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Cold oven baking…

Every loaf shown in this post has been baked in an oven that started cold.

Everything we read and are told is that the dough should go into a preheated oven, but these loaves belie that fact…it was news to me too!

It started with this loaf baked in a clay pot…

I knew that to use the pot I either needed to soak it before use, or put it cold into a cold oven to reduce the risk of it cracking. And so I did. And I held my breath, and it worked! The loaf above proves it.

So if it worked with a clay pot, surely it would work with my enamel roasters, that was my next test. And I’m here to tell you that it does, it works perfectly, as the loaf below shows too…the crust is crisp, the crumb is even, and the cost is less!

If your question is ‘surely I need to preheat the oven to get maximum oven spring?’ Then hopefully my loaves are showing that you don’t. The oven spring comes from a strong starter, good flour and good dough.

If you’re thinking ‘won’t the dough spread whilst the oven is heating up?’ Just make sure that you prove it in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the dough. And yes, it may spread initially, but then it will rise as it bakes, as my photos show.

If you’re thinking ‘that won’t work in my cast iron Dutch oven’, I can tell you that it will. I don’t have a DO but many of the people in my Facebook group and on Instagram do and they’ve tried it, and it works.

A slice from a cold baked loaf

So, this is the process I’ve been using: I’ve followed my master recipe, link to the left, done the final prove in the fridge for several hours, then:

put the dough into the cold baking vessel and score;

put the pot with the dough in into the cold oven;

turn the oven on, turn the heat up to 240C fan (255-260C convection) & the timer on for 30 mins;

after 30 mins, turn it down to 220C fan (235-240C convection) for 25-30 mins.

Lid on the entire time.

Total time 55-60 mins.

For me that saves 20 mins of time for the oven to heat up, for others it may be longer.

So, who’s up for the cold baking challenge?

My sourdough buttermilk scones/biscuits…

I devised this recipe especially for my courses, it’s a great way to use sourdough starter in a different way, it’s fast and it tasty!!!!

These are based on American ‘biscuits’, which in the UK we would call savoury scones. In my recipe there is no butter; the butter is replaced with bubbly sourdough starter, this gives them a great sourdough flavour as well as a chewier texture than usual.

They’re great plain, and even better with added cheese, or like those above, a concoction such as cheese and za’atar…the possibilities are endless!!!

Ingredients

350g plain/cake flour

85g bubbly active starter (my starter is 100% hydration i.e. I feed it with equal weights of flour and water; for more details about my starter management, visit the relevant pages on the site, links to the left)

284ml tub of buttermilk or 300g in weight

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

Optional additions: cheese, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds…

Method

Loosely mix all of the main ingredients together. This mixture does not benefit from being overworked so resist the temptation to handle it too much. It does not need to be kneaded, just brought together like you would with pastry.

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/convection, 220C non fan/non convection.

Turn the mix out onto a floured surface, spread and push the dough with your hands to flatten it out to a 2cm thick layer.

Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Use a 5 or 6cm cookie cutter to cut out the scones. Push the cutter directly downwards and remove directly upwards, do not twist it to cut the dough otherwise you will lose the edging and the rise.

Place them evenly on the baking tray. They can be close together as they don’t spread outwards very much.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until nicely browned.

Remove and place the scones on a rack to cool – resist eating immediately and burning your mouth!

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!