photo2The sweet smell of fresh sourdough starter and…the starkly contrasting, surprisingly unpleasant smell of an unsuccessful starter made for howls of laughter at our latest session. Almost all our trainees arrived with successful live cultures ready for baking their first attempt at sourdough. The sound of popping kilner jars lids as they were opened was accompanied by an atmosphere of anticipation. However one of our trainees who will remain unnamed (!) brought in a bowlful of rye starter that initiated the gag reflex…a bit of a surprise as we passed around everyone’s starter to learn what a good starter should smell like: fruity. Yes, if your starter smells like a dirty nappy, do start again! It was a memorable learning experience, as you can imagine. The best-smelling starter was made by a Somali trainee who makes injera at home. This is the mouth-puckeringly sour flat bread we blogged about in Week 2. It is a staple in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and also eaten in Sudan and Yemen.

The funny thing about sourdough starter is that it doesn’t like a super clean environment. We told our trainees that if they use bleach and strong cleaners, they will not be able to grow the live cultures they need, so revert to cleaning with soap and water.

photo 6Once the laughter dissipated, our trainees set about making their utterly delicious sourdough sticks, which make a perfect snack. We opted to make sticks, because you can get away with a shorter than normal proving time (1 ½ hours versus the minimum of 3 – 4 hours for loaves). Some opted for sweet sticks made with a combination of walnuts and raisins in a 50/50 blend of wholemeal and strong white flour. Others went for a combination of coriander, Red Leicester, green olives and onions. The sticks are a useful new shape to learn, and not too difficult. It was fun to see some of our trainees with a more creative streak set about transforming their sticks in savoury snakes.

Our trainees also did a repeat of making hot cross buns. They were such a hit the last time they made them, that we did a repeat. Yum!

Once the baking was complete we divvied up some baked goodies for our ladies to take home to their families and then they sold the rest at the depot, from park-goers to deliverymen. It is nice for our trainees to see their baked goods have a value. And they are happy to see donations made in exchange for their labour goes back to Just Bread to support their development

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