How to score dough successfully…

From this…
To this 🙂

There are some key tips to scoring, but first, why do we do it at all?

Scoring dough has two main jobs, firstly, it allows and encourages growth in your loaf by enabling the dough to expand as it bakes. Because it will expand, but if it isn’t scored, it won’t expand as much as it would like to and it will inhibit the size of the baked loaf.

If you don’t score your dough there’s also every chance it will crack as it bakes anyway and possibly blow out at the sides, so why not encourage it to grow as you’d like it to instead?

Secondly, it allows you to choose how your loaf will look once baked.

By scoring your dough with a single slash, you will encourage a more dramatic opening (assuming a good strong dough).

Before..
And after.

By scoring a more intricate and involved design you allow the dough to grow evenly and protect the design.

Before…
And after.

So here’s my top tips…

*The blade needs to be thin and very sharp, ideally a razor blade. By using a bread lame this gives you a safe handle for your blade, but it’s not a necessity. Nice to have though, I love all of mine 🙂

*Your dough needs to be firm. This is achieved by having a dough made with the right amount of water for your flour choice, and proved well. You’ll find help with this on my FAQ page.

*If you want to give yourself a slightly firmer surface to score, place your banneton full of dough into the freezer for 30 minutes before turning it out, scoring and baking. (If your dough is too wet or over proved, it is likely to still spread even with this tip).

*A nice firm dough also allows you to take your time as it will hold its shape whilst you score. No need to super fast slash-and-get-it-into-the -oven as fast as possible!

*By not preheating your pan (which I never do) you also make this part of the process smoother as you’re not moving the dough around so much. I turn my dough out into my cold pan, take my time scoring, then into my cold oven and bake – a nice relaxed process.

*Score into the dough 0.5-1.0cm deep.

*Score firmly, but without pushing the dough down into itself.

*I always score from the outside towards the middle when unless I’m making a pattern, this way you don’t risk squashing the dough or dragging the blade.

*If your blade is dragging, try changing it for a new blade, or making sure your dough is firm enough to score.

*How you score can affect the final shape of your dough as hopefully my photos have shown. Sorry, I don’t have any bad examples to make the point!

*As always, there is no right or wrong here, and the best way to learn is via trial and error.

*Personally, I like the lines that the rice flour in the banneton leave, if you’re not a a fan, lightly brush is off.

I have various videos on my YouTube channel and Instagram showing scoring.

Here’s some ideas from my past loaves..

Before
After.
Personally I like it when designs crack and burst,
I like seeing that power in my dough!
Before
After.
Before..
After.

Have fun, and happy scoring!

Talking about dough…

Amazing, beautiful dough…I love seeing this! This is a shot of the underneath of my bowl of dough following it’s overnight prove, the dough has risen and more than doubled in size and you can see the texture all the way through the dough. It’s a joy every time I wake up to a sight like this, it never ever gets boring!

So, here are some notes to keep in mind regarding dough…

🌟 for everyone who has asked me if their starter is strong enough: if your dough is growing and doubling, your starter is fine and working well

🌟 if your dough isn’t growing, it’s either because it’s been cold, see below, or your starter needs a boost, see my site for details

🌟 all doughs are different due to different flours, different temperatures, different environments and different handling

🌟 if it’s been cold overnight and your dough hasn’t doubled, it’s normal, temperatures under 18C/64F will slow the growth down; just give it longer in the morning to do its work

🌟 under proved dough will result in a dense loaf with large uneven holes, but it will still taste good!

🌟 if it’s been warm overnight, well over 20C/70F your dough will grow and possible double and look volcanic and fabulous, however, it risks over proving and losing all structure and integrity, it will be soft and sloppy and impossible to work with

🌟 over proved dough will result in a flat dense bake, but it will also still taste good!

🌟 to combat high temps either read the baking timetable on my site or use less starter in your dough

🌟 when you handle your dough after it’s main bulk prove, it should feel bouncy and have some nice resistance

🌟 my best tip is: learn to watch your dough and not the clock; your dough well tell you what’s happening and what you need to change, if anything, and,

🌟 get to know your starter

🌟 get to know your flours and your doughs

🌟 get to know how sourdough works in YOUR home

🌟 Make notes, jot down times and temperatures, flours and behaviours and create your own reference guide.

