A good loaf

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A marvellous, plump loaf of sourdough from last week. Since I’ve been keeping two sourdough starters, I’ve been experimenting with using both, adding progressively more starter to the dough over the past couple of months. My proving basket is now too small so I used a ceramic bowl for this loaf, lined with double layer of muslin – I’ve used the muslin before so it’s nicely floured. It expanded beautifully in the oven – as you can see from the slashes. Next time I make bread, I’ll try to remember to measure how much of each starter I’ve used so I can post up a recipe – I’m still keeping to 500g flour (mix of white and wholemeal) and 58-60% hydration because with this quantity of starters, 65% hydration makes the dough too wet to handle. The final loaf was quite big – I cut it into thirds and froze two pieces. Going to have the last of it today I think.

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Back with Seville orange marmalade

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I haven’t posted anything in nearly two months! Not very good at all but I’m back now with a veritable party of marmalade jars, all freshly made this morning. Unlike last year, my first making any sort of preserve, I got better organised in advance, freeing up jars and using a mandolin to cut the peel (and a finger) as last year’s was quite thick cut. This year’s is very fine cut. Very pleased with the result even though I had to free up a few more jars last minute because there’s quite a lot of it – perhaps not all that much better organised… Ended up with 11 and a half jars (total marmalade party) of various sizes out of 1.6kg Seville oranges at a total cost of £10. If that’s not a good enough reason to make marmalade at home, I don’t know what is.

While I haven’t done much baking over the past couple of months, I’ve continued making sourdough bread using a mix of white and rye starters. Didn’t think I’d really keep two starters going but I’ve gotten used to it and I like the end product. White starter gives the loaf a good rise while the rye gives texture. I’ve been experimenting with hydration and am now happy with around 60% – I think sourdough purists would raise an eyebrow (usual amount is around 65%) but with the amount of starters I add, any more water just makes a flatbread not a loaf. I still end up with a good amount of air, here’s this weekend’s loaf – one note to self though, must sharpen knives…

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Sour 100% rye loaf

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Not bad for a first attempt! I recently got The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard and basically, all my sourdough bread baking over the past year and a half has been a child’s play compared to Dan’s recipes. Am clearly so not in Kansas anymore… I’ve read up a little on baker’s percentages before and know the basic flour/ salt/ water ratios but now there’s temperatures and all sorts of other things like white leaven to consider. This particular loaf, for example, my first from the book, was started on Thursday morning and is only ready to eat 2 days later. It’s quite close in texture but I don’t mind – I know my ingredients and the kitchen itself were colder than they should have been so I should have probably given the dough a longer prove. It tastes good (intense sour rye) and I’m particularly impressed with the crust, which has a surprising sweetness to it. And, of course, the shape of the loaf. Dan’s guide to tapering into a baton is the best one I’ve seen so far although I do need to practice this some more.

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I’m off to the nearest shop that sells kilner jars shortly so that I can get a white leaven going. So far I’ve only been doing rye leaven and I’m going to use that to start the white as well. Not sure whether having two starters is one of my best ideas but I’d like to try some more recipes from Dan so may as well have the right starter, at least for a while. I then also have to get a proper thermometer at some point. Love it how I’ve managed to accumulate a whole load of baking paraphernalia but am, at the same time, constantly complaining about the tiny size of the kitchen, telling self that I cannot possibly buy more things that are to live in the kitchen. This never actually stops me from getting more stuff. This weekend, for example, I also need to make a pudding for an early Christmas get together, a pudding that needs to be stored in a cool and dark place – only all cool and dark storage places are already taken up by vast quantities of jam I’ve made this year… Oh well, am sure a storage solution will present itself.

Sourdough new method

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Not a bad loaf! Second attempt at using Paul Hollywood’s method of making the dough, leaving it for five hours, then shaping and leaving to prove for a further 12-13 hours. This time though, I just used his timings and sourdough starter quantity and stuck to my own flour/ water/ salt ratio after last week’s mishap with adding too much water without thinking. Much better result despite the loaf leaning to one side a bit – I should have kept the proving basket level but never mind. I used 400g flour – mix of strong white, strong wholemeal and rye, 250ml water, teaspoon of salt and approximately 250g sourdough starter, possibly a little more. A good rise on the second prove and this time, the dough had a much better structure so didn’t deflate much when slashed. The slower prove allows for a ‘skin’ to develop too – it cracked a little when I slashed it, guess I should think about getting one of those ‘slashy’ baking implements. I also think the colder weather helps with a slower second prove. Not sure this method would work as well in high summer, the dough would just balloon. Here is the loaf, halved

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Looks good and smells good, haven’t tried it yet. It was baked on a hot stone in a 190C fan oven for 40 minutes as per recipe but I think I prefer blasting it at 250C first for ten minutes, then lowering the temperature to 180C. Will try that next week and also try steaming the oven to see if that improves the crust – I think the crust could be better.

While there are ways I could improve on this method, what I really like about it is that the bread was done at around 8am and not in the middle of the afternoon as with other methods I’ve been using. I’ve still got Justin Gellately’s method from St. John book to try (at least I hope it’s his method in the book!) and Dan Lepard’s from The Handmade Loaf, which I finally got the other week. I’m also thinking about doing a second starter with white flour to see if that can be used for more ‘delicate’ baking although not really sure where to keep it and whether I really want to have two starters to feed and mind.

