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A course review…

My personal introduction to baking Sourdough bread – Knowledgeable, Enthusiastic and Great Fun.

I’ve been a lover of sourdough bread for a while now but the demise of local bakers restricted me to supermarkets. I’ve tried them all with Waitrose being by far the best. But is it real sourdough? I cook a lot at home and bake bread from tv recipes. But none of them really seem to deliver real sourdough bread. So what’s the answer? A sourdough baking course, of course. Hmmmmm.

Encouraged by my wife who had spotted Elaine on social media, I decided to take the plunge so I booked and went along to Elaine’s course feeling, strange for a retired man, very nervous. Possibly remembering many of the interminably boring management courses I have been forced to attend over the years.

The course was a good half day’s introduction to baking sourdough bread. The great thing is that it was hands on or should that be hands in! Elaine turned out to be a great enthusiastic and patient teacher, putting me at my ease and explaining at a level of detail that was just right for me.  The constant supply of tea and sourdough goodies all adds to the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching, the baking and the chat. Informality was the key to the day and I went home with some superb self cooked sourdough bread and cheese scones plus course notes to help at home. Boring it was not.

Elaine clearly explains the methods and the equipment you will need to be a successful home baker. Watching and learning and doing it yourself and learning is key. Since the course, I’ve made my own starter and two loaves and things are looking good. I’ve encountered one or two problems or should that be memory lapses since the course but Elaine has been superb with her help, guidance and sympathy.

If you love sourdough and want to cook your own, I couldn’t recommend Elaine’s course more highly. Get motivated and try something refreshingly different.

Brian.

Seeded sourdough…

Welcome to my seeded sourdough 🙂

This loaf is full of seeds as well as being coated with seeds, and it tastes as good as it looks!

I followed my master recipe on my main site (link in the left hand side menu) and folded toasted pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds into the dough in the second set of pulls and folds. You can find videos of the process on my YouTube channel.

Shots from my video

The bowl below was the dough after its overnight prove, you can all of the bubbles in the dough plus the seeds…

I filled the dough with toasted seeds, but coated the outside with raw seeds so that they toasted as the loaf baked.

The dough ready in the banneton

It was a beautiful loaf to look at, and to eat!!

Have fun and add seeds if your choice 🙂

Spelt and white loaf…

Anyone who knows me from Instagram or my foodbod blog will know that I love grains. I literally love quinoa, spelt, kamut, bulgur wheat, any grain, on its own by the spoonful, or with endless accompaniments…

A recent dish including quinoa

Some of these grains also translate into lovely flours; I’m not a fan of quinoa flour, I find it bitter, but spelt flour and kamut flour are both lovely. They have a lovely nutty flavour to them. They do not translate into strong flours however, they need to be handled with care to bake bread with them.

You can bake 100% spelt flour loaves but my experience has been that they need to be baked in a tin to give them structure.

This loaf therefore is 50% strong white bread flour, 50% spelt flour to give the loaf strength from the bread flour. The spelt flour is very soft and light and the resulting dough is very soft, but still bubbles up beautifully. I used my master recipe in exactly the same way just with the 50:50 mix.

I shared a video on Instagram and Facebook today to show just how light and bubbling the dough was, below is a screenshot of the dough after its overnight proof, it was very light and needed gentle handling. The final proof in the fridge firmed it up sufficiently to be able to score the loaf and it rose beautifully as it baked.

Form this, above…to this, below…

Happy Baking!

Sourdough breadsticks…

Following on from the sourdough crackers, this time I bring you the sourdough breadsticks..

These also worked really nicely, and even 3 days on from baking, still retained their snap!

As you can see, my shaping isn’t great, or even, but they taste good, so who cares?!

I made some of them unadulterated, as above, and got creative with the others, below, and added some toasted pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds. These were therefore thicker, and less crisp, but my son preferred them for the flavour the toasted seeds added..

NOTE: The dough for these can be prepared then rested in the fridge for a few days until you’re ready to bake them, or used immediately.

Ingredients

250g strong white bread flour

100g water

60g active bubbly starter

1tbsp olive oil

1/2tsp salt

Ground semolina (I used coarse semolina) to sprinkle on the counter

Seeds or other additions of your choice

Method

Mix the water, starter and olive oil together well, then add the flour and salt.

