There’s always a dilemma when making sourdough, that is, what to do with left over starter. I often add sourdough starter to baking with man-made yeast, for added rise and that extra sourdough flavour.
Making sourdough crumpets is another favourite. There are recipes that suggest only using starter, with bicarbonate of soda added of course. Having tried these recipes, I’m not a fan of the resulting intensely “sour” flavour of the crumpets.
So I have experimented with a few versions and have come up with a recipe that is now my go-to crumpet recipe. In fact it’s easier than ordinary recipes involving man-made yeast!
The quantities are simple: equal amounts of strong flour, sourdough starter and water, plus a little salt and sugar and the bicarb. No proving or waiting involved. And the result is beautiful, flavoursome, dense crumpets complete with those crumpet holes!
200g strong flour
200g sourdough starter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2-3 tablespoons butter for cooking/greasing
You will need a fairly large frying pan for the recipe plus crumpet rings. I used to use silicone egg rings until I invested in proper metal crumpet rings. The egg rings are fine, but I do like the stability of the metal rings.
Mix the flour, sourdough starter and water to a smooth paste. Add the salt and sugar and mix again. Add the bicarb. At this stage you will see some bubbles from the bicarb reaction. I get varying degrees of bubbles but I find that the crumpets still do their thing even when there are less bubbles.
Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Once the butter melts, use a pastry brush to carefully butter 4 crumpet rings. I use this method as it saves on melting butter separately. Add another tablespoon of butter, turn up the heat to medium and leave the rings in the pan to heat up.
Now it’s time to cook the crumpets. Several important things to remember. Clean the crumpet rings in between cooking and butter again, otherwise the crumpets are in danger of sticking. Fill the crumpet rings half to three quarters full. Half for a traditional size crumpet and three quarters for a whopper size. I like my crumpets thick but I’ve learned from experience that filling the rings with too much mixture means the crumpets spill over the top and quite frankly end up so thick they don’t fit in the toaster!
Cook the number of crumpets that can fit in your pan. In my case, I can cook three at a time. I’ve always got the fourth ring ready to go with more mixture. Keep on cooking until you’ve used all the mixture. I usually get 6-9 crumpets from a mixture.
Fill each ring with the required amount of mixture and leave for a good 6-10 minutes to cook. The crumpets should rise and have almost cooked through. Remove the rings with tongs and flip over. The crumpets should be brown underneath. (If you can’t remove the rings don’t worry, turn the crumpets over in the rings and then remove the rings once cooked.)
Cook for a couple of minutes on the second side until brown. Remove from the pan. I find that the crumpets don’t all cook at the same rate so I remove them at different times.
Use the remaining tablespoon of butter as necessary to butter the rings for the next rounds of crumpets and also to add a little more butter to the pan as you cook more crumpets.
A word on holes. When you cook the first side, after a few minutes you will see the trademark holes forming on the top. The holes develop and pop as the mixture dries out.
I give the holes a helping hand, by popping the emerging holes with a skewer. I think this is quite acceptable as the ultimate aim in having holes is to allow more butter to be absorbed!
The crumpets, as is traditional, need to be toasted. Don’t be tempted to eat them untoasted just because they are freshly made!
I make these crumpets whenever I have left over starter after bread making and sometimes I top up my starter just to make a batch of crumpets.
They also freeze beautifully – I always have a few packs of crumpets ready to unfreeze and then toasted.
I serve them with lots of butter and good quality honey or jam. In the photos I served them with my homemade strawberry conserve, recipe here.
If you’re a dedicated sourdough bread maker, this is the perfect recipe to use that precious starter you have worked so hard to develop and want to put to good use.
I’m a sourdough evangelist. And I will preach to anyone who will listen – to which my friends will testify!
The power of natural yeast to change flour and water into a beautiful, intense flavoured loaf of bread is a wonderful thing. I began baking sourdough bread a few years ago, but this year I have embarked on a journey to develop my skills and come up with the perfect loaf. Of course, there’s no such thing, but every loaf has its value and provides a lesson in what works and what can be improved.
I make a lot of sourdough bread, and I’ve come a long way in my journey. So I thought it would helpful to write up my current sourdough process. I hope that readers of this blog will enjoy this latest account, and perhaps will be inspired to make their first – or next – sourdough loaf.
