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Simple Sourdough Revisited

I’m revisiting a post I wrote a while back when I was first getting into bread. Bread is my favourite thing to bake and I’m fascinated by the whole idea of yeast and its amazing ability to make humble dough turn into a beautifully risen loaf. This post details my first experiments with sourdough. I’ve updated the text and the photos of the bread are new too.

My guide on the sourdough journey – and there’s more to come on this front – is James Morton, the Baker/Doctor who came to prominence in the 2012 series of The Great British Bakeoff. He has a pretty common sense approach to bread making and following his recipes has worked well for me.

This recipe for sourdough bread and sourdough starter comes from James’ first book Brilliant Bread. Everything you wanted to know about bread making, and more! Lots of sound recipes and helpful advice too.

Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.

Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….

Sourdough Starter

Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.

1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).

2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.

3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.

5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.

6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter  using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.

7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.

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Some basic points:

Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.

Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.

Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).

At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed  – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.

Simple Sourdough

This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.

Ingredients

400g Strong White Flour

10g Salt

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf.  I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.

Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket.  Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.

When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. Score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15  minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.

Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.

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Ciabatta James Morton Style

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Ciabatta is that lovely bread distinguished by all those holes! It’s light and flavoursome, keeps well and is also amazing toasted or made into bruschetta. In need of  a reliable recipe, I consulted James Morton in his great book Brilliant Bread for how to make this bread.

I was making ciabatta for the first time this week. I had friends over for dinner to celebrate the arrival of a shearers’ table which has been sojourning in the Southern Highlands for too long. I had hot-smoked a side of salmon and wanted some nice bread to serve it with. I ended up serving it with dill pickles, creme fraiche, focaccia and the ciabatta loaves. Here’s a photo of the hot-smoked salmon. For the recipe on how to hot smoke, check the recipe from my post on hot-smoking.

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Ciabatta can be tricky to make as the dough is very wet and hard to handle, so be prepared for this. James suggests using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, which makes the kneading easier.

I discovered that James has a simpler recipe online. It looks good, and I am keen try his “pared down” version.  See James’ simple ciabatta here.

But here is the recipe from James’ book Brilliant Bread that I have made successfully.

Ingredients

300g strong white flour
100g plain flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
200g sourdough starter
350g tepid water
Semolina, for dusting

Method

Into the bowl of your electric mixer (I used my KitchenAid), rub the flours, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt on separate sides of the bowl.  Add the starter and water and form into a extremely wet dough.

I followed James’ instructions for the electric mixer, here, although you could knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. Beat the dough with the paddle attachment of the mixer until it comes away from the sides and easily passes the windowpane test.

Cover your bowl with cling film (I use a shower cap) and leave to prove. This can be 2 hour room temperature prove or leave for 10-12 hours in the fridge. The dough should have at least doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, fold the dough in half so both the top and bottom are both floured. Move it around a little to make sure the bottom is totally coated, and add more flour to the top. Flatten very gently into a  rough rectangle, then cut into 4 strips, being very careful not to deflate the dough and lose those bubbles which will be your holes!

Gently transfer each strip onto a heavily floured tea towel. As you move them, stretch them out until they are long and “slipper-like”. The loaves don’t need to be exact they are after all rustic loaves. Leave to prove on the tea towel for about 1 hour, or until wobbly and noticeably increased in size.

About 40 minutes before you bake, preheat your baking surface in the oven set at  240 degrees C or 220 degrees C fan forced.

Turn the ciabattas (be very gentle) on to a board dusted with semolina, so what was the bottom is now the top – this helps to redistribute the bubbles for a better crumb. Slide the loaves on to the hot baking surface and throw 1/4 cup of water on to the sides of the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (I think I could have baked my loaves a little longer – they were not brown enough).

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Christmas Brioche

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I am still cooking from James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread. James is the most common sense baker around and his recipes really work. This time, I tried his Super-Fast Brioche and it was pretty fast. From mixing to eating in half a day.

I tweaked the recipe a bit and made a lovely Christmas version with sour cherries and cranberries. And as the dough is a bit tricky to use as it’s really sticky, I put the first prove in the fridge to make the dough firm up and make it easier to handle. You can also make a normal brioche loaf without the fruit and spices.

