Friday, April 27, 2012

How much are we talking for a small shop space in Tokyo?

Looking around online and at the listings for 賃貸店舗/chintai tenpo/rental shops in 不動産/fudosan/real estate agent windows, you'll see shop rent in Tokyo varies wildly. You can sometimes find a space listed for just above 100,000 JPY, but it’s likely to be a cubby-hole little space far away from a station.

More reasonably, you can expect to pay rent starting at about 150-200,000 JPY for the lower end small spaces (maybe 9 tsubo/30 m2), and average rent on medium sized spaces above 20 tsubo/60m2 appears to range from 300-500,000 JPY for nothing too fancy (slightly fancier, more prominently placed and you're talking in millions of yen a month in rent). Fudosan often list the size of a space in 坪/tsubo instead of metres (here’s a converter), sometimes you’ll see the price per tsubo, to allow you to compare the relative cost of a few spaces.
150坪/500 m2 space in Shinjuku, 2.4 million yen rent

Apart from size, price will also depend on location, but also things like distance to the metro station or 商店街/shotengai/shopping street, age of the building, and the wishes of the owner. That last point is a bit unpredictable, as even in the current 'buyers (well actually renters) market' landlords may not be open to negotiation on price despite their property being vacant for a long time, because "that's the price, and it's a good one so I won't change it" as I was told upon renewing the lease on my last apartment. (I've since moved out to a nicer place and pay less, hurrah!) On the other hand, whims of the owner can also play in your favour.

When you’re looking on fudousan websites use the 店舗検索/tenpo kensaku/shop search option or section of their site to avoid seeing listings for private apartments and office space. Note that even in the shop search section of some sites, only some of the listings are suitable for use as 飲食店/inshokuten/food businesses.

Here are some fudosan sites you could try:

Taking an Azabu Juban fudousan site Furusato House as an example, you can see that spaces close to the main shopping street and main roads (top picture) are generally more expensive than something a bit further out (bottom picture). Both of these examples are a bit on the pricey side compared to less trendy areas of Tokyo.

On the main road in Azabu Juban, B1 space 1 million yen rent

Moto Azabu area 407,000 yen rent

Notice that sometimes new buildings have surprisingly low rents. In the image below there is a 4th floor 45m2 space listed right on the Azabu Juban shopping street just 4 minutes walk from the station for 325,200 JPY. An agent once explained to be careful about this, as it is often a way of filling a new building with tennants quickly and that when it comes time to renew the contract, the rent may become much higher. In this example the contract is fixed-term for 3 years, and so I'm assuming the rent won't change for the tennants for those 3 years.

Start-up money for renting a shop space or an office is considerably higher than when you’re renting an apartment. Again it’s very much case by case, but where renting your own apartment in Tokyo generally requires 2 month’s rent as deposit it isn’t unusual to see upwards of 6 months rent (賃料/chinryou) required as a deposit (保証金/hoshoukin) on a commercial space. Add to that your agent’s fee (仲介手数料 /chuukai tesuuryou), advance rent, key money, insurance, monthly management fees (管理費/kanrihi), and any gift money (礼金/reikin) etc. and you could easily be looking at needing over a year’s worth of rent in order to move in.

I would estimate then that at the very minimum, with a small shop space at a rent of around 200,000 JPY and assuming no gift money, you’d need to have at least 2-million yen before factoring in the cost of doing up the space, incorporation, supplies and all the other expenses of setting up a business. It’s also worth pointing out that owners will usually stipulate a depreciation fee (償却/shoukyaku) which is a certain percentage or number of month’s rent worth of the deposit that you will not be refunded – I’m still learning the details, but it seems to be that if applied as a percentage, then this in effect eats away gradually at the amount of returnable deposit each year, if is written as “2 months rent” then this will be the fixed amount you are guaranteed to lose from your deposit upon moving out, with any cleaning/damage fees to be added on top.

Another option you could try is to use something like or to find spaces of businesses that have closed down, that are already fitted out with much of the equipment you would need, and presumably want a quick agreement. If you visit Tokyo Business Entry Point, the gentlemen there will be able to put you in touch with a couple of real estate agents who deal specifically in this type of arangement. It could be a way to cut some of the initial cost.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baking with wild yeast in Japan

As in the UK and the US, the usual practice for most bakeries and pizza restaurants in Japan is to make dough using baker's yeast, in dry or fresh "生/nama" form:

Some of the instant and dry yeasts available at Nissin supermarket

Baker's yeast comes from a single species called saccharomyces cerevisiae, which produces a reliably standard product and does so quickly, whereas a starter made with natural wild yeast will likely contain multiple types of yeast along with beneficial bacteria, and requires longer to leaven bread. In a nutshell, the argument in favour of using natural yeast over baker's yeast is that thanks to the longer fermentation the bread produced is healthier and better tasting, with layers of flavour and character to enjoy much like a nice wine.

