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Is your pan big enough?

Todays top tip: if your pan is too small for your dough, your loaves will not bake properly.

Once again, in this instance, size matters; the size of your pan makes a big difference to your baked loaf.
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Let me explain why I’m posting this… Recently I’ve been contacted by a few bakers who have found that their loaves aren’t baking fully all the way through, or are soft and under baked round the sides, and sometimes also the base, of their loaves. In each case, the reason this has happened is because the pan has been too small for baking the loaves. What this means is that all the wonderful work you’ve done to create your starter and then to build a lovely strong dough, is that the dough can’t spread its wonderful wings and grow sufficiently so it get stunted and stopped in its tracks and therefore underbaked. The limited space means that the steam and heat can’t circle the dough which it needs to bake it evenly; plus the dough being inhibited by being in a small space means it gets compacted so the inside doesn’t get fully baked.
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Just as the right size banneton is important, a good size pan is too.
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If you feel your loaves are not baking fully, the top 5 reasons will be…

They need to be baked for longer: try adding an extra 5-10 mins to the bake.
The dough was too wet: next time use 25g less water in your dough.
The dough was over proved: watch the time and temp you’re proving at.
The dough was under proved: give the dough more time to prove.
The pan is too small: ensure your loaf isn’t hitting the sides of the pan or the underneath of the lid.

For info: I use my standard master recipe dough with a 21-22cm diameter banneton and a 26cm diameter enamel pan. You’ll find full details on my equipment page.

There’s more help about all of these issues throughout my site and in my books.
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To answer the other question of ‘is my pan too big?’, the answer is no, a pan can never be too big. If you are asking that because your dough spreads in the pan, the issue is the dough, not the pan. Your dough should happily hold its shape when you turn it out into the pan, and not rely on the pan to hold it. I have a post fully explaining why your dough may spread here.
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Have fun!

A simple tool for judging if your dough is fully proved…

If you’ve ever asked me ‘how do I know when my dough is fully proved?’ this is for you….

If you know anything about me and my sourdough world, you will know that keeping things simple is my main driving force; sourdough can be made as simply as you choose to make it, and I work very hard to make it as simple as possible for me, and for anyone who uses my ways…

Once question I am asked a lot is ‘how do I know when my dough is fully proved?’.

The simple answer is: look for it to double in size. But I know that that’s not always as easy as it sounds.

So, the even SIMPLER answer is this: do what I do, and use a perfect sized bowl to help you judge it!

Yes. Use whatever tools you can to make life easy, and a perfectly sized bowl takes the guess work out of judging the growth of your dough completely. And that’s what these bowls do.

Let me explain….this didn’t happen by design, I just ordered some new bowls one day and along came this one. The more I used it, the more I realised how useful it was. It is PERFECT for making my master recipe, in more ways than one. When I make my standard full size dough, I look for my dough to almost fill the bowl (obviously I also want it to be sufficiently structured and well proved too); when I make my baby master doughs, I want the dough to be level with the second groove engraved in the side of the bowl. If the dough under or over proves the bowl also helps to judge that.

As I say, this has been a happy accident, I didn’t choose the bowls for this reason, but it has all fallen into place. I now own 12 of these bowls, they stack perfectly, and I use them all over and over again. You don’t need as many as me, I have so many for my courses, but I highly recommend you give them a go. Again, this is the kind of helpful, simple foodbod advice, you will find in my new book.

My lovely guys at EcoBaker are now stocking these exact bowls so that you can find them easily, I’ve added the link here. (You’ll find my book there too 😉)

🌟🌟🌟🌟 NOTE: if you are overseas please email Phil or Andy directly for shipping assistance at..

sales@ecobaker.co.uk

Simplicity, all the way.

Brand new bonus recipes…

My new cheese and chilli flake loaf

Have you discovered my new set of bonus recipes yet? I’ve created a whole new blog, to share a set of brand new recipes on the build up to the launch of my new book.

You’ll find them all here: The Sourdough Whisperer Bonus Collection.