The texture was incredibly light and airy, somewhere between cake and bread. Which make sense of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat brioche” – not cake as the popular saying goes – Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“. And I used my wonderful sourdough starter, going strong after 6 months! I cannot recommend highly enough using sourdough starter in bread recipes where instant yeast is also used.

Here is James’ recipe, with my tweaks:

Ingredients

100g white sourdough starter (1-2 days after feeding) see here for how to make a sourdough starter

170g plain flour 30g strong white flour

One 7g sachet instant yeast

40g caster sugar ( I used 40g, double the sugar that James has in his recipe for a slightly sweeter brioche)

3 free-range eggs

5g salt

125g butter, softened and cubed

A handful of sour cherries

A handful of dried cranberries

I/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 more free-range egg, for glazing at the end

Method

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C,  200 degrees C fan-forced and very heavily grease (with butter) and line a loaf tin.

Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat together all dough ingredients except the butter.  (I used my KitchenAid with the dough hook.) Keep beating very vigorously – probably around 5-10 minutes – and you can see the dough become more elastic and stringy. If you are very competent with dough handling, you can attempt some stretches and folds. Beat in the butter until fully incorporated and the dough is totally smooth, another 5 minutes. You will notice the dough change – it will become firmer. Using hands or a dough scraper, fold the dough over into the middle of your bowl, tightening it.

Cover and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Using your hands or a dough scraper again, fold the sides of the dough into the middle, working your way all around the bowl several times. You will see the dough tightening – you want to help it hold its shape at the end.

Cover and prove the dough for at least 2 hours in the fridge.  Remove from the fridge and get ready to shape.  The dough should have firmed up enough to shape it into a   loaf to go into the tin, for a regular brioche, or roll it and fill with fruit and spices and then shape for a Christmas version.

For regular brioche, fold the dough into a loaf shape and put into the buttered tin. Be careful with handling – it’s still a fragile dough, even after being in the fridge.

For Christmas brioche, put your chilled proved dough onto a floured board and gently stretch to a rectangle. Don’t go too thin – just stretch the dough large enough to be able to fold it over a couple of times with the filling. Scatter the cherries and cranberries and spices onto the dough then fold over 1/3 from the top, and then fold the dough over onto the remaining 1/3 of the dough. Carefully transfer to the very well buttered tin.

Prove for a final 1 hour. The dough should be light and fragile, but springy on top when prodded. Eggwash the top of the loaf, and turn the oven down to 200 degrees C, 180 degrees C fan-forced, and bake for 40 minutes until dark brown on top.

When cooked, cool in the tin for for a few minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. It should be OK, but you may need to ease the brioche out of the tin, as this dough can sometimes stick. Fingers crossed!

Let cool completely before eating. I served my brioche plain with butter, and with Christmas jam* and natural yoghurt.IMG_9358

When the brioche was a couple of days old, I toasted it and served it with vanilla butter (unsalted butter whipped with icing sugar and vanilla paste) and Christmas jam*.

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*Christmas jam is made with fresh or frozen cherries and cranberries, and sugar and water as in normal jam recipes.

 

 

Very Seedy Home-Baked Bread

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This is the kind of loaf you can knock up in a few hours. Yes there is proving time, and baking time of course, but you can decide to bake bread one afternoon and have it done for dinner that evening. Of course the recipe is based on one from the wonderful baker James Morton. He has revolutionized the way I approach bread making and enriched and laminated doughs.

He is the new god of baking and his first book Brilliant Bread is my bible: http://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-Bread-James-Morton/dp/0091955602

This recipe is almost but not quite no-knead. I made the recipe using white flour and heaps of seeds and a few pecans. A bit odd, not using wholemeal flour, I know, but I kind of like this combination. You could of course use wholemeal flour, or 300g wholemeal and 200g white, which James uses in his original recipe. See here for the original.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

A good handful of mixed seeds. I don’t measure, I put in as many or as little as I feel like of sesame, poppy, linseed, chia and pepita seeds. Nuts are good too. I threw in a few pecans

10g salt

7g sachet dried instant yeast

350g water

Some sourdough starter, about 100g (optional). If you don’t have a starter on hand, the recipe still works well.