Though baker's yeast is the norm then, if you look carefully at labels you'll notice that quite a few international bakeries around like Paul, Maison Kayser and Andersen and some smaller artisanal Japanese bakeries such as Nemo and Levain have at least a selection of breads with 天然酵母/natural starter on the label. A chap working at Paul proudly informed me that even their 食パン/shokupan (the standard Japanese bread, which is a sweetish 1940's American style white loaf, often pre-cut into very thick spongy slices) is made with levain.

天然酵母/tennnenkoubo (natural starter) and ルヴァン/ruvan (levain/leaven) are used fairly interchangeably in Japanese, though I've seen 天然酵母 used more frequently.  天然 is "natural" and 酵母 is "leaven" which, incidentally, includes the kanji character for 'mother' (母), a common and evocative synonym for starter in many languages. If you see イースト/iisuto (yeast) on the label, then it probably includes some form of baker's yeast.

I've yet been able to buy sourdough bread itself (which I've seen written サワードゥ and サワード) in Tokyo. Some commercial breads include サワー類/sawaa rui (sour items) on the label, but will then also include baker's yeast and so most likely hasn't been made with long leaven time, and lacks the complexity of flavour. I'm sure it's out there though!

In terms of home-baking, where most English speaking communities working with natural yeast have starters that were created using flour and water, the most common way of making a starter from scratch in Japan is to use water and dried fruit, like in this video.

Raisins, apple or strawberries etc. are kept for a few days with water in a clean glass jar, sometimes mixed with a little sugar or honey, until the mixture starts to ferment. The water can then be mixed with flour and used to create a starter for making bread. Yeast is present on the skins of the fruit and in the air, and the fruit itself can add a tint to the crumb and a delicate fruity flavour. Another benefit of using this method would be that if you want to do gluten-free baking, if you can get the fermented water to leaven your gluten-free flour/rice flour etc., then your starter and bread will be completely wheat-free.

This fruit and water method does have its detractors though. It doesn't always work reliably - the yeast and bacteria that thrive on the fruit skin are different to those that thrive best on wheat, and so the idea is that starting off with flour will give you the best type of yeast suitable for leavening flour-based dough, and the best results. The method people choose to use is also probably somewhat a matter of preference and habit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Field trip! - Levain Bakery, Yoyogi Koen

series of posts from visiting interesting little (and large) cafes, food-related establishments and other places of inspiration.

I heard about Levain bakery when I was looking into bread made with wild yeast starters online in Japanese. Levain appears to be one of the earliest bakeries in Tokyo devoted to making bread with natural leaven (the shop name 'Levain' being the French for 'leaven').

The bakery uses domestic flour, and has been going since 1984. The owner Mikio Koda studied traditional European style wild yeast breadmaking from a French craftsman after a career in teaching. He has published a nice looking Japanese book on baking with wild yeast, and there were a few books on baking and things for sale at the shop. I bought a cute one written by someone who used to work at Levain.

Huge 3-layer oven

It's less than a 10 minute walk from exit 1 of Yoyogi Koen station on the Chiyoda line (or Yoyogi Hachiman station) (map). Fight your way past the roadworks that have been going on since my friends lived in this area 7 years ago, you'll feel you're heading the wrong way and then you'll the the sign on the side of a regular block of flats.

Levain takes up two spaces on the ground floor of the apartment building, and has been made to look like a rustic bakery inside and out, with brickwork, lots of wood and a mishmash of plants, little wooden chairs and old doors. Judging from photos on their tabelog page, the large door of the café space is opened in the warmer months. Looking carefully at where the brickwork effect was attached to the apartment building I wondered if the café space 'Le Chalet' was in fact a rennovated garage. They did a nice job. :)

Cafe area 'le chalet'

Be warned that the café is tiny, room for 6 comfortably? While we were there so many people came and left again having seen that they'd have to 相席 (share a table). If you do get a seat though, it's rather lovely, if busy on a Saturday. The menu is simple and showcases the bread - goma miso paste vegetable sandwiches, cheese toast, french toast, bread and honey.. and there is a drink menu with Japanese wine and beers. I can imagine that this would be a wonderful place to be when it's quiet, but it was a little cramped and hurried when we went.

