This week’s bread

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I accidentally ended up with a huge loaf of sourdough bread yesterday! Have recently been overtaken by a madness of keeping two sourdough starters, the rye, which I’ve had for a year and a half and the white, which I made from the rye a few weeks ago so that I could make some of the artisan breads in Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf. The two behave completely differently (fascinating!) and I used both in the loaf above to the ratio of 200g white to 100g rye. I followed Dan’s method but used my own quantities (400g strong white flour, 100g strong wholemeal, 325ml water and 1teaspoon salt). The dough bloomed beautifully due to the amount of starter I used but I had a major mishap with the water spray (it wouldn’t work) as I was about to put it in the oven and the dough flopped on the hot stone, spilling over. I had to cut a bit off the loaf in order to take it out of the oven! Still, it rose quite well, it has a great crust and the crumb is pretty good too.

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We had some for breakfast with marmalade and it’s quite clear from this photo that I can’t cut straight… I do think this particular combination of starters and flours is very good and this could be my new basic sourdough loaf. Just need to see what happens if I give it a long second prove overnight so it can be ready for breakfast.

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.

Banana, maple and walnut buns

I wasn’t going to bake yesterday, busy day with all sorts of things to do, no time for baking but I kept getting distracted by overripe bananas in my field of vision on the other side of the desk. Thought I may as well use them in something. I could have picked out a quick muffin or a banana bread recipe, only I love a bun (see here and here for bun love) and after spotting a good Banana, maple and pecan bun in Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet decided that’s what I was going to do. Probably not the best thing to bake on a busy day as they take time but they are so good, I’m very glad I did them. Full of flavour, not too sweet and perfect with a cup of tea.

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Apart from bananas, walnuts (I didn’t have enough pecans) and maple, there is cinnamon, ground ginger, cocoa, raisins, dark muscovado sugar – in short, everything you’d want on a cold and rainy autumn afternoon. This is the thing about buns, you have one, still warm and everything seems to just be better. A good bun is good for the soul.

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.

Spelt and maple oatcakes

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Not a traditional oatcake in terms of flavour but really rather good. I’m planning on experimenting with biscuits to go with cheese over the next few weeks and the first suitable recipe I spotted was in Short and Sweet, by Dan Lepard for buttermilk oatcakes, which I’ve adapted a little by replacing some of the ground oats with spelt flour for a less coarse texture and some of the sugar and yoghurt (no buttermilk within walking distance) with maple syrup. There is a hint of maple in these, they are delicate and seriously moreish. While I’m not sure how well these would go with cheese (basically, the whole batch may be gone well before dinner time), am definitely making them again as they’re much less sweet than traditional biscuits and a good tea time snack. Tea break obviously early today as I’ve been up for so long, I feel like it’s practically evening. Love gaining an hour in the autumn!

To make Spelt and maple oatcakes: preheat oven to 150C fan and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. In a bowl, stir together 150g ground oats (rolled oats pulsed in a food processor), 50g spelt flour, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 bicarbonate of soda to combine. Add 50g cold butter cut into small pieces and rub this in until the butter has disappeared. Add 1 and a half tablespoon maple syrup and 160g Greek yoghurt and combine into a paste, then take a shelled walnut sized amount and press onto baking sheet. Not to worry about spacing these – they won’t rise. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes around 26.

Clementine and oat muffins – healthier version

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I’ve made the Clementine and oat muffins from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet before so this morning, I thought I’d see if I could make a slightly healthier version by reducing the amount of sugar and replacing some of the flour with flaxseed and ground almonds. It worked!

You will need: grated zest of 3 clementines and 100ml clementine juice and bits, 75g sugar, 2 medium eggs, 75ml sunflower oil, 50g rolled oats, 25g flaxseed, 25g ground almonds, 150g flour and 2tsp baking powder

To make 8: preheat the oven to 180 C/ 160C fan, line a muffin tray with 8 cups. Put the clementine zest, sugar, oil and 2 eggs into a bowl and mix with an electric whisk for a few minutes until pale and slightly thick. Stir in the clementine juice and bits, along with the oats, flaxseed and ground almonds. Sift the baking powder and flour together, then quickly fold into the muffin mix until barely combined. Fill the muffin cases 3/4 way up – they will rise quite a bit, top with flaked almonds and bake for 25 minutes. That’s it.

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I was worried that I’d get too close a texture but they look and taste good. Next time, I might also reduce baking powder further (Dan’s recipe has 2 and a1/2 teaspoons) and also perhaps use a mix of white and spelt flour. Clementine and almond is a nice combination too.

Sour cream bloomer

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It’s wonderful to see a reaction that a simple, fresh loaf of bread can produce in people. Sour cream bloomer is a really great bread to make for people because of the beautiful rise and, if you get up early enough, it’ll be ready for breakfast (and quickly gone). It has a wonderful crusty crumb and ever so soft texture. The recipe came from Dan Lepard’s Short and sweet but it is also available via The Guardian website. I’ve made it before at home in the loaf tin. The ‘bloomer’ I made while staying with Beloved’s family in Wales and the best compliment came from a nine year old who said it tasted like cake. There was no loaf tin so I used a Victoria sponge tin instead and actually prefer the bloomer shape. Dan’s recipes are very easy to do as they don’t require much kneading so the ratio of reward for effort is very, very high.