🌟 Happy baking! 🌟

Talking about dough…

Amazing, beautiful dough…I love seeing this! This is a shot of the underneath of my bowl of dough following it’s overnight prove, the dough has risen and more than doubled in size and you can see the texture all the way through the dough. It’s a joy every time I wake up to a sight like this, it never ever gets boring!

So, here are some notes to keep in mind regarding dough…

🌟 for everyone who has asked me if their starter is strong enough: if your dough is growing and doubling, your starter is fine and working well

🌟 if your dough isn’t growing, it’s either because it’s been cold, see below, or your starter needs a boost, see my site for details

🌟 all doughs are different due to different flours, different temperatures, different environments and different handling

🌟 if it’s been cold overnight and your dough hasn’t doubled, it’s normal, temperatures under 18C/64F will slow the growth down; just give it longer in the morning to do its work

🌟 under proved dough will result in a dense loaf with large uneven holes, but it will still taste good!

🌟 if it’s been warm overnight, well over 20C/70F your dough will grow and possible double and look volcanic and fabulous, however, it risks over proving and losing all structure and integrity, it will be soft and sloppy and impossible to work with

🌟 over proved dough will result in a flat dense bake, but it will also still taste good!

🌟 to combat high temps either read the baking timetable on my site or use less starter in your dough

🌟 when you handle your dough after it’s main bulk prove, it should feel bouncy and have some nice resistance

🌟 my best tip is: learn to watch your dough and not the clock; your dough well tell you what’s happening and what you need to change, if anything, and,

🌟 get to know your starter

🌟 get to know your flours and your doughs

🌟 get to know how sourdough works in YOUR home

🌟 Make notes, jot down times and temperatures, flours and behaviours and create your own reference guide.

🌟 Happy baking! 🌟

Making sourdough in hot temperatures…

Heat can be great for proving dough, but only up to a point; once temperatures start to rise up and over 20C/70F at night, our beautiful overnight doughs risk over proving.

There are simple steps to prevent this from happening…I have a timetable on here which can help; it is based on proving the dough on the counter for a few hours in the warmth, then putting the dough into your banneton and into the fridge overnight; the dough can then be baked directly from the fridge any time the next day.

Or, what I do, which is the simplest solution, is use my master recipe exactly as it is, just with less starter. As the photo shows, I use 20g of my lovely active starter, which pretty much equates to a tablespoon. You do not need to change anything else about the recipe, just this.

TOP TIPS:

🌟 less starter slows the dough down and allows you to still be able to prove your dough on the counter overnight. It works perfectly for foodbod sourdough bakers all over the world who live and make sourdough in hot countries all year round.

🌟 a thermometer in your kitchen will help you to be able to plan for when you need to do this but already around the Northern Hemisphere temperatures are rising and doughs are being challenged. If this is happening to you, use less starter.

🌟 you will know if your dough is over proving if it grows very quickly and is overly bubbly.

🌟 you will know if you dough HAS over proved if it fills your bowl, is very slack and fluid, very bubbly, impossible to handle and smells strongly.

🌟 this dough will no longer have any structure and will not be able to hold its shape. It will bake to a flat, dense, but tasty loaf.

🌟 the best thing to do with over proved dough is use it to make focaccia or flatbreads, something that doesn’t require structure.

Happy baking 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Please note: this does not work the other way round. If you are heading into cold weather, more starter is not the answer. If it’s cold it’s cold, dough will respond slower however much starter you use. In this instance just allow your dough more time to do it work. There’s full info and hints and tips on my site to help you.

Making multiple doughs and loaves…

🌟 if you want to double or triple my master recipe, feed your starter double or triple the usual amounts to generate the amount of active starter you’ll need to make your doughs.

🌟 you don’t need to start out with more starter for it to be able make more; just feed your usual base amount for the job, it will work perfectly.

🌟 if you want to double or triple my master recipe, just double or triple all of the quantities.

🌟 I always use one bowl per dough when I make multiples rather than one large single dough in one bowl. The main reason for this is that when I prove my dough overnight it grows and fills the entire bowl, so I would need an absolutely huge bowl to hold a double or triple batch of dough.

