Strange times, strange world. It’s 1 April 2020 and definitely not April Fools’ Day. Life is too serious for jokes. But one good thing is happening, people all over the world are enjoying cooking at home, and “from scratch”.
There is a renewed interest in baking your own bread. That’s great! Bread making is a wonderful skill, so satisfying and therapeutic. You can practise mindfulness when kneading a loaf!
But yeast is in short supply (unavailable for me currently), as would be bakers raid the stores to get supplies for making bread.
The good news is you can make brilliant bread without commercial yeast, if you embrace sourdough, the ancient and enduring method of turning flour and water into a risen loaf.
So I thought I would put my sourdough recipes into one post, or at least the links to the posts. I have been refining sourdough making over the last few years, and I am now confident, actually quite chuffed, with the bread I bake today.
I should mention that everything I’ve learnt about sourdough has been through the books of breadmaker James Morton: Brilliant Bread, Shetland:Cooking on the Edge of the World and his latest book Super Sourdough. The latter, in particular, is an excellent guide to sourdough bread making.
Another thing to mention is that to make sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter. But it’s not as daunting as it looks, and I give plenty of instructions in the posts.
Here are 3 links to my sourdough journey. All are good recipes and procedures to make sourdough. I think Sourdough, Ultimate Bread is the best. It’s the most recent, and has some good tips and tricks, particularly in proving and shaping bread.
Here are the links. If you’re in home isolation and want to make bread, give sourdough a go. You won’t regret it!
I’m in the throes of making hot cross buns today, Good Friday, 2017. My buns are at the moment in the fridge having their overnight first prove. If you’ve not done this before, a slow fridge prove creates a flavour superior to a short warm prove.
But more of these buns anon when they’re out of the oven!
Here are my three favourite hot cross buns so far in my Easter baking journey, two Jamie Oliver recipes and a Paul Hollywood recipe. I have shown photos of each, with a link to my recipes in previous posts.
Making your own hot cross buns is fun, seasonal and very very satisfying!
Friends and family were doing a lot of baking over Christmas and New Year. There were lots of lovely seasonal offerings as well as well some new innovative dishes. A great Asian inspired duck salad springs to mind from Doctor Rosemary – and will feature soon on this blog.
This blogger is very keen on any form of baking which involves yeast. Bread, brioche, Danish pastries, croissants, I love making them all. I haven’t tried making stollen yet and find the store bought version rather sweet and stodgy.
This festive season friend and colleague Ruth L made stollen for New Year’s Day 2016 and I am very pleased to present her recipe and her lovely photos.
Wikipedia says: ” Stollen is a cake like fruit bread made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel, raisins and almonds and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs, vanilla, other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the dough. The finished bread is sprinkled with icing sugar.”
Here is Ruth’s Stollen:
200g sultanas, currants
110g cherries, and citrus peel
110g dried cranberries
125ml dark rum
Combine all dried fruits, and rum in a cover bowl to soak for at least 24 hours.
To make dough, combine yeast, 1 tbsp caster sugar and milk in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles.
When ready mix flour, remaining 55 g caster sugar, spices, 200 g butter, egg and the yeast mixture until mixture just starts to come together. This should be knead into a smooth and elastic dough it could take 20 minutes by hand or 7 minutes in a machine with a dough hook. Place in a greased bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for 1½ hours or until dough doubles in size.
Knock back, stir in the soaked dried fruit(don’t add the left over rum if you think it will make the mixture to wet) as well as the orange and lemon zests into the dough. Knead until just combined. Place back in a greased bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for a further 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 2. Roll each portion out to a 30cm x 22 cm rectangle. Divide the marzipan in half and roll each piece into a 25cm log. Place each piece in the centre of each rectangle and roll up dough to enclose the marzipan.
Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until slightly risen.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, bake until loaves are golden brown approx 40 mins. From the oven brush with the 100g of melted butter and cover with icing sugar press in a handful of flaked almonds to each loaf.
Cool completely then wrap each stollen in plastic or store in an airtight container for 2 days before eating.
Mix the caster sugar, icing sugar and ground almonds together in a large bowl, then stir in the orange zest and beaten egg and mix again until the ingredients are well combined and have come together as a thick paste.
Turn out the paste onto a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, then knead until smooth. Roll the marzipan into a ball, then wrap in cling film and chill until needed.