Cheese toast

Sesame miso paste veg sandwich

Tuna paste appetiser

Cute menus

The shop itself was also frequently packed. There was something heartening about all the people turning up to buy their hand made bread, cycling off with paper bags of it in their bike baskets to prepare dinner for friends maybe. As was the case in Rose Bakery from my previous field trip post, there were also many staff - maybe 9 people, which probably added to the impression I had of how bustling the place was.

When you walk into the shop space, there are a few (huge!) loaves, partially cut, resting on a wooden chest of drawers in the window. You order by the gram of bread, which necessitates some masterful wielding of calculators and weighing scales at the busy till. We got a sizable chunk of this walnut bread (1.8 yen/gram, I think it was) made with Californian walnuts. They also have wholewheat breads, rye, raisin breads, breads made with rice flour instead of wheat flour, and other baked goods such as cookies and a few traybakes.

There are a few non-baked items for sale in the shop too, teas, wild rice mixes, balsamic vinegar, interesting looking honeys and sesame pastes, and I was excited to find medjool dates, perfect for sticky toffee pudding!

Medjool dates!

I loved the hands-on-bread, frank and rustic qualities of the shop, and the bread itself was superb. I also liked how it felt like a community space. If I'm in the neighbourhood again I'll definitely drop by, and if that happened to be a quiet weekday afternoon when it might not be too busy to sit with a book at the table outside, well that would be lovely.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ingredient Supplies and Ethical Knots

Looking into supplier options is turning into a fascinating chapter for me in the preparation to open a food business. I was mindful of the factors of cost, quality and ethics in choosing where to get raw ingredients, but until I really started thinking about it I hadn't realised how interesting, how important and political a choice this is.

My simple recipe cost calculator inputs cost and amount of ingredients and tells me the cost of each item per cake, and the total cost of the cake/batch/slice etc. It showed me that eggs and butter are the most costly ingredients for most recipes. It’s clear that flour will also be an important bulk ingredient for my business, and so I started looking into my sourcing options with these ingredients.


Starting with eggs, I had in mind to find a small local producer of quality free-range eggs, I like the idea that I might be able to visit some farms (hatcheries?) and see for myself and for my customers that the animals are kept humanely. Also being local, the environmental cost of transportation would be lower. Finding such a place I would hopefully form a relationship with the producer, be able to ask questions and learn more while supporting local business. Maybe also sell some of the eggs in my store. From food hygiene and safety research I'm aware that supply chain traceability is a legal responsibility of food business owners in many countries (in the EU, you are required to be able to "identify at least the businesses to and from which the food product has been supplied" General Principles and Requirements of Food Law EC 178/2002), to be able to assist with containing any food safety problems, and while not required, knowing the farmer would be the ultimate in traceability.

Wanting to learn a little more about egg production in Japan, I found this article by an American farmer describing that due to a shortage of suitable land, poultry farming in Japan is generally more densely managed than in other countries, with the average yard-room per bird 3.6 m2 compared to the 10 m2 recommended by the RSPCA in the UK (which is about 1,000 birds/hectare compared with Japan's 3,494 birds/hectare). It's interesting to note that despite the more densely populated conditions of poultry farms in Japan, prevalence of salmonella is low (this study found no salmonella in the contents of the egg and only 0.25% of the sample with traces on the shell). Salmonella outbreaks do occur in Japan - in 2000 there were more cases per 100,000 people here than in the US, but this is probably because there is more of a culture of eating raw egg in various dishes here. It's possible that additional safety measures are required in Japanese egg production so that they can be sold for raw consumption - I don't have any data on that yet however. I have read comments on regular egg cartons in the supermarket along the lines of the eggs needing to be kept chilled and used before the expiry date if they are to be used raw - quite different to the American FDA warning "Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly."

The poultry industry site states that Japan is the largest consumer of egg products in Asia, and that with demand greater than domestic supply, Japan needs to import large quantities (5,500 tones of frozen yolks in 2008). The article went on to say: "Again, Japan is the exception, as elsewhere most eggs are produced on small farms of less than a few thousand layers … it is estimated that just 6-7% of output is handled automatically."


It seems that there is a similar story of international dependency and domestic troubles with wheat and flour processing.