Herby fougasse

Have fun!!!

‘Why does my dough spread?’

One of the questions I am asked the most is:

why does my dough spread?

Or, why are my loaves so flat?

Which often goes hand in hand with ‘I really struggle to score my dough’.

If that’s you, read on…

All of these issues can be easily fixed, and will be because your dough is very soft, can’t hold its shape, and therefore spreads, it will be impossible to score successfully, or even you can score it, the scores close up. Typically, this is because your dough is not firm enough.

The key reasons for this are, either:

⁃ your flour was not strong enough for the dough to hold its shape,

⁃ there was too much water in your dough for the flour you’re using,

⁃ you are not building up enough structure in your dough during the pulls and folds actions (they do make a difference),

⁃ you are not pulling your dough together tightly enough when placing it into your banneton; this video will help,

⁃ or the dough is over proving and therefore losing any structure,

Also note that if your banneton is too big for your dough your loaf will be wide and flat.

There’s answers, help and solutions for you throughout my book, posts and on my faq page.

But the key thing to know is, it’s always an easy fix… AND, as always, all that matters is how your loaves taste!

My rule of thumb is this: if your dough is soft and sticky BEFORE the overnight prove, you probably need less water in your dough; if it’s soft and sticky AFTER the overnight prove, it’s probably over proved and you need less starter in the dough from the beginning, or to move your dough to cooler spot.

On this website you will find no ads, no pop-ups, and no sponsorships. You will find only freely given recipes, information, guidance and help. If you like my site and would like to ‘buy me a cup of tea’ that would be lovely. Thank you xx

Baby master recipe pumpkin loaves…

After years of seeing other people making beautiful pumpkin shaped breads, this year I finally decided it was my turn! It’s great fun, and the baked loaves look so cool, have you tried it yet?

I’ve made them now with plain doughs and flavoured doughs, using my baby master recipe quantities, banneton size and baking times, but you could also scale them up to full size. I’ve added step by step photos below of how to create the shape, plus the details of the flavoured versions.

My butternut squash purée, pumpkin seed and dried barberry pumpkin loaf, details below

If you do join in and make one, be sure to tag me if you post your bake online…I’d love to see it!

NOTE: You will need butchers twine string, and a cinnamon stick, or a stalk from a pepper/capsicum/squash/pumpkin.

To make your pumpkin loaf: follow my master recipe process up to step 6. By this step your dough should be in your banneton and have had several hours in the fridge to prove and firm up. When you are ready to bake, cut 4 strings long enough to tie across the dough.

Lay the strings to create equal spaces over the dough.

Remove the cover from your banneton. Lay the strings evenly over the top of the banneton as above.

Place your parchment paper or pan liner over the top of the banneton and strings, and your pan over the top of both. Use both hands to turn it all over, keeping the strings in place.

As I have used a baby master sized dough, the banneton is 17-18cm diameter and 9cm deep. You can use any size pan, I used my 20cm diameter enamel pan, lined with a cake tin liner found online.

Remove the banneton and prepared to tie the strings.

Making sure you are using corresponding ends of the strings, tie each one across the dough and tie firmly on the top.

Tie in bows that you will be able to undo later.

You can now score or not, totally up to you, see the version below for a scored option, then put the lid on your pan and bake as usual.

Once baked, remove the loaf carefully from the pan, place on a rack and undo the strings. Place the loaf back into your pan and bake, covered or uncovered, for a further 5-10 minutes to ensure it is baked through.

*from being compressed I have found that the loaves can be slightly undercooked if baked for the standard amount of time only, the extra time minus the strings ensures it’s not damp inside the ‘wedges’.

Add a ‘stalk’ for a fun presentation.

My baby master dough quantities:

30g starter

210g water

300g strong white bread flour

Salt to taste.

Made as per my standard process. Baked for 40-45 mins with strings, 5-10 mins extra once removed.