🌟 I also use one bowl per dough as I like to know that I’ve fully mixed and incorporated all of the ingredients well. So whether I make 2, 3 (or 4, as I was in the pic), doughs, I use 1 bowl per dough. It’s also a lot easier than trying to split the dough further down the line.

Plus a huge batch of dough would become quite difficult to manage!

🌟 if you do make a single bigger dough and therefore one huge loaf, you will indeed need to bake it for longer.

🌟🌟🌟 Happy Baking 🌟🌟🌟

Our stories of ‘sanity saving sourdough’ during lockdown 2020…

Who knew what the reality of lockdown would be?

Who really had any idea?

I know I didn’t.

For us, my husband continued to work, being considered a key worker, and my 18 year old son’s school life and A level exams suddenly got completely wiped out. But for me, I work for myself, I work from home anyway, so I didn’t foresee much difference…except for having the added extra of my son’s lovely company every day…

How wrong I was; I have literally lived through one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, periods of my life.

Let me explain: I set this website up a couple of years ago to share my process for making sourdough simply, successfully, and consistently, for anyone who wanted to make it at home. I see and read so many over complicated recipes, numerous processes with unnecessary and excessive steps, and I knew it didn’t need to be so hard and so seemingly inaccessible, so I decided to build this website and to share my process and tips with anyone who might be interested. I was already sharing my loaves on Instagram and people seemed to like them, so I set up my Facebook page and then my group, to chat and to share more of what I was doing.

I had no idea if there would be any interest, I thought I would share my sourdough world with my friends and family, and that would be it. But the interest in sourdough has been building over the last few years and my audience has grown along the way and I now have a whole lovely extended family of ‘foodbodders’. It’s been amazing, and a source of great joy to be able to help people all over the world to make great healthy tasty homemade bread.

Enter lockdown. And that level of interest went supernova! On an average day during lockdown I have answered hundreds, no exaggeration, literally hundreds, of messages, emails and comments per day.

And why? Because during lockdown the interest in making sourdough grew exponentially. I think there are several reasons this happened; suddenly people who have always wanted to give it a go had the time, then others saw what they were doing, and saw the press stories, and fancied having a go and got involved too. Supplies of commercial yeast also run dry so people were looking for alternatives and making a sourdough starter and generating your own yeast became the perfect answer.

And with that comes questions and feedback and cries for help. Sourdough has a magical capacity to turn minds to jelly at the best of times, add in the heightened emotions of the Covid 19 situation, and insecurities for some sourdough newcomers were even greater than would normally have been. At the same time flour shortages hit, so that threw in more confusion and a lot of questions about different flours and alternative options. The beauty of this though is that it gave people the chance to try flours they may have never used otherwise, as well as learning just how different the outcome of sourdough can be depending on the flour you use.

For a sourdough lover like me, lockdown has been an amazing time. It has been a joy to see so many people getting involved and being able to share this amazing joy from my kitchen to theirs. Sourdough saved so many peoples’ sanity during a time of such uncertainty; it gave people a chance to see how you can take the basics of flour and water and make a starter, the positivity of nature and creation, as well as the timely reassurance of renewal and growth. They enjoyed watching their starters come to life in front of their eyes; it’s been a welcome reminder that life goes on. They also enjoyed the welcome distraction of looking after their starters, creating their doughs and producing their loaves.

I’ve been sent photos of loaves baked using my process during lockdown from every corner of the globe; the excitement when people unveil their first loaves is palpable. And it’s enabled them to create their own heathy, homemade bread to enjoy with their families and share with others. People have told me about local virtual baking groups they’ve created, family and friends’ sourdough WhatsApp groups, how they have been sharing their starters, doing produce swaps for flours, baked loaves for their families and neighbours, provided bread for vulnerable isolated neighbours. It’s been infectious, as much because sourdough is so rewarding, but also it’s a satisfying, fulfilling process. It’s something people can get lost in and excited about, and we all needed some of that during lockdown.

The other question I’m asked is this: do I think the interest will continue once restrictions lift and people go back to work?

And my answer is: I truly hope so. Lockdown enabled people to start making sourdough from scratch, and gain experience whilst they had the time. And that doesn’t need to stop.

