Twenty five years ago, when I first lived aboard a sailboat, I baked bread as we meandered down the Intracoastal Waterway on our way to Florida for a crossing over to the Bahamas. Rain or shine there was a warm spot under the dodger that was perfect for proofing dough. With dry yeast to wake up the flour, upper arm strength from hand kneading below decks and a propane oven big enough to hold a loaf pan or two, I had quite a bit of success with white and rye bread, even English muffins.
Now fast forward to 2016. A family friend gifted me a container of sour dough starter a few weeks ago. The starter ignites the flour’s inner natural yeast, giving the eventual end product a distinctive sour taste and smell. I fed the starter as directed, placed the tightly covered bubbly goo in the refrigerator, and waited the prescribed days before attempting to make bread. In the meantime, I watched Youtube videos, demonstrating easy and no fuss ways to turn it into handsome loaves.
With hopes high and an internet recipe for ‘no knead’ sourdough bread that had an array of positive comments that it ‘never fails’, I proceeded with the determination of a chemist, carefully measuring and mixing the starter with water, flour and salt and then patiently waiting while the concoction sat and rose twice before placing it into the prescribed heated enameled pot for baking covered and then uncovered. What emerged was definitely sourdough (confirmed by smell and tasting), but instead of a nicely browned rounded loaf, I had a nicely browned brick of bread, so hard that slicing it open required wielding the knife with the bread stuck on the end of it like an ax, pounding against the cutting board to crack the crust. Somehow, the dough’s inner and natural yeast didn’t awaken as promised and my inner and unnatural baker left the kitchen downtrodden.
Obviously, mistakes were made; however, I can’t blame anyone else for the poor results. Somewhere, something went wrong. I believe that I just don’t have bread karma. I will not bake bread when I live aboard again. I’ll stick to writing. It’s easier and cleaner.