Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Recipe: Herman Starter Dough

My office love to bake.  But in December, knowing that post-Christmas we'd all have mountains of leftover food, cakes and chocolate, we agreed that January would be a cake-free month.  Our office wasn't to be used for the family leftovers. We'd leave them at home, and the cupboard in the centre of the office that's normally over-flowing with unhealthy treats would be instead filled with fruit.

That didn't last long...

The thing is, we heard about Herman.

One of our colleagues told us that at her last job her boss turned up one morning and left a strange yeasty smelling pot on her desk... (no puns please).  It turned out that the goo was dough and that her boss wanted her to make a cake out of it.  It sounded such a strange thing to do, to pass on cake-mix friendship-letter like, but at the same time it sparked our imagination... And so a date was set for the Inter-Office-Herman-Challenge.

Essentially Herman is a starter dough which can be included in lots of recipes - it's yeast based, so it "grows" if you look after it properly, which means you should end up with enough mix to make cake for yourself and to also pass on some to friends who can either get baking, or to grow more Herman.

I agreed to get the chain started.  I'm currently on day five of 10, carefully nurturing Herman so that he matures enough to split up and dish out to my colleagues.  So far, so good.  I've not killed him (he stops bubbling when he dies poor thing)- in fact, he's been growing so fast that I've had to invest in another mixing bowl to contain is girth!

I don't know what Herman will eventually turn into - that's up to my individual colleagues to decide, but if you'd like to start your own Herman this is what you will need:

1 packet of active dried yeast
2 tbsp lukewarm water
240ml warm milk
150gm plain flour
225gm caster sugar.

  1. Dissolve yeast in water for 10 minutes and stir.
  2. Place flour, sugar and yeast into a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Slowly add milk and stir until combined - you'll be left with a strange thin custard-like mix.  Cover this with a clean teatowel and leave somewhere warm - it doesn't need to be anywhere too special, the dining room table works, or the kitchen side.
  4. For the next 3 days stir well once a day.
  5. On the forth day, add one cup each of flour, caster sugar and milk and cover again.
I am currently on day 5, and I think Herman really enjoyed the meal I gave him yesterday as when I went to stir again today he looked like this:

The best bubble-reaction so far!  A little bit like AngelDelight I thought, but it certainly won't get mistaken for a pudding... by now the yeast is having a real feast and it smells really strongly!  If you visit your Herman for his daily stir and his surface isn't covered with bubbles its an indication that your yeast has died and that you need to start all over again from scratch.

Assuming that your yeast remains fine and dandy keep stirring once a day until day 9, when you again add 1 cup each of flour, caster sugar and milk, and then on day 10 you can finally split the mix into four and give away a section to three friends for them to either grow their own Herman from, or to bake with.

It's really strange how attached I've got to this strange bowl of goo sitting on my worktop over the past few days.  But I really feel like I'm caring for it, feeding it when it's hungry and offering it a new home when it out grows its current one...  In a way I am not sure how I feel about splitting up Herman and chucking him in the oven.  I'm sure I'll get over it though.  I'm already on the hunt for a good Chelsea Bun recipe.  I can't think of a better way to treat Herman, than to transform him into a bun!

Have you tried Herman before?  What did you make?

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