You can make bread that’s best in world
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Baker James Morton says two of his great loves – sourdough and beer brewing – are both microbiological wonders.
“They’re both very scientific, very measured. And they’re both ways of achieving taste nirvana,” he said.
And they’re the subject of his two new cookery guides, From Scratch: Sourdough and From Scratch: Brew.
The former Great British Bake Off contestant, who lives in Glasgow, has been making sourdough since his late-teens, and has been pleased to see the lockdown-friendly bread, in particular, get “the recognition it deserves”. His other bread books actually sold out as a result of the pandemic rush – but as a doctor, there have been lows during this past year, as well as the bread-based highs.
“We’ve all had a few crises, a few wobbles,” says Morton, who also become a father during the pandemic. But, he adds: “I’ve got a feeling we’re getting there. I’m feeling really, really positive.”
So why do you think sourdough became so popular during lockdown?
“It’s a labour of love, there’s this story of creating something from literally just flour and water, bringing it to life, sharing it with other people, sharing it online – which has become a really important part of it. And the fact it’s just awesome. You can make bread as good as the best bread in the world, in the comfort of your own home.”
Is there a secret to producing perfect sourdough?
“Sourdough is just a mixture of flour, water and salt, but there’s all this biochemical madness going on in order for you to get this loaf of bread, and the most important part of that is the starter. It’s just flour and water that you leave to go off, it starts to bubble, it’s full of yeast and bacteria, and if you neglect it, let it just fizzle out and fade over time without feeding it, or taking proper care of it, it will just not produce good bread.”
What mistakes do people always make? “People say, ‘My loaf has just fallen apart into this wet pancake’. But almost always, even if you think your problem is completely unrelated, it’s down to the starter; your starter isn’t active enough. You just need to feed it more and feed it better.”
He was drawn to brewing beer as a student. He described the first taste of his first proper homebrew – an oatmeal stout – as awesome.
From Scratch: Sourdough and From Scratch: Brew by James Morton are published by Quadrille, priced £12 each.