White leaven bread

Tears of joy and oh so proud – it is ridiculous quite how happy a good loaf of bread can make me! I still find it somewhat unbelievable that three very simple ingredients: flour, water and salt can, with a little bit of care and work create something so marvellous as this loaf – here cut in half, look at that air!

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This is my first loaf made solely with white sourdough starter and white bread flour. It took most of yesterday but I had a lot of study so didn’t mind spending the day at home.  I used Dan Lepard’s method from The Handmade Loaf and changed the quantities of ingredients in order to get one decent sized loaf instead of 2 smallish ones. Can honestly say, having sampled a whole load of sourdough bread over the years from places like St. John, Elliott’s, Balthazar (the London outpost, which I did not like other than the bread), local bakeries and all sorts of good restaurants – this loaf is up there. So proud. Even though I didn’t slash it enough (slashed around circumference but my knife was not sharp enough).

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It rose in the oven beautifully and unlike River Cottage method, Dan recommends a lower oven temperature (200C fan instead of 250C or as high as it will go – River Cottage) and spraying the top of the loaf with water before it goes in. Next time I’ll just slash across the top. I’ll also have to figure out the timing a bit better so that it can have a longer and slower second prove overnight and I can have it ready for breakfast. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem in cold weather.

I’m still going to keep my rye ‘mother’ too, it’s been fascinating watching the white and the rye behave completely differently. The rye is just happy slowly bubbling, bubbles throughout the jar and quite a sour smell. The white, on the other hand, tends to have bubbles on the surface and I must be super careful when opening the jar to refresh – it’s almost exploded a couple of times. It also rises more over a 24 hour period. Totally fascinating.

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Spelt bread

So preoccupied with writing the final essay for a course I’m doing that I hadn’t even thought about baking bread this morning. It suddenly dawned on me as I was switching the coffee machine on that it was Saturday and, yes, I’d planned to spend the whole day writing but bread would only really take a minute. I picked the Spelt bread from River Cottage Bread book as I knew the method would pretty much be the same as the last couple of breads I made from that book and here is the finished result:IMG_0579The book suggested a longer knead (8 minutes in the mixer as opposed to 6) and I ended up with a pretty elastic dough that shaped very well. Was super happy with the shape of the final loaf even if it did deflate a tad as I plonked it onto the peel and into the oven. Must be gentler next time. Here is the cut loaf,IMG_0580This also has sourdough starter as well as yeast, so it is a more robust bread that you can spread cold butter on and the crumb is very good too. Just used some for cucumber sandwiches to have with tea, kept the crusts. Very old fashioned but not particularly planned either – fridge is so empty as I’ve been spending all my time out of work either writing this stupid essay or sleeping, that cucumbers are pretty much the only vegetables I have!

Sourdough bread

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Seems ages since I’ve made sourdough bread, it’s been over a month I think. I’ve kept the mother going, it spends 3-4 days in the fridge, then the next 3-4 days I feed it. I thought I’d ruined it this week as it went well over 24 hours without being fed and I’d run out of rye flour to feed it with so had to improvise with a mix of wholemeal and spelt. That felt a bit weird as the texture is completely different but sourdough mother is a thing of wander and seems to be able to cope with whatever I throw – or forget to do to it. So, now it’s back in the fridge, fed with rye and looking fine.

The loaf is good too, although I haven’t tried it yet, only halved it to freeze. This bread freezes very well. The texture inside felt light and airy and there’s a good crumb to it too. My new method of making a slightly wetter dough and using a mixer for kneading really seems to be working. On this occasion, I used 200g strong white, 100g of strong wholemeal flour, 380ml water and probably around a ladle and a half of starter to make the sponge on Friday night before going to bed. Now that I’ve made sourdough quite a few times, I tend to just pour starter in from the jar without measuring and I’m not even that precise with water – you just get to a point when it feels right. For beginners though, I’d suggest adding a ladleful at first and also no more than 350ml water per 500g total flour. Yesterday morning I added another 100g of each strong white and strong wholemeal flours and a teaspoon of salt. Kneaded in the mixer for 6 minutes, shaped, left for an hour then deflated, shaped and left for another hour. You do the deflating and shaping four times in total. Then deflate one more time, roll up tightly, then flatten the dough, blanket fold and shape into a round or a loaf shape, coat well in rye flour and leave to prove on a flour dusted board, covered with plastic bags for two and a half to four hours. Yesterday’s dough proved for about three and a half. To bake, the oven needs to be very hot, with a baking sheet in and an empty sandwich tin if you want to steam the oven as well. I had the oven at 245 degrees C for the first ten minutes then at 180 for the next 35 minutes. Slash the dough once you’ve transferred it onto the baking sheet and I also sprayed it with more water to help the crumb.