And here I should say that I have developed my sourdough skills through reading and following the procedures, advice and hands on experiences of the baking doctor James Morton. He is the high priest of sourdough, and his latest book Super Sourdough (Hardie Grant Publishing) is an instruction manual and bakers’ bible in one.
It’s also full of commonsense and incredibly helpful advice and excellent recipes. I really recommend it.
Here is the sourdough process that is producing well risen, beautiful tasting and relatively consistent loaves for me, based on the James Morton method.
An important aspect of making sourdough is the baking component. I use the cast iron pot method, of which much has been written, particularly on the internet. The principle seems to be that baking the bread inside a pot creates steam which helps the bread to rise.
A note on a sourdough starter. I’m including a method suggested by James Morton that has worked for me. My starter is incredibly active and makes my dough rise really well. There are many methods around for starters, and I don’t claim to be enough of an expert to say definitively which ones are best.
Sourdough starter Put 100g wholemeal flour and 100g fruit juice into a glass jar and mix. Leave for about 5 days or until it develops lots of bubbles. Feed with equal amounts of flour and water, at least as much flour as is already in the jar. After the first feed, you will need to discard some starter, to maintain a reasonable size starter in the jar. The starter can be used to make bread once it consistently grows in size after being fed.
If you’re not making bread everyday, and therefore using up starter, you can store the starter in the fridge and feed once a week.
Ingredients 450g strong flour 150g sourdough starter 325g tepid water 10g salt
Mix Measure the flour into a large bowl. Add the sourdough starter and the water. Don’t add the salt just yet. Mix very roughly just enough to incorporate the ingredients.
Autolyse Cover and leave for 30 minutes so the mixture can autolyse. I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too.
Knead and Prove Add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. If you want to knead by hand, that’s fine, but I don’t, so I won’t describe here. There is plenty of information out there about ways of kneading!
If using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test if you pull and stretch a small section – it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. The advantages of this method are less work and you can leave the dough alone for the 4 hours.
The stretch and fold method is great if you don’t want to knead and if you haven’t got an electric mixer. Remove the cover from the dough. You need to wet your fingers for this method, to stop your fingers sticking to the dough. Gently grab one of the edges of the dough and fold over into the middle. Repeat, turning the bowl around so you have lifted up all of the dough and folded into the middle.The dough should start to feel stretchy. Do this stretching and folding of the dough about 4 or more times, covering the bowl again after each stretch and fold. The whole stretch and fold method should be done over 4 hours.
After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by at least 50%.
Pre-shape Now comes the interesting part of the process for, getting the dough into a shape that can then be shaped for baking. I was very nervous of pre-shaping initially, now its my favourite part of bread making!
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and quite delicate, so no rough treatment. Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.
Shape I shape my sourdough loaves to fit the 2 cast iron pots I bake in. One is round, perfect for a boule shape. The other is oval, which is fine for a batard shape.
It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping. The dough is delicate and you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.
For a round boule: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the round of dough is a clock face. Take one edge of the dough at 12 o’clock and gently pull towards you, and fold into the centre of the dough. Move the dough around to 3 o’clock and pull and fold again. Move to 6 o’clock, then 9 o’clock, pulling and folding. Do this process a few times until the dough feels tight and a little bouncy. Turn the dough over. Scoop the dough into curved hands and rock the dough backwards and forwards, until the dough feels tight and smooth.
For a batard: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Take any side of the dough and roll up like a Swiss roll. Press the seam to seal.
For either shape, carefully move the dough into a proving basket, round or batard shaped, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.
Second Prove While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.
Score and Bake For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C. Put the pot in when you begin to pre- heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes. The pot will certainly be really hot after half an hour – and perhaps this is a waste of energy – but I sometimes want to be completely sure the pot is hot, so I go the extra 10 minutes.
Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.
At this point you can score the dough using a lame or razor blade or sharp knife. For a boule, scoring with a cross is good, however, I sometimes score with 2 parallel slashes, giving the bread more of an oval shape. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough.
Pop the lid back on the pot and close the oven door. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter cooking time, and have come to the conclusion that 20 minutes gives a lighter brown loaf, softer in the middle, while 30 minutes gives a richer, browner loaf not quite as soft.
Remove the bread to a wire rack or board and leave to cool for an hour before cutting.