The Tokyo Foundation describes that 90% of flour used in Japanese udon is imported from Australia, saying that the reason Japan relies so heavily on imported wheat is down to the American surplus wheat that Japan was forced to import following World War II. The article reports on the Kagawa-based Tenno Farming Group who have been jump-starting local wheat farming by developing a domestic wheat called Sanuki no Yume.

Nissin (not to be confused with Nissin supermarket), with a 40% domestic market share is the company whose flour brand you're most likely to see in supermarkets and convenience stores in Tokyo, and has just bought the US' 12th largest flour producer Miller Milling Co., adding to its existing operations in Canada and Thailand. I'm still unclear whether wheat for Nissin flour is grown domestically or at these international locations. It's possible that it's mixed, as most Japanese wheat is classified as moderate soft wheat, producing low protein flour.

Import duties on grains were 63% (in 2001, rice was 1000%!), in Japan's Disappearing Small Farms, Japan's ambassador to the WTO is quoted as saying that he "realizes Japan's agriculture is less than efficient: other countries have natural advantages in production that could, if unrestrained by tariffs and domestic support, put Japan's farmers out of business. But the Japanese want to maintain their farms almost regardless because they cherish their own agriculture, they are prepared to pay for it." The article goes on to argue that "instead of serving to protect them, Japan's domestic agricultural supports are feeding the rich, large industrial farms at the expense of Japanese consumers and their cherished small farms."

I wanted to know more about farming subsidies in Japan. In "The Puzzle of Small Farming in Japan" Godo writes: "MAFF estimates that optimal farm size is 15 hectares or more. However, currently nearly 3/4 of farmland is operated by farmers whose farm size is less than 3 hectares. Being too small is the most critical reason for the high cost of Japanese farm products. Why, then, does inefficient small farming persist?" This was a shocking paper alleging that it persists due to the selfishness of current generations of Japanese farmers, policy makers and the broader society regarding the inefficient and non-use of farmland.

Ethical knots

So far we have the situation of shortage of agricultural land, production methods with lower yields than other countries, a declining workforce, alleged corruption and counterproductive farming subsidies, and huge domestic demand. The methods used by the type of egg farm I said I wanted to support would be less efficient still than the larger egg processing businesses discussed above. So in buying local am I helping or not? The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare site reports that "Japan can no longer support its people's diet without imported food." currently producing only about 40% of the food it produces. Would I then be perpetuating a middle class feel-good myth of the value of the small farm while ignoring the bigger picture that is Japan’s need to further reduce taxes on imports, embrace foreign influx of labor, and be able to expand their own food businesses abroad in order to import etc., in order to feed future generations? How to weigh all of that against the environmental, animal welfare and traceability issues from the top of the post?

Wow, see, it's huge! I'm clearly still at the discovery stage, working out my thoughts and tying myself in ethical knots, but the learning process is really quite interesting. I'd love to hear your thoughts especially if you've sourced produce for your own business. It's making me readdress how I feel as a consumer too. I think ultimately the decisions will need to balance the positive and negative impacts based on the knowledge I have at the time, and then evolve over time the more I learn. I haven't even got into the relative merits or lack thereof of the label "organic" :)

"Real respect for consumer choice means meeting people’s expectations about the high standards of your products and supply chains, and bringing your customers with you on the journey towards a food system where it is easy to eat a sustainable, fair and healthy diet."
- UK Food Ethics Council.

Here are some more interesting resources on food ethics:

A nicely written, simple resource on ethics for food business owners:

A good BBC radio 4 food programme podcast "Japan's Food Dilemma":

An article from the Guardian newspaper "Sustaining an Ethical Food Chain":

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sourdough journey part 4 - Japanese flours test and a few more holes

In my last post I baked my first attempt at sourdough bread after having activated some dry San Francisco sourdough culture ordered from Sourdoughs International. The result was delicious, but there are definitely things I wanted to improve and evidently a lot to learn. One of these was to address how to get larger rustic holes in the crumb structure of my loaves.

The more holey result of today's experiment

I have read a few times that working with a wetter dough will help produce bigger holes, and that folding the dough after bulk fermentation also helps to trap in some pockets before shaping. I also read this wonderfully detailed account of an experiment into the difference that a flour's protein content might make to the crumb. I had a giggle at Azelia's description in the article of the "little obsession in particular within males about making lots of holes and big holes in their sourdough."

