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.

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Chocolate and pecan tart

A friend with a sweet tooth was coming over to spend the afternoon watching movies yesterday, a perfect opportunity to bake something suitably rich and indulgent, something with chocolate. As I’d already had Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake book out to make sourdough, I leafed through it in search of inspiration and stopped at the description for the Chocolate and pecan tart – like a good treacle tart but more sophisticated. Beloved is a big fan of treacle tart (of anything with golden syrup really) so I thought this would do splendidly. It did:

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The recipe involved making a sweet pastry – this one has a high butter to flour ratio so it does need a long chilling time + quick rolling but it is wonderfully short. The filling I played around with a little. It includes melted butter and dark chocolate, whisked into beaten eggs; then sugar and golden syrup brought to boiling point, cooled and whisked slowly into the chocolate/ egg mix; a little vanilla extract and a whole load of chopped pecans. Despite our friend’s sweet tooth and Beloved’s love of golden syrup, I reduced the quantities a bit and increased the quantity of chocolate. I’m glad I did as the tart was still rich and sweet but not overpoweringly so. Very, very good indeed.

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.

Chocolate and walnut cake

This is really a layer cake  with chocolate, walnut, sultana and brandy filling. Recipe came from Paul Hollywood’s How to bake.

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I made it yesterday afternoon and initially thought it was a little too sweet and boozy but have changed my mind today and think it’s rather good. It doesn’t use much flour but it makes up for that with rather a lot of butter and sugar – I reduced the amount of both for the filling. Here is the photo of what’s left – looks a little like a Christmas log.

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Have to admit I’ve been rather distracted this weekend by an essay due soon so this cake was really an afterthought. A good afterthought. Got a massive sugar rush ‘sampling’ the filling while waiting for the cake to cool enough so that I could apply it. Would make it again as it took little time and effort but would also reduce the amount of sugar in the sponge too. Now back to the essay, unfortunately…