KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — Simultaneously crusty and chewy, there’s nothing quite like a slice (or two or three...) of sourdough bread to brighten up my morning.
Traditionally, sourdough breads are made using a fermented starter full of friendly bacteria (such as lactobacilli) to make them rise.
These bacteria are also responsible for the sourdough bread’s delicious flavour — tangy, heady and complex. The lactobacilli and wild yeast produce simple sugars, and as a by-product of this process, create organic acids such as lactic acid, which gives the bread a rich flavour, and acetic acid, which gives it its sourness, hence the name sourdough.
Sourdough bread is also healthier than normal bread, especially for those with certain food intolerances. The wild yeast in the sourdough starter pre-digests the phytic acid (from the grains used to make the flour) as the bread proves, thereby neutralising the acid’s deleterious effects. The result: bread that is easier for most of us to digest.
It’s easy to get sourdough breads these days from most decent bakeries; I’ve tasted good ones from Tedboy Bakery in Bangsar, The Bread Shop in Bukit Damansara and Red Kettle in Taman Desa. Sourdough bread is good enough to eat on its own, even without butter, but sometimes we just want something fancier.
For me, the best way to enjoy a few slices of sourdough bread — as is or toasted lightly – is in an all-day breakfast. Certainly many cafés and restaurants offer this on their menus these days, labelled “Big Breakfast”, “American Breakfast”, “English Breakfast” or even a “Great British Fry Up”, but it’s much cheaper to make this at home.
All you need is some patience and planning; you may have many ingredients but this doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can be fun once you get the hang of it and, as a bonus, you get to choose exactly what you like on your plate. No more endless minutes of mulling over the menu where none of the options are a perfect mix of what you desire.
And if there are any slices of sourdough bread left, you can freeze them (no need to defrost when you next need them — they go from the freezer to the toaster nicely) or make them into a bread-and-butter pudding, if they are a bit stale.
The treats a loaf of sourdough bread can provide are only limited to your imagination.
A HOMEMADE BIG BREAKFAST
Besides using sourdough bread for the bread component, there are endless variations to other ingredients in your homemade big breakfast. Some will want their rolled-up pieces of ham; some would want a Malaysian add-on of fried luncheon meat (or spam to our American friends). Some will want their potatoes pan-fried in duck fat; others like it shredded into a fritter-like rösti.
The possibilities are endless. Choose whatever tastes good to you, strange as it may seem to another. (A thin layer of Marmite smeared on sourdough toast can be heavenly to some, repugnant to others, for example.)
Here, I’ve included some of my favourite big breakfast staples – tomatoes (oven-roasted, not raw), sliced mushrooms fried in decadent butter, bacon and pork sausages as a nod to the divine-tasting swine, as well as eggs scrambled lightly rather than overcooked the way they tend to be in many restaurants and cafés. (It is also a nice change from yet another poached egg slathered with hollandaise sauce ala eggs Benedict.)
· 1 dozen cherry tomatoes
· olive oil
· sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
· 4 slices of sourdough bread
· 6 oranges
· 1 lemon
· a bit of butter, enough to coat the saucepan
· 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
· 6 rashers of bacon
· 2 pork sausages
· 3-4 fresh eggs
· 1 tablespoon of Greek yoghurt
· 1/3 teaspoon truffle oil (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C. Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes with a paper towel. Place in a tray covered with aluminium foil and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour until soft; some of the skins will burst open to release the tomato juices.
In the meantime, slice the sourdough bread using a sharp bread knife. Set aside or lightly toast, if desired. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemon into a large jug. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large non-stick saucepan. Use medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms, moving them around the pan to ensure they brown evenly. Once they have reduced in size, push to one side of the saucepan and add the bacon and sausages. Fry until they take on some nice colour. The rendered fat from the bacon will coat the mushrooms, adding flavour. Set aside but leave any residual fat/oil in the saucepan.
Whisk the eggs with the Greek yoghurt. When the mixture is well combined, add to the saucepan, again on medium heat. Scramble the eggs quickly and remove from the fire before they are about to set. (The eggs will continue to cook on the plate.) Drizzle some truffle oil on the eggs if desired.
Divide all the ingredients equally between two plates and serve immediately with glasses of the freshly-squeezed juice on the side.
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