The following loaves were the result of experiments with making doughs with added butternut squash purée. You could also use pumpkin purée, bought or made. I made my butternut squash purée by cutting the squash in half, roasting the halves until the flesh was completely soft. Once cooled I scraped the flesh out into a blender and blended it to a smooth paste.

NOTE: my purée was nicely thick, not at all watery. If your purée is thinner you may need less water in the dough, or to bake for longer to prevent the inside of the bread from being moist and gummy.

The dough for this loaf was made with:

30g starter

100g butternut squash purée

175g water

300g strong white bread flour

30g roasted and cooled pumpkin seeds

30g dried barberries (can be subbed with dried cranberries)

Salt to taste.

Made and baked as per my master recipe. Baked for 40-45 mins with strings, 5-10 mins extra once removed.

This was so good! The dried fruits become soft and full in the dough and add bursts of succulent joy in every bite, it’s virtually a fruit bun in each wedge, just add butter, cheese, or both!

The loaf below was made slightly differently, with less purée and added spices; next time I’d merge the two as I think the version above would be fabulous with the added spices.

In the dough:

30g starter

50g purée

20g runny honey

170g water

300g flour

30g oats

1-2 tsp mixed spices/pumpkin spice mix/apple pie spice mix/chai spice mix

Salt to taste

Made a baked as per my master recipe. Baked for 40-45 mins with strings, 5-10 mins extra once removed.

NOTE: this dough will start off sloppy, give it time for the oats to absorb some water and firm up, don’t be tempted to add more flour.

Both of the doughs made with the added purée grew to wonderfully billowy doughs overnight. The one with spices took longer to fully prove as is typical when cinnamon is added to a dough, allow it sufficient time to prove fully.

So, have you made a pumpkin loaf yet?

I’m adding my pumpkin loaves to this weeks Fiesta Friday blog party – join in the halloween fun!

Sourdough manaeesh…

Oh. Yes. Sourdough manaeesh. Heavenly 💚

Manaeesh are Middle Eastern flat breads, often found sold as wonderfully aromatic street foods, slathered in a mix of za’atar and olive oil, sometimes with added cheese, then baked.

I used some of my master recipe dough made with strong white bread flour after the overnight prove to make these.

I turned the dough out onto the counter, portioned some out, rolled it into balls then pulled it out to flat ovals.

I then placed them onto a baking tray, slathered with za’atar mixed with olive oil, and some with added cheese, and baked at 200C until ready, around 20 minutes from memory.

Note: I poured some za’atar into a small bowl and added enough olive oil to make it a little sloppy and easy enough to spoon over the dough before baking.

Eaten whilst warm and fabulous!

Absolute perfection, if I say so myself 😄😄

Za’atar is a savoury aromatic spice mix which include thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. It is often made with added oregano and marjoram too. I love it, I add it to many many of my meals, soups, salads, vegetables, eggs, all and everything.

100% spelt sourdough loaf…

Spelt flour is a beautiful flour to use and produces an amazingly tasty loaf. It is not, however, a straightforward flour to use and benefits from being baked in a loaf tin to give it support. To make this loaf, I followed my master recipe process to make the dough and the process for making sandwich loaves as in my book.

Ingredients

50g starter (I used my spelt starter, see below)

350g water

500g wholemeal spelt flour

1 tsp salt

Method

To make the dough, follow my usual master recipe process as written on my site or in my book, mixing everything up together mid/late afternoon. It may seem dry initially but it does not need extra water, go in with your hands and squeeze the mixture together, so that there is no dry flour left.

Then cover the bowl with your shower cap/cover, and leave it on the counter for 2 hours, this rest time will make it easier to stretch the dough later.

After 2 hours, do a set of stretches and folds on the dough. Wholemeal flour is oily and does not stick to the bowl which also means that when you try to stretch it, the whole dough will lift out of the bowl so I hold the dough in place with one hand, lift a portion with the other hand, pull it up and tuck it over the dough. Do this a few times round the bowl.

This will be a stiff, spongy mix.