That’s it. I have tried to explain what works for me. There are infinite variations on the how-to of sourdough bread making. This is just one method. I can only encourage you to try this method, or any other, to discover the joys and pleasures and the huge satisfaction of turning flour and water into a magnificent loaf of bread.
I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!
My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.
These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie!
4 large potatoes, good for mashing
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter
300 mls full fat milk
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
100g white fish
150g smoked mackerel
150g hot smoked salmon
1 tablespoon plain flour
75g cheddar cheese, grated
Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.
Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.
Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.
Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked.
Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.
There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.
To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.
Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.
Serve with a green salad and chunky sourdough, or just on its own. I had some beautiful young garlic from a spring harvest market, so I roasted those with the pie. Really delicious!
I’ll bake anything that involves flour. If it’s yeast based, all the better. And baking with your very own sourdough starter is the ultimate in satisfaction.
So I sometimes forget those lovely bakes that just involve self raising flour or plain flour and baking powder. They can be just as satisfying as yeast baking and are a lot quicker.
I recently acquired Shetland: Baking on the Edge of the World, by James Morton and his father Tom Morton. James is my favourite bread baker and I’ve been cooking his recipes since he first rose to prominence on The Great British Bake-off in 2012.
I was fascinated by his discussion of bannocks, both girdle cooked and oven baked. I’ve made both, but opted for the latter as they were easier to manage and produced a lighter product. I have served them up to friends who seemed to think they were scones… I kind of agree, although this might be an heretical thing to say!
Here’s James’ recipe for oven bannocks as I have made them. I’ve included the original quantities, which makes 16. I have actually made a half quantity each time I’ve produced them. This gives me at least 8 decent sized bannocks, more than enough for a morning or afternoon tea.
550g self-raising flour, plus extra for shaping 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda ½ teaspoon table salt 25g caster sugar 50g butter salted or unsalted (I prefer salted) 280ml buttermilk 150ml natural yoghurt 150ml full fat milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Very lightly sprinkle them with flour.
Into a large bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Mix these roughly together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles floury breadcrumbs.
Add the buttermilk, yoghurt and milk and mix together, then add to the flour using a wooden spoon, doing this quickly so as not to over mix. The mixture will be lumpy and quite wet and will need flour to handle it.
To make the bannocks, heavily flour a work surface, and scrape all the mixture out on top. Add more flour, and pat down the pile of mixture with your hands, into a rough square, about 2cm or ¾ inch thick.
Use a round cutter to cut out bannocks, or cut into rough squares with a knife, and then place the bannocks onto the prepared trays.
Bake the bannocks for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden all over. You will need to watch them carefully, as there is a point at which they are golden and cooked, but still soft in the middle, and ready to come out of the oven.
Remove from the oven, and leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of butter or cream, and a good jam or conserve.
I love quick and easy cakes and desserts and this one certainly is. My rustic apple galette is easy to prepare and looks pretty, in a rustic kind of way!
This version was helped by using a mixture of apples I picked up at The Loch in Berrima, in the beautiful Southern Highlands. The Loch grows and sells wonderful produce and has a great restaurant too. The apples were spectacular. Some of them even had pink flesh, as you can see from the photos. I wish I knew what the variety was. I’ll ask next time I’m there.
The galette is also enhanced by baking some lemon thyme sprigs with the apples and scattering some crystallised lemon thyme sprigs over the finished galette.
This galette would work with any kind of short crust pastry. My version is based on the sour cream pastry of the wonderful cook Maggie Beer. I sometimes substitute Greek yoghurt for sour cream, as I did this time. However, I find this creates a softer, more delicate pastry. It’s consequently a little harder to handle. Up to you what kind of pastry you use. Good store-bought short crust is fine too!
3 red apples, whatever you fancy. Crisp apples like Pink Lady are excellent Lemon juice 1 free-range egg yolk, beaten, for glazing Several sprigs of lemon thyme 2 tablespoons caster sugar 1 free-range egg white, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cut the butter into cubes and pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Spoon in the sour cream or yoghurt and continue to pulse in bursts until the mixture comes together into a ball.
Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Core and slice the apples thinly, and place the slices into the lemon juice to stop them going brown.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between two pieces of baking paper so that it is about 2cm thick, rolling into a rough circle. Remove the top layer of baking paper and carefully transfer the pastry to your lined baking tray, by turning the pastry over and removing the bottom sheet.