Walnut sourdough

I’ve been making sourdough bread regularly for over a year now, using the River Cottage method that I’m very comfortable with. At the same time, I have other books with other methods – St. John’s, Paul Hollywood’s and now also Dan Lepard’s, having recently bought The Handmade Loaf. Last weekend I didn’t make any bread so this weekend, I thought it’s about time I tried a different recipe. Paul Hollywood’s one interested me as he makes up the dough with all the ingredients (and not just the sponge), gives it time to rise and then a very long time to prove. This is a two day job – all proper sourdough is, but the benefit of this method is that the final prove is overnight so it can be baked first thing in the morning and be ready for breakfast. The bread was ready early this morning but, to my great shame, I realised too late that I used way too much water in the dough and have ended up with a bit of a flatbread, not a proper loaf:

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I was a little stupid – I’d worked out the time I’d need for the bread fine but was very busy with work all morning so I started the dough late and then rushed this through. The reason I haven’t used Paul Hollywood’s method before is that he uses 500g sourdough starter for 2 loaves and that’s more than my ‘mothership’ jar can hold. I usually use around 150-200g for a loaf. So I was quite liberal with feeding sourdough over past couple of days in order to have 250g for the bread and enough left over to keep the starter going. I halved Hollywood’s recipe for Walnut sourdough (in How to Bake) and also replaced some of the white flour with wholemeal. The ingredients went into the mixing bowl, the mixer went to work and I started adding water, completely forgetting to halve the amount… It was looking a bit wet but I thought some methods just use more than 65% water so maybe it’d be fine in the end. Didn’t realise what I’d done until 5 hours later and by then it was too late to start again. As I transferred the bread onto the super-well-floured peel it held its shape fairly well but as I cut the cross pattern, the whole thing totally deflated. On the positive side, once it was out of the oven and cooled a bit, I cut it in half and am pretty pleased with the texture:

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Now I can at least imagine what it would have been like if I’d got the flour/water ratio properly. I’m thinking this method may have legs – imagining the possibilities of a long, slow prove and the resulting texture. Will definitely try again next week.

Sourdough bread

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If I’m at home on Fridays, I usually make bread dough as soon as I wake up to give it plenty of time to prove. And, I sometimes forget ingredients, being as I’d only just woken up. So, yesterday morning, up bright and early, I add the flours (white and wholemeal bread flours to 3:2 ratio), I add my sourdough starter, I add the water and the salt (I sometimes forget the salt first thing in the morning) and knead the dough in the mixer. A little while later, I’ve shaped it and left it to rise then remembered that I wanted to make a quicker, yeast aided loaf only I’d totally forgotten to add a bit of yeast… Idiot. This loaf was going to take some time… It wasn’t actually ready until around 7pm last night but at least I’ve learnt that I can make sourdough without making the sponge the night before first. Granted, it expanded more in width rather than height but it looks good and the crumb looks and feels excellent too. Haven’t cut into it yet, will soon have some for breakfast with cold butter straight from the fridge and my homemade jams.

Oatmeal sourdough loaf

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Last week’s mash up loaf of Dan Lepard’s and River Cottage recipes and methods got me thinking. I love adding rolled oats to a loaf of bread, oats give it a really lovely nutty texture, which is just very satisfying to eat. Happy bread texture, if you like. So, as I haven’t made a proper sourdough in a while, I thought I’d change my usual method a little, replacing some of the flour with rolled oats. Brilliant result, so happy with it, I think I’ll use this recipe for every sourdough loaf from now on. We had it for dinner topped with roasted butternut squash, toasted walnuts, goats cheese, chorizo and a drizzle of honey. Delicious.

Ingredients and method: sponge (night before): 75g rolled oats, 100g strong wholemeal flour, 175g strong white flour, sourdough starter (about a ladleful and a half – I tend to just pour from the jar and not measure), 360ml water. Mix these with a wooden spoon and leave, covered, overnight or, for at least 6 hours. In the morning, add 150g strong white flour, 100g strong wholemeal flour and 1 tsp salt. Mix to combine then knead for about 10 minutes by hand (until elastic) or 6 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook attached. Shape into a ball and leave, covered in an oiled bowl. After an hour, deflate, shape into a ball again and leave – this deflating/ shaping needs to be repeated hourly 3 more times. So, after four hours, deflate the dough one more time, roll up tightly, then stretch a little and blanket fold into a sort of a pillow. Gently work the folds in and shape into an oval (or a round if you prefer), gently roll in wholemeal, rye or spelt flour and leave to prove in a floured basket or a floured wooden board, covered with a plastic bag, for anything between 2 and a half to 4 hours (mine proved for 3 and a half today). Place a hot stone or a heavy baking sheet in the oven then heat to 250C or as high as you can, then slash the loaf and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 180C and bake for another 35 minutes. Beloved thought this particular loaf resembled a sankhara stone from Indiana Jones, not bad. Also love how you can see the fabric grain from my proving basket in the photo above.