Method

Rub dry ingredients together, keeping salt and yeast separate. Add water and starter, then use your dough scraper to combine into a loose dough. Once combined, use your scraper to pull the dough from the edge of the bowl into the middle.  You should then work your way around the bowl several times, about 15-20 scrapes.

Rest the dough, covered, for 30 minutes.  Repeat the action with the scraper, knocking the air out of the dough and returning it to its original size as you do so.

Rest the dough for a further 30 minutes, then repeat scraping action one last time.

Rest the dough a final 40-50 minutes, then shape and place on a floured board or baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C.

Prove until done (springs back when poked), about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Flour any baking tin you like; a loaf tin or even a square cake tin as I used this time. Carefully transfer the proved loaf to the tin.

Score the loaf and place the tin in the oven, turning the oven down to 210 degrees C.  Place another shallow baking tin with cold water in it at the very bottom of the oven to create steam (This gives your bread a lovely crust.)

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaf is really brown and done.

Great with any spread, I love cumquat jam on this bread. https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/09/15/jams-marmalades-and-conserves-2013/

PS I forgot to flour my tin, and the bread stuck in places, hence the photos show where I had to cut the bread to get it out of the tin… There’s a lesson in there somewhere!

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Basic White Bread

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I am still singing the praises of James Morton, whose no-nonsense approach to bread making really works! This is another recipe from his book Brilliant Bread:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brilliant-Bread-James-Morton/dp/0091955602/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373838093&sr=8-1&keywords=brilliant+bread

If you want a really easy white loaf, this is it! It’s a basic flour, water, yeast and salt mix. Because I have a fabulous sourdough starter, I add a dollop of that in the mix as well. It adds flavour and aids in longevity, too. However the loaf works just as well with just yeast.

Here is James’ recipe, with a couple of comments from me.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

10g table salt

7g  fast-action dried yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

350g tepid water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour. Rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side, as the salt can stop the yeast working.

Add sourdough starter (if using) and the tepid water, and mix together to form a coherent dough (use your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel or clingfilm (I use a large clear plastic bag), and rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until it has noticeably increased in size.

Wet the fingertips of one hand and slide between the bowl and dough. Fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl 90°; repeat until you have removed all of the air and it’s noticeably smooth. Cover and rest for an hour, or until at least doubled in size.

Scrape the dough on to a floured surface, flour your hands and shape into a ball.

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Place the dough on a heavily floured surface like a chopping board or baking tray, loosely cover and leave it for a final hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed. James recommends using a proving basket – my loaf was made without one – but I have just acquired one and am keen to test it out!

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before you want to bake.

Transfer the loaf carefully to a lightly floured baking tray, (turn out of the proving basket and gently shape if using one). I put my proved dough into a lightly floured cake tin for baking – worked a treat!

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Give your bread a few shallow slashes with a serrated knife and place onto a low to middle shelf in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a deep golden brown – don’t be scared to let it get a good dark crust. If your oven is at all uneven, turn the loaf so that the loaf bakes evenly.

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Simple Sourdough

I love bread. It’s one of my favourite foods. Plenty of other people have written about bread, so I’m not bothering with an essay on the subject of bread here.

Because I love to eat it, I have to make it, which I have been doing for a long time. Simple white loaves, multi grain bread, rolls, focaccia, and of late, a lot of pizzas.

I have always wanted to master sourdough, that amazing bread that comes from flour and water, where you create your very own yeast. Getting a sourdough starter going is one thing, getting the starter to rise decent bread is another. Up until now, I’ve had some really disappointing loaves.

But then I found that excellent baker of all things yeasty James Morton. James was a finalist in the Great British Bakeoff  2012 series. A Scotsman with a taste for fair isle vests, he impressed me with his traditional recipes and no-nonsense approach to baking.

So – I bought James’ first book Brilliant Bread and I have not looked back. A great, all round common sense book on bread making, and the source of the illusive recipes for a successful sourdough starter and sourdough loaf made with the starter.

Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.

Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….

Sourdough Starter

Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.

1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).

2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.

3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.

5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.

6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter  using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.

7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.

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Some basic points:

Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.

Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.

Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).

At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed  – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.

Simple Sourdough

This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.

Ingredients

400g Strong White Flour

10g Salt

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf.  I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.

Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket.  Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat your a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.

When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. and score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15  minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.

Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.

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