This is an updated post about making that most marvellous of breads – sourdough. I’ve also posted the recipe as Sourdough Ultimate Bread. It’s my current go-to method for sourdough baking. 18 May 2020
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.
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.
450g strong flour
150g sourdough starter
325g tepid water
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
The recipe that follows is based on one from Gourmet Traveller and omits the soda water and uses more milk. The results were similar although I think the soda water version was a little lighter.
400 mls milk
20 gms butter, plus extra, softened, for greasing and cooking
1 tsp caster sugar
4 gms dried yeast
250 gms plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Heat milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts, then stand until lukewarm.Combine sugar and yeast in a small bowl, add 100ml milk mixture, stir to dissolve then stand in a warm place until foamy (4-5 minutes).
Combine flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add yeast mixture, stirring to incorporate a little flour.
Add remaining milk mixture, stir until smooth and combined, cover and stand in a warm place until very foamy (1-1½ hours).
Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in 25 mls warm water, add to batter, beat to combine.
Cover and stand until bubbling (25-30 minutes).
Heat a frying pan over low-medium heat. Add a little butter, then place buttered crumpet rings in the frying pan and fill each two-thirds full with batter.
Cook until mixture bubbles and small holes form on the surface (4-5 minutes).
Remove rings, turn crumpets and cook until light golden (1 minute).
Serve warm immediately or serve toasted the following day. I ate them with butter and jam and I also tried golden syrup and fresh berries and yoghurt. This quantity makes about 10 crumpets.
Making pizza on the barbecue is really easy as I discovered when I made one for the first time. I make lots of pizzas – home made is always nicest – but I was delighted with how quick and easy grilling the dough on the barbecue is!
You make a normal pizza yeast dough – then grill it for a minute each side on the bars of a very hot barbecue. Then dress the grilled pizza with your toppings of choice, place on a baking tray and heat on the barbecue on medium heat, with the hood down to simulate an oven.
Fresh, hot, grilled pizza made right in front of your friends! You could even do “make your toppings” with everyone customizing their own pizza!
2 ¼ tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water (40.5 – 46 degrees C)
2 to 2 ½ cups Tipo 00 flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 spring onions finely chopped
1 pear, sliced
2 -3 artichoke hearts, sliced
A handful of crumbled blue cheese (to taste)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in most of the flour and the salt, stirring until smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough comes away from the bowl but is still sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with lightly floured hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and soft, but a little sticky, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to bowl lightly oiled with extra virgin olive oil, turn to coat. Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 2-3 hours. Press it with your finger to see if it’s done; an indent should remain.
Remove the dough from the bowl, divide in half and shape each half into a ball. This quantity makes 2 small pizzas. Or leave as 1 ball for 1 large pizza.
Brush with more oil and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat your barbecue to very high.
Stretch and shape the ball/s of dough into a rectangle or round – or any rustic shape! Brush the top/s with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let rest for 15 minutes. Place on the grill directly on the bars, oiled side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip over and grill for 1 minute longer.
Place the pizza/s on a baking tray and apply your toppings:
Scatter over cheddar cheese, spring onions, sliced pear, sliced artichoke hearts and crumbled blue cheese.
Return to the barbecue, turn down the heat to medium, close the cover and cook until the cheese has melted and the pears are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the barbecue and drizzle with the rosé and cranberry dressing and garnish with rosemary sprigs. Cut and serve immediately.
Rosé and Cranberry Dressing
Combine ¼ glass of rosé with a splash of caramelized balsamic, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp of cranberry sauce and sea salt and black pepper to taste. You can vary these proportions to achieve the desired taste.
300 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon caster sugar
7g sachet dried yeast
175ml milk, room temperature
175ml soda water, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray
Butter, honey or jam to serve.
Sift the flour, caster sugar and yeast into a large bowl.
Stir in the milk, then add the soda water and whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 1-1/2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
Beat in the bicarb and salt.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan or the griddle plate on your barbecue until medium-hot.
Oil or spray the inside of the crumpet rings, as well as the pan or barbecue plate.
Place the rings on the cooking surface, making sure they’re evenly flat. Spoon 3-3 1/2 teaspoons of batter into each ring and gently cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the batter is set and covered with little holes.
Turn the crumpets over and cook for another 2 minutes.
The bottom should be golden brown and the top only slightly coloured. Remove the rings and serve the crumpets straight away with lashings of butter, honey or your favourite jam (mine is homemade strawberry!)