The verdict of her post is that lower protein flours give you bigger holes. It feels counter-intuitive, as much of the talk about the role of protein in flour is around the development of gluten and how it lends strength to the loaf. But many classic old European breads are made with comparatively low protein flours and Dr. Ed Wood says explicitly that you can make great sourdough bread out of low protein flour, so I was curious to see how the very low protein (8%) Japanese supermarket flour would hold up.

Nissin flour, weaker all-purpose flour on the left, strong bread flour on the right

If you want to check the protein level of your flour, have a look at the nutrition label. In Japanese 'protein' is tanpaku-shitsu たんぱく質 (or 蛋白質) and you can see here (3rd item from the top in the pics below) that in 100g of flour the Nissin all purpose flour there is 8g of protein (8% of the total), and the bread flour is 12%. Still, 12% is on the low-end of the scale of the flours tested by Azelia's Kitchen, where the strongest was a Canadian 15% protein flour.

I used starter from the same batch for each loaf, and used the following recipe for each loaf adapted from the Ed Wood recipe for a basic white sourdough, reducing the amount of flour from the recipe to get a wetter dough to work with.

  • 240ml of starter
  • 240ml water
  • 7g salt (about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 470g flour
  • splash of olive oil to stop it sticking to the bowl in bulk fermentation.

The first difference I noticed between the flours was indeed that the low protein flour mixture was much wetter of the two. I should have taken a video of the kneading because it was so surprising! it was a bit like kneading chewing gum.. If you give up on being tidy and resign yourself to messy hands it's quite fun, it transforms into such an interesting texture, all warm and sticky/springy. A dough scraper (100 yen shop) is really handy when you want help managing the sticky dough and maneuvering it off your hands and back into the bowl. Here is how things looked after a night of bulk fermentation on the counter-top:

You can see that the 12% mix in the bigger bowl on the right has many more holes, and the extremely risen 8% protein flour mix on the left has holes, but still looks more compact, perhaps due to the wetness.

Both doughs spread out a bit during resting

I need more practice with the shaping. My favourite shaping video is from this highly skilled lady from Northwest Sourdoughs. I'm aiming for this, but it'll take a few more attempts. Here are my batards pre and post loaf proof. I proofed them for about 2 hours at room temperature. Note that this time I covered them with floured plastic wrap to avoid the dramatic crusting-over of my first attempt the other week ;) The plastic worked a treat and a light skin had formed without it becoming anything like a crust. You can see that the 8% protein flour version on the left had spread out a bit more during shaping and final loaf proof.

Here they are out of the oven. Still on the pale side for my liking, but that will be the next test (with more steam!) I'm afraid we couldn't wait for the second loaf to be done before demolishing half of the first loaf.

At first glance they appeared to have a fairly comparable oven spring, despite the lower protein loaf starting off more spread out. And there were holes, bigger than my first attempt loaf, in both of todays loaves. A wetter dough triumphed.

Looking more carefully though, you can see that the higher protein loaf on the right has a more rounded base, where the 8% loaf was a little flatter towards the bottom. I think in the end that the higher protein flour (still only 12%, though) produced the best loaf. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour of the 8% loaf and it had a better crumb than my first attempt at sourdough, using 12% flour, but in the quest for more and bigger holes, this time the 12% won.

Last weekend I tried a different kind of sourdough loaf altogether. An Italian Easter bread made with rosemary-infused olive oil (and eggs, and milk, and sugar and raisins...) called pan di ramerino. Cut with a double cross, purportedly to make it easily dividable, but my loaf was so big I doubt the pieces would break apart easily.

The taste and seasonality of the bread made me wonder if this was a precursor to the hot cross bun? Now there's another one I'm going to have to make! As you can see, the wetter enriched dough for this bread also produced a more open crumb than my first sourdough loaf. The colouring of the crust is thanks to the egg wash used just before scoring the bread.

Apart from being Easter weekend, it was also the peak hamani picnic weekend of 2012, so I wanted something special to take on the picnic. We had the rosemary bread, and a regular sourdough batard, a bakewell tart.. it was a bit competitive picnicking ;)

That cheese in the bottom righthand corner of the photo below is a cheddar made with stout, and it is wonderfully rich and tangy. You can buy it at Nissin supermarket, it's called "Porter" cheese. It got me thinking about the 'umami' taste (from the amino acid L-glutamate), and I mused that sourdough - with its complex layers of flavour and richness - might also have 'umami'. I looked into it and it does appear that thanks to the yeast's metabolic processes, the amino acid is present in sourdough - I now wonder if this means that sourdough will be a great match for tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan, meat, anchovies.. more food experiments await!