Bring it together as well as you can, it will be very stiff.

Cover with a shower cap or plastic bag, and leave for half an hour.

After the half an hour, perform a set of pulls and folds in the bowl, cover again and leave for another half an hour.

Repeat this another 2 times.

You can now either cover and refrigerate your dough for later use; or cover it again and allow it to rise for 1.5-2 hours.

*if you choose to refrigerate and use later, allow the dough to come up to room temperature for a good hour or more before using it

To make the breadsticks, cover your work surface with some flour, decant the dough onto the surface and spread it to a rectangle with your fingers. It will constantly want to pull back.

Cover it with cling film and leave for 5-10 minutes to settle then spread it out again. Try and even out the thickness across all of the dough to about 5mm.

(This is not particularly easy, my dough was very uneven!)

Prepare a baking sheet (you may need 2 large trays) by laying a piece of baking parchment paper across it.

Sprinkle some semolina on your work surface alongside your dough/tray.

Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to słice the dough into 1cm strips.

Roll them in the semolina then place on the lined baking tray.

Because my dough was too thin in the middle and thick at the edges I made twists with some of mine.

Artist licence!!

At this point you can try wrapping some seeds or spices or whatever you fancy into a few.

Once they’re all rolled or twisted and laid on the tray, cover the tray with a clean plastic bag or cling film and leave them to rise for half an hour whilst you heat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 230C fan.

Boil some water, pour it into a pan or oven proof bowl, and add it to the bottom of the oven to create steam.

After half an hour, turn the oven down to 190C fan.

Bake the breadsticks for 15 minutes, remove and cook on a tray.

*my oven has a hot spot so I turned the tray round half way through the bake.

*if the breadsticks are already looking dark at 13 or 14 minutes, use your judgement and remove the tray from the oven

Enjoy!!!

To store, keep them in an airtight container, I prefer a tin lined with baking paper rather than a plastic box

Seeded sourdough crackers…

This weekend I have been baking crackers and breadsticks with sourdough starter; this post will be dedicated to the crackers, and I’ll share the breadsticks during the week..

To make these, I revisited a recipe from several years ago. It worked well then and worked well now 🙂

If you have any spare or discard sourdough starter this is a great way to use it up, or, if like me, you manage your starter so that you never have any discard, just feed your starter especially to make these crackers.

I included toasted sesame seeds and sunflowers seeds in these crackers because that’s what I had in the cupboard, but you could also mix it up with pumpkins seeds, linseeds, poppy seeds, whatever you fancy. You could also consider adding some spices and experimenting with flavours you like.

You can easily double up this recipe, I kept it small to ensure that I wasn’t overloaded with crackers. Plus you can mix up the flour, I think some spelt it kamut would taste good..I used just strong white flour for these.

Ingredients

100g bubbly active starter

50g rolled oats

25g water

40g mixed seeds

30ml olive oil

1/2 tbsp honey

50g strong white flour

1/2 tsp salt

Method

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the oats, starter and water into an oaty sludge (technical term!), cover the bowl and leave it to one side for 2-3 hours.

After this time, you’ll see some little bubbles in the mix where the starter has been doing her stuff. Now stir in all of the other ingredients, mixing it all together really well.

Bring it together into a sticky dough, cover again and leave to rest for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180C fan.

Dust your counter with flour, turn the dough onto the surface, and roll out to about 2mm thick. You’ll need flour on the rolling pin too, and to keep moving your dough round as your roll it out so that it doesn’t stick to the table.

Line your baking tray with baking parchment paper. Cut out your crackers with cookie/biscuit cutters, I used small sizes to make these snack bites, and place onto the tray.

They can be quite close as they don’t spread. You may need to use 2 baking trays.

Prick each cracker with a fork to stop them ballooning.

Bake for 7 mins, then remove the tray, turn the crackers over, return to the oven, and bake for another 7 mins.

Cool on a rack, they will crisp up even more as they cool.

Eat!!!

If you haven’t eaten them all immediately, they will keep in a tin for a few days.

Check out the rest of this blog for other sourdough ideas or visit my shop to buy my dried starter.