Shall have some shortly for breakfast with marmalade. Am seriously contemplating getting a proving basket and a pail though because as it is, the dough rises beautifully but I lose a lot of the air while transferring to the baking sheet. Problem is, where am I going to keep yet more bread making accessories…

Sourdough bread

Making sourdough bread has been a real learning experience, hence so many posts on my blog about sourdough. I’ve kept at it since last summer and have had all sorts of loaves, some with a good rise, some looking like flatbreads, some light and airy and some a bit more dense. It’s all about subtleties – air temperature, starter consistency, kneading – or not, steaming the oven. I’ve varied the method I use ever so slightly over the past 6-7 months and had a bit of a breakthrough the other week when I added more water than usual and used a mixer for kneading. I repeated this new method yesterday and got a very good rise and a lovely light texture. Here is the whole loaf:

IMG_0499I used he usual amount of flour: 500g total, 300g strong white and 200g strong wholemeal and somewhere between 360-400ml water. Didn’t even measure the water properly, poured slowly until the consistency of the sponge seemed right. Perhaps using mixer to knead is cheating a bit but it’s worth it for the result, a lovely, pillowy texture of the dough and a great final loaf. About to have some for breakfast, just with butter and then go on a loooong walk.

Chorizo corn bread

Very late breakfast this morning, a freshly made Chorizo corn bread, still hot and crumbly. Here’s the whole loaf:IMG_0498I had some chorizo that had to be used up so thought I’d adapt John Torode’s Corn and bacon bread from Olive magazine, incidentally, the first bread I ever made and one of Beloved’s favourites. I’ve made this bread several times before and it’s lovely on its own or with scrambled eggs. Chorizo version is particularly fine on its own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

130g self raising flour

120g cornmeal or polenta

1 small tin sweetcorn – around 165g drained weight

1tsp baking powder

2tsp caster sugar

240ml milk

170g butter + a little extra for the tin

1 egg, beaten

150g chorizo, cut into small slices or matchsticks

Method:

Heat the oven to 190C/ 170 fan. Butter a small loaf tin. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the cornmeal or polenta, the drained sweetcorn, the baking powder and the sugar. Mix lightly to combine. Heat the milk and butter slowly on a low heat until butter is melted. Fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes until crisp. Beat the egg lightly in a separate bowl.

Add the milk and butter and the beaten egg to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Fold through half the chorizo, pour into the tin and top with the rest of the chorizo. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin or, as I did, take out at earliest opportunity and eat while hot and crumbly.

Pitta bread to go with spicy carrot and chickpeas

Am still happily obsessed with Hugh FW’s River Cottage Veg book, despite recent additions to cookbook library (it is not quite a library but working towards that) and one of the recipes I’ve wanted to make for a while is a simple spicy carrot and chickpea dish to stuff pitta breads with. It was the combination of cumin, orange zest, hot smoked paprika and carrots that appealed. Since I was back early from work yesterday, thought I could just about make the pitta breads + the carrots before starving to death (usually by 8pm). Here they are, ‘resting’ with carrots in the background:

IMG_0496A tad too thick though, they shrunk immediately after being rolled but I didn’t particularly care as they looked so cute (was actually glued to oven door staring at them in wander). Hugh FW’s basic dough recipe is an interesting one, mixing plain and strong white flours and I think next time, I’d do strong white and wholemeal mix. Definitely making these again and the spicy carrots too.

Sourdough loaf

My sourdough starter is now around six/seven months old so think I can start calling it Mother, which is rather nice. I’ve kept feeding it regularly over holidays but didn’t use it to make bread until yesterday. Having made a few other breads over holidays using different recipes (Ottolenghi, Leith’s, Paul Hollywood and Nigel Slater), I thought I’d experiment a little with my usual sourdough method and the results are most excellent, see here – ignoring the poor photo quality, just focus on all the air:

IMG_0488I tend to use 500g flour total, usually 300g white and 200g wholemeal bread flours, 60% water (300ml) a ladleful of Mother and a teaspoon of salt. When I made the sponge with 200g white, 100g wholemeal, the Mother and the water, this struck me as way too dry and I added around 80-90ml more water – other breads I’ve made recently have all had quite a high liquid content, so I thought let’s see what happens if I just add more water to my sourdough. Over the night, the sponge had bubbled up nicely and I added the rest of the flours and the salt and decided to use the mixer as opposed to knead by hand. Several reasons for this – I did wake up late with lots to do so thought mixer would save time but at the same time, I wanted to see how much more elastic the dough would be. Six minutes later (on a fairly slow speed), it felt wonderful. It’s quite possible that my tiny amount of work space in the kitchen doesn’t really allow for proper stretching when kneading, which is why the dough is never quite as elastic when I knead by hand. Coming back to deflate and shape every hour was just fabulous and as I left it to prove and rushed off to meet a friend for lunch I was very cheery (she probably thought it a bit much to get so excited about bread). In the end, it did expand width more than height wise so I guess I really should look into getting a proving basket. Taste is most excellent and clearly lighter than all my previous attempts, am so impressed with all that air! It proved for around 3 hours before being baked at 245C for ten minutes then at 180C for further 30 in a steamed up oven.

I now also have Fergus Henderson’s Complete Nose to Tail book (woohoo!) and have had a little look at their sourdough recipe (don’t think I’ve ever had better sourdough than at various St. Johns) which contains quite a bit of water too so think this is how I’ll continue. So happy.