Hanami with daffodils

The next day, we tried french toast with the Italian bread and discovered that sourdough makes great french toast. The tangy acidity of the bread with the sweetness of the raisins and the syrup. It works!

Next stop, the quest for a golden brown crust on the simple white sourdough loaf.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sourdough journey part 3 - the loaves

You join me today for the third installment in my sourdough breadventure! It's a week since I activated the dry culture, and I was last writing about how after an initial spurt of activity the culture had become subdued and was wondering whether it would indeed spring back to life as I had read it should.

The idea as I understand it, is that the initial activity is likely to be caused by local yeast rather than the dormant yeast I'm trying to wake up. After a day or so the bacteria contained in the package becomes active enough to acidify the culture to a level that the intended yeast copes better with than the local yeast, and from that point on the symbiotic relationship between the yeast and bacteria in the package stabilises through repeated feedings, strengthening the culture over a period of about 5 days.

Just as promised, after the mid-week lull, the culture sprang back to life and by Friday night it was coming out over the top of the jar.


After having sorted out the spillage, Saturday morning I prepared the culture proof. I prepared 2 amounts of starter and set them up in the proofing box at about 21 degrees for the first couple of hours, and a higher temperature later on, for the best combination of leavening power and tang from the acidity. You can see in the pics below that the volume of culture increased a fair way during this time.

After about 10 hours we were ready to go. 240g of starter mixed with the rest of the ingredients.

I decided to make one very basic white sourdough with just flour, water and salt as additional ingredients, and a set of bread rolls with wholewheat flour, milk, sugar, melted butter and pumpkin seeds (at my partner's request). This is kneaded until the consistency changes from an easily tearable dough, to a satiny stretchy one.

You're supposed to test whether or not it's done by taking a pinch of dough and stretching it out between your fingers - if it gets thin enough to let light through then the gluten is developed enough, if it tears then you need to keep kneading. I've got to say, though I followed the recipe I felt that the dough was fairly dry. Depending on the humidity of the day and the flour, a given recipe can require more, or less water and so the amount stated in a recipe is a guideline. The Ed Wood recipes do seem to make quite a dry dough, next time I'll aim for a slightly wetter dough I think.

The dough was set to proof overnight, for a further 8-12 hours, in a large bowl covered by plastic wrap. I was surprised to see how much it had risen! (See the amount of dough in my hands in the picture above, and how full the bowl became on the right?) Perhaps a bit too much.. I'll have to experiment with this.

After turning out onto a lightly floured board, and resting 30 mins, the shaping begins. Here you can see the large ball of white dough that will become the boule, and the little portions of wholewheat dough being stretched and folded into the centre of each ball, then cupped with your hand and the pinched base rolled against the counter.

Here they are again, before and part way through the loaf proof. I started to be concerned by how firm the skin of the dough had become. The recipe I followed didn't mention covering the loaves while proofing, but as it's quite dry in Tokyo during the colder months I think that next time I'll either cover them in plastic or a damp cloth. You can see by the difference in colour in the pre/post photos that the loaves dried somewhat on the surface.

When it came time to score the boule the skin cracked in one place showing me that it was still wet and springy inside, and full of holes, despite the crust. I hoped that the crack would just add to the rustic quality of the loaf. :)

And here's the finished product!

For a first attempt, not too bad, maybe. I was glad that it kept a nice high shape, that it got good oven spring and was fairly 'holey', but I do think there is lots more experimenting to do.

Firstly with the hydration of the dough (more holes please!), and keeping the crust somewhat damp through the long loaf proof by covering - hopefully that would also help with the colouring of the loaf during baking, as these are a bit pale. Here's the crumb, I have to say I was surprised that it looked like bread on the inside when I'd cooled and sliced it. It had a distinctive and very pleasant tangy aroma.

Here are the little wholewheat sourdough rolls. These were wonderfully brown, and look just like the baps or 'barm cakes' we use to have back home in the UK. They remained quite moist inside after baking, with a spongey crumb and also have that wonderful tangy aroma. My partner has packed up sandwiches to take to work tomorrow - buttered, with ham and strong cheddar and a bit of mustard. Gosh these are good with cheddar.

The white sourdough boule, that was fantastic with brie. Really, a heartily recommended combination. Any lingering disappointment with the loaf being a bit pale was brushed away by the taste. If you happen to have some sparkling wine to complete the fermented-foods party, that was a fantastic match too. Go forth and make sourdough!