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.

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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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.

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.