stir well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
Day 5: Stir well
Day 6: Stir well
Day 7: Stir well
Day 8: Stir well
Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.
Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:

1 cup of sugar (8oz or 225g)
2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)
half tsp (teaspoon) salt
2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil (5.3oz or 160ml)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cooking apples cut into chunks
1 cup raisins (7oz or 200g)
2 heaped tsp cinnamon
2 heaped tsp baking powder

Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 170‐180C*. You may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make you’re your Herman is done in the middle.

When cold cut into finger pieces. The cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or ice‐cream.

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* I’ve found that my Herman has taken much longer to cook than the times stated above – up to an hour and a half recently, two hours the first time. Just remember to keep the top covered after the initial cooking time is up so it doesn’t burn.

My second observation is that on the website linked to above it has a big, scary and completely UNTRUE warning about killing Herman by putting it in the fridge. You CAN put your Herman starter in the fridge, the bubbling will slow down and/or stop but Herman is not dead, he is just sleeping. Bring him back out into the warm, add some food (flour, sugar and water/milk) and off you go again. The same for freezing your Herman, just pop him in some tubs, freeze until needed then take out and defrost. Remember to warn any visitors who may be rummaging in your freezer that pots marked Herman are actually sourdough starters and not the last visitor who rummaged uninvited in the freezer. Or don’t warn them, depending on how you get your kicks.

My second experiment this week was using some of my leftover Herman starter to make sourdough bread. It worked! The starter made a GIANT loaf of bread and despite initially undercooking it I was able to put it back in my Le Creuset and cook it until done. I found a great tip for using a digital thermometer for checking the doneness (is that a word?) of bread – once it hits 190 degrees Farenheit it’s cooked. Simples!

Today I have baked a giant sourdough loaf!

I followed the tutorial on this instructable although I’m thinking of doing it again using a fresh starter and these instructions.

I have been, to use a term from my childhood, a very Happy Eater this week!

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