Have a great week!

My idea of alchemy…

The magic of sourdough amazes me every time; what my starter achieves over and over again never ceases to amaze me and make me smile…I know, I’m easily pleased!

But look at it, don’t you agree it’s pure magic?

You start off with this….(my dormant starter straight from the fridge)

You feed it (30g strong white flour + 30g water) and it becomes this…

You use it to put your dough together, perform the lifts and folds, cover it, then leave it overnight to prove…and by the next morning it’s become this bowl of bubbly wonder…

And after nurturing and scoring and baking it…it gives you this…

Now if that isn’t magic, what is??? don’t you agree?

(I bought a new toy this week, a turntable! I used to score this loaf, but I can’t get the video to load on here. I’ve put it on my Instagram feed though if you’d like to have a look – I predict great turntable fun in my future!!)

Semolina sourdough…

This recipe is inspired by a lovely lady and amazing sourdough baker called Anita (sourdough_mania) that I follow on Instagram; the dough is lovely, beautifully smooth and wonderfully springy, and the baked outcome is really tasty. If semolina is just something you remember being offered with school lunches in the UK, this will totally blow those memories away!

So I’m sharing my experience and recipe; I added some oil to the original recipe to tighten up the crumb for my purposes, but you don’t need to include it…

EDIT: a note about the semolina…

I use coarse ground semolina. This can be found in most supermarkets and any Asian food shop. It is also sometimes referred to as semolina flour which tends to be a finer texture, and which will also work in this recipe, but even the supposedly ‘coarse’ one is still pretty fine!

NOTE: this recipe is four days in the making, although not labour intensive during that time, and I do think it’s worth it. I tried making a shorter overnight version and the outcome wasn’t as good as the full four day version, although I will be experimenting with that further. All of the love and care does create a lovely, bouncy dough.

It is a VERY soft dough though and it does need to be cooked straight from the fridge. If you leave it out of the fridge for a while before cooking, my experience is that it will lose its form and spread as you bake it.

Recipe

Preparing your starter:

Feed your starter. I know that if I feed Star with 40g of strong white bread flour & 40g of water, she will yield the necessary 70g of bubbly starter. Once your starter is lovely and bubbly, begin..

Day one: mix together..

70g bubbly starter

70g ground semolina

70g water

…and leave out overnight.

In a separate bowl mix together…

310g ground semolina

180g water

1tbsp oil (optional)

…and leave in fridge overnight.

Day two: remove the semolina/water/oil mixture from the fridge to soften up and make it easier to mix with the starter.

Your starter should be lovely and bubbly and alive now. Add 1tsp salt to it, then mix it into the semolina/water/oil mixture. You’ll need to get your hands in to mix it really well.

Keep it out of the fridge like this for 2-3 hours and during that time, perform a series of 5 stretches and folds on the dough, each set only needs to be a few pulls and folds to pull the dough together. Then cover the bowl and return it to the fridge.

Day three: remove the bowl from the fridge and leave at room temperature and allow the dough to increase by about 60% (by eye).

Then shape the dough. I stretch and fold the dough into a ball and place it into a floured banneton.

Cover and put back into the fridge.

Day four: Preheat oven to 275C.

Prepare your choice of bakeware – I bake mine in an enamel roaster on a round of parchment paper. Take the dough from the fridge and place directly into the roaster/on baking sheet, slash and put into the oven.

Reduce the oven to 245C (I use 220C fan), bake with the lid in the roaster for 25 mins, remove the lid and bake for a further 15 mins

EDIT: 12th September 2018

Having made this again twice recently, I found that my loaf started to brown very quickly when I removed the lid, so I ended up putting it back on. Can I suggest baking the loaf with the lid on for the entire 40 mins? If you want to brown it slightly, take the lid off for the last 5 minutes only.

Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool before slicing

Since making this first loaf, I went on to make 3 more in quick succession. For one of them I merely doubled everything and created a monster loaf (above)! It was a beauty though… I’ve also calculated up the quantities to make a 500g (semolina) loaf which is my typical size, and it worked well too.

The quantities were:

112g starter/semolina/water

500g semolina

288g water

1tbsp oil

1tsp salt

Baked for 25 mins covered, 20 mins uncovered

I highly recommend giving it a go!