Cover the bowl again, let it sit for 1 hour then repeat the stretches. It will only need a few actions.

Do this twice more then cover the dough again and leave it on the counter overnight.

In the morning the dough will have grown to double the size with a smoothish surface.

View of the top of the bowl
View from the side

This now needs to be pulled together to go into the tin. This video shows how I do it: https://youtu.be/DHp-TXjLGp0

The dough will be spongy and textured and will not take many pulls to bring it together.

Ready for the next prove

Once it is in the tin as per the video, cover it again, and leave it on the counter.

Let the dough prove again. Once it is level with the edge of the tin, bake.

After several hours on the counter
Ready to bake

This can be done from a cold start; place the tin with the dough in, uncovered, into the cold oven. Turn the oven up to 180C fan/200C non fan and bake for 45 mins from the time you placed it into the oven.

The loaf will not grow much more as it bakes, the growth is all in the proving, the baking merely consolidates that.

Once baked, remove from the pan, tap the base, and if it sounds hollow, remove the paper and cool on a rack for a good hour at least. If you feel it needs baking for longer, put it back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes.

Baked and fresh from the oven

These loaves tend to feel slightly moist which is normal.

To make this loaf I used a wholemeal/wholewheat starter too to make this a 100% spelt loaf…

To make your own, follow my guide for making a starter on my site or in my book, exactly as it’s written, just using wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour. Please note that you can use any type of starter made with any flour, if you want to keep the loaf fully spelt, below are some notes about making a wholemeal/wholewheat spelt flour starter.

Day 1: this will be a thick first mix

Day 2: this will still be a thick mix, but not as much as day 1. There may be a slight liquid forming on surface, this is normal

Day 3: you may see bubbles forming on surface and throughout the mixture, it will have an elastic, thick, bouncy consistency

When you feed it it will be thick, maybe already showing bubbles after mixing and stirring

Over next 24 hours, you should see bubbles appearing, the texture becoming almost spongy, and the volume starting to grow, and a strong wheaty smell developing

Days 4 & 5: the mix will be thick, elastic and textured

Day 6: you will notice a strong smell when the starter is stirred, this is normal, and typical of wholegrain flours. It should also now be textured, bubbly, and thick before feeding

And lovely and thicker after feeding. Bubbles may be appearing as soon as fed and stirred

Day 7: it should be responding to its feed and growing and becoming textured with a bubbly surface.

Note that with wholegrain flours, any show of dark liquid on the surface or around the edges is normal.

I hope you enjoy creating your own wholemeal/wholewheat spelt starter and loaf, and enjoy the fabulous flavour! For more ideas about using spelt flour, and lots more wholegrain and ancient grain flours, check out my book ‘Whole Grain Sourdough at Home’.

Sticky doughs…

Let’s talk about sticky dough…my top tips:

🌟 if your dough is soft and sticky BEFORE the overnight prove, you probably need less water in your standard dough, or it’s due to the flour/s you’re using (more below);

🌟 if your dough is soft and sticky and impossible to handle AFTER the overnight prove, it’s probably over proved and you need less starter in the dough from the start next time….🌟

Some flours will produce stickier doughs as a standard, for example, an inclusion of a portion of rye flour, malted flour or einkorn flour in your dough will make it stickier, and that’s normal, just go with it and use a bowl scraper to work with the dough if necessary. I have lots of info and tips about these flours, and more, and how they feel and handle in doughs coming in my book. The key in this instance, is not to be concerned.

The time to worry about your dough is when it’s impossible to work with, but that’s all fixable, check out the FAQ page on my site for more help. In the end, all that matters is how the dough bakes; if your loaves are fab, don’t worry about how the dough looks/feels/behaves, just keep doing what you’re doing!

Note: if your dough has over proved it may look bubbly and exuberant like the one in the photo and/or may be impossible to handle and shape, in this case, use it to make focaccia 🌟🌟🌟 method in the recipe index on my site…ps this dough was fine, it’s just a flour that likes to bubble 🤩🤩