Shape the round to neaten it if needed, and turn the outer edge up about 2cm in to make the sides of the galette.
Drain the apples slices and place in any artistic way you like on the tart.
Brush the 2cm edge of the galette with as much of the beaten egg as you need. Scatter some of the thyme sprigs over the galette and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar.
Place the galette in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The galette should be golden brown around the edges.
Once out of the oven, leave to cool. To make the crystallised thyme sprigs, dip some more thyme sprigs in the beaten egg white, then dip in the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar. Leave to dry on a piece of baking paper.
Serve with the thyme sprigs scattered over, and as is, or with plenty of thick cream!
Breakfast. The best meal of the day as far as I’m concerned. Whether eating out or making it at home, breakfast is a joyous occasion, each and every day. So I do tend to go out for breakfast…a lot.
I have some advice: if you want to remain anonymous, don’t post your latest drool worthy restaurant dishes on Facebook or Instagram, as you are giving your friends – and stalkers – a GPS map of your daily movements! Certainly my nearest and dearest are able to track me down via my breakfast posts. Kind of doing away for the need for any personal contact… it’s a weird world we live in.
So I visit Melbourne fairly frequently, mostly to see theatre, as reviews soon to be published on this blog will attest, but I also go there to eat. Fitzroy, Carlton, Brunswick, all great destinations for the curious diner.
Back to breakfast. As a regular visitor to Melbourne I do admit to being unfaithful to my home city of Sydney on the important matter of breakfast.
Melbourne cafes just do it better than Sydney. That is my belief. With one notable exception – a charming and hipster-esque cafe, located on a quiet suburban street in Marrickville, doing the very best breakfasts in Sydney.
You could be in Fitzroy. The urban terrain is similar. The quaintly named TwoChaps has all the right credentials to be a breakfast icon – officially vegetarian but caters for vegans, uses sustainable and ethically sourced produce, artistically designed and Insta worthy dishes, and saving the very best to last – they make everything in house! Slow proved sourdough loaves, rustic and full of deep flavour, flaky croissants with artful toppings (think torched meringue) and oh so sinful donuts! Yummy, really chocolatey house made notella – not to be confused with that commercial choc hazelnut spread – plus jams, preserves, honey and pickles. All artfully displayed as you enter the space, and then there are those donuts!
Timing is a consideration to visiting Two Chaps. Saturdays and Sundays are buzzing, and a 20 minute wait is the norm, but worth it, and also rather fun, standing or sitting on the pavement where the vibe is cheerful and coffee can be ordered while you wait. But weekdays there’s usually no wait, though the cafe is always lively. So it’s up to you whether you want the to join the #Marrickville-on-Sunday-morning #justoutofbed #Ineedmycoffeefix crowd, or enjoy a leisurely weekday breakfast sans millennials but with a few yummy mummys and maybe a mamil or two. Up to you, I like either vibe!
As a baker of all things yeasty I often go for the crumpets, always on the menu. I am in awe of their sourdough crumpets, which are light as a feather, and fabulous in either their savoury or sweet incarnations. I have eaten them lots in both forms.
Here are “Sourdough crumpets, spicy green tahini, deep fried cauliflower, harissa oil, pistachio and pink peppercorn dukkah + poached egg”, and a sweet offering “Chocolate sourdough crumpets with buttermilk ricotta, rhubarb jam, beetroot poached pear and candied pecans”:
Even with my sweet tooth I don’t always have to have a sweet fix, and to prove it, here is a tasty savoury concoction: “Hash browns, sautéed medley of beans and rainbow chard, poached eggs and green goddess sauce”.
I’m saving the (current) best to last! Just last week – Friday 12 April – I was in breakfast heaven, had reached Nirvana, and whatever other purple prose I can get away with to describe the experience…
Visiting on a whim with one of my breakfast partners in crime – Quirky Sister the Elder – we both ordered something that rightly should have been dessert, but hey, I can do all kinds of sweetness and claim it as a nutritious experience!
We had “Passionfruit curd brioche, Kristen Allen’s labneh, torched Italian meringue, banana, house made notella, hazelnuts”. Here it is, smashed into, already half eaten. Completely and utterly delicious.