Happy baking!

Buttermilk sourdough…

This loaf came about from pure experiment because I had some lovely lively starter and wanted to do something different with it, plus I have always got various cartons of buttermilk to hand nowadays, and so this idea was born.

This recipe produced a lovely silky dough which baked into a crusty loaf with a wonderfully soft interior and a great flavour, and the smell was amazing! Due to the inclusion of plain all purpose flour the crumb is pillow soft rather than the usual chewy sourdough crumb, and the buttermilk only adds to that.

I made this loaf with a ‘sponge’ method…

The evening before you want to bake the loaf mix:

100g of very bubbly lively starter

284ml carton of buttermilk (or 300g)

150g of all purpose flour

Mix it all together really well, get it as smooth as you can, then cover it and leave it out on your kitchen counter overnight. (Top 2 photos below)

Next morning it should have grown and be spongelike. (Bottom 2 photos above – you can see how much it’s grown between the two sets of photos)

Now add:

300g strong white flour

1tsp salt

2-3 tablespoons of warm water as needed to loosen the dough

Mix it all together roughly, cover again and leave for an hour. (Top 2 photos below)After that hour, bring it into a dough, not too tight, not too sticky, performing some pulls and folds in the bowl to pull it into a smooth dough. (Bottom 2 photos show before and after pulls and folds)

Cover and leave on the counter again.

After a couple of hours you should already see this dough growing happily, the dough may even be starting to grow out of the bowl already; perform just enough pulls and folds to pull it into a ball with a smooth finish, don’t handle it too much.

Place the dough, smooth side down, into a well floured banneton.

Cover with a plastic bag or shower cap and place in the fridge to slow down the proving process and to increase the flavour. You should find that it keeps growing nicely over the next few hours, even in the fridge, as below. This was how the dough looked after only a few hours in the fridge. It grows very fast!

When you’re ready to bake, take the banneton from the fridge and leave the dough to warm up to room temperature whilst your oven warms up.

Heat the oven to 200C fan/230c non fan.

When the oven is ready, place a piece of baking parchment over the top of the banneton, then place the pan you are baking it in over the top and invert it all together to turn the dough out into the pan. You should have a lovely pale dough that holds a good shape.

Slash as you like, then put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven to bake for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes carefully turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool. Allow the loaf to cool for at least an hour before slicing.

As you will see, the crumb is closer than a standard sourdough, which is perfect for making my son’s school sandwiches. In fact, the interior of the loaf was softer than any bread of any type I’ve ever baked. I’ll definitely be baking loaves like this again and again.

And I have now made 3 loaves the same way, this was the third one, and again, the interior is beautifully soft…

NOTE: please always keep in mind that flours differ around the world, yours may need more or less liquid than mine, just as your oven may behave differently from mine.

Sourdough naan breads..

I had some bubbly active starter readily available recently, and someone on Facebook mentioned sourdough naan breads, and that was that…I decided to see what I could create…luckily I took some notes…

Makes 4 small breads

Ingredients

50g active sourdough starter

100g natural yoghurt

150g plain/all purpose flour

20g olive oil

1/2tsp salt

Optional: consider adding some kalonji (black onions seeds) for a lovely extra flavour and finish, or leave unadulterated and eat with any choice of meal

Method

Mix everything together well, knead it briefly then cover and set aside. Let it prove for an hour or so.

Next, split the dough into 4, make the portions into balls, flatten and on a floured surface, roll them out into rounds about 5mm thick – my rounds were very very rough as you can see!

Heat a tawa or large wide pan over a medium heat. Place the breads into the dry pan and cook for several minutes until the surface starts to brown in places.

Turn the breads, sprinkle the surface with olive oil to keep it moist, and cook the underside until cooked through.

Once cooked, stack the breads onto a plate lined with a tea towel and wrap them to keep them warm.

Eat at will!

I served mine with some za’atar mixed with olive oil; some tahini, buttermilk and lemon juice dressing; and a dip made of chickpeas and spinach cooked with green harissa, cooled and blended with tahini, lemon juice and water.

A very nice dinner indeed 🙂

Have a great week…