Sourdough is the healthiest form of bread we can eat, making our own means we know exactly what is in it, and those benefits and that joy can continue. It can also easily be made during a working week. So yes, I think the interest will continue and I hope that people enjoy their new found interest and skill and happy baking!

But the point of this post is about how sourdough has helped peopled through such an unprecedented uncertain time. For me, I’ve been too busy to think; I haven’t had time to dwell on things, I haven’t had time to worry, plus it’s made time fly. I’ve talked to people all over the world daily, shared sourdough help as well as lockdown stories. Between helping others and looking after my home and family, I haven’t had time to be scared. It’s been a gift in so many ways.

So how about you? How has sourdough helped you through lockdown?

I’d love you to comment and share your experiences and build a living diary of our sourdough lockdown experiences. It may prove to be inspirational, even cathartic, or just interesting to see read others’ experiences.

Below are some stories from just a few of my bakers that you may find sound familiar to your experiences…

“Baking in general has always been a form of therapy for me. However, these last few weeks it has proven to be a life-saver or rather a “sanity-saver”. Sourdough baking with its processes, feeding and folds is something I can get lost in and something I can be a part of. I can control nearly everything happening in my loaf and that grounds me. Something else it has shown me (although I already knew this) is that my favourite part of baking is sharing. Sourdough has become an integral part of my life, one that brings me happiness and comfort, specially these last weeks.”

Aranzazu García Tomás, English teacher from Zaragoza, Spain

“My sourdough journey started last October, I was laid up after having an op on my foot. I was totally immobile so I started browsing ‘sourdough starters’  and baking sourdough bread, and there started my addiction. I spent two weeks reading and watching everything about sourdough, and when I could hobble around, I thought I’d give it a go.

Suffice to say it’s been an up and down journey, my first two loaves stuck so much to the pot I had to soak them in water to get the ‘bread’ out, I say bread, it was inedible.

But I persevered and it’s now a passion beyond anything I’ve done before.

Sourdough grounds me, the whole process, feeding my starter, watching it rise, mixing the dough and then the magic happens in the oven.  I’m a mental health worker in the NHS, the lockdown has had a huge impact in my line of work, mental health of the nation has really suffered.  So to come home, start a loaf, whether we need one or not is my way of putting the work day down.  For me, sourdough is almost ‘ mindful’ it grounds me and brings me back to what I love about making sourdough bread, it’s a joy and has kept me sane during lockdown.  Of course another side of the coin is my work colleagues love it as they see the fruits of my labour, it’s a win win scenario in tough times.  I feel truly blessed, especially currently to have not only the ability to make bread but to have to sourdough community which has been a huge help during lockdown. 

Sourdough is now a way of life for me, shop brought bread is a thing of last year and never to come into my home.  I make delicious, wholesome bread at home, it may not always win the beauty contest for looks  but who cares?

Some people close to me having jokingly said I’m “obsessed” with sourdough, I’d like to call it passionate, whatever it may be , I don’t care as long as I’m baking sourdough, I’m happy.”

Kal Tace, Community Support Worker, Nottingham

“Sanity saving sourdough in lockdown. Three months ago this would have given me pause, before I began research into their meaning. Now after living with this since March 5, 2020 I understand much too well. Spending most of those three months alone has been much harder than one could appreciate at the outset. I am a retired critical care RN of nearly 40 years. I take care of people and make them better. I am a mother of three and “Nan” to 1 grandson. Suddenly I had to stay at home to stay safe-virus free. My sourdough starter, Olivia, was born December 10, 2018 and help me produce many loaves of wonderful bread for my children(all in their 30’s). I could still bake bread for them and arrange transport… or so I thought.

With the panic of jobs closing, people forced to stay home and schools closing there was also a ‘panic buying’of cleaning products, masks, toilet paper and flour! This is when I became actually frightened. Sourdough bread was important to how I take care of my family now. I realized I could still bake, but I must be smart. I could still produce bread for my kids and myself, but only perhaps once a week. I could still feed my starter, Olivia and drink in the sweet sour smell and watch her bloom over a few hours. I could still mix Olivia into a beautiful stretchy dough and let them work together under my guidance. The touch and smell of this dough kept my feet on the ground. Eventually, after much searching, I was able to find bread flour to order that did not come in 100 pound bags! I ordered my flower, but it still took three anxious weeks to come, or maybe a bit longer. What a wonderful day that was when that flour came!

Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of my sanity anchors, besides making my bread, is the Facebook group I’ve been inspired by- Sourdough with foodbod. I lurked in the shadows a bit and became so inspired by so many sourdough bakers from all over the world. Elaine Boddy and all her moderators are there to help and inspire! That is what a lockdown baking community should be- inspiration and how to continue baking in our new normal.”

Lesley Fuson, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Please read on in the comments to read Kristen’s fabulous story and then do please add your own…let’s build our own living history of how sourdough has helped us through lockdown and show the world how wonderful this sourdough world of our is…

Please note that your comment will not show immediately; it is not lost, check back in a little while and it will show up.

More top tips…

Some more top tips for you and answers to the questions I am most often asked..

Give your starter time, it may look like it’s doing nothing, but it’s building strength, stick with it

If your starter is thin with tiny bubbles, add extra flour to thicken it up, it needs the extra food

If your starter has a layer of murky liquid in the top, it’s not ruined, it’s just hungry. Feed it! And make sure you are not keeping it anywhere too warm, the heat will make it constantly thin and weak

Don’t keep your starter in the oven with the light on, it’s too hot, it will work too fast and always be too thin and weak

The flour you have made your starter from does not need to match the flour in your dough

Follow the process steps and allow your dough time to do its work

Don’t leave dough on the oven overnight with the light on, it will over prove and be spoiled

Check out all of the info on my site about flour, weather, scoring, storing, the FAQs, baking times takes, there’s lots of free info there for you

Check out the equipment list, and..

If you don’t have a banneton, line a similar sized bowl with a clean tea towel and sprinkle it with rice flour

If you don’t have rice flour, grind some uncooked rice, it’s the same thing

You can use any covered oven proof pan just make sure it’s big enough

Sourdough is a wonderfully slow process, let it happen and enjoy it, it will be worth it

Watch your dough and not the clock

Give your dough time to double overnight; depending on the temperature overnight this may take shorter or longer than my usual times stated in my master recipe

If your dough is soft and spreads, use 25g less water in your dough next time

If you dough spreads when you turn it out in the pan, but bakes up to a lovely loaf, don’t worry about the spreading, enjoy your loaf

Always my biggest and most important tip:

If it tastes good IT IS GOOD!

Don’t focus on looks and holes and scoring, they don’t make it taste any better, enjoy what you’ve created, it’s amazing x x

Bee pollen sourdough…

A cake that is being cut into it.

I was very lucky recently to be sent some bee pollen by one of my very kind Instagram followers. I’ve had bee pollen before, but not like this, this one is a vibrant yellow with lovely fat granules. Sourdough loves bee pollen, it loves the natural wild yeast and sugars that it brings to the party.

For this loaf I played with a new starter adding bee pollen to it from the beginning, and you’ll see from the photos in the grid below that it went a bit wild! It was very exciting to wake up to. Once I’d stirred it down and fed it again the next morning, it was still active and bubbly and ready to use within an hour.

This is what I used to make this loaf, however, you do NOT need to make a new starter yourself. If you would like to see how much starters like bee pollen, feed up your starter, split some out into a new bowl and feed it for a couple of days with your usual flour and water and a good amount of bee pollen before giving it a go. Or if you fancy making a new starter with some, then go for it! I didn’t measure out the bee pollen, I used a dessert sized spoon amount each time I added some.

To make my loaf, I used my master recipe, exactly as it is (link on the left of your screen) with this bee pollen boosted starter. You can also add the bee pollen to your dough instead.

A close up of some food in a bowl

For this loaf I used my 28cm long oval banneton and baked in my 30cm long oval pan from a cold start for 55 minutes. It’s all in my recipe 👍🏻

A piece of bread with some kind of crust

And this was inside the cut loaf. You can see the yellow tint from the bee pollen. Although bee pollen is sweet it does not make your loaf sweet using this small amount, but it does make the sourness more mild, and really produces a great texture, really fabulously chewy! It was a lovely loaf to eat.

A baked dish with some type of crust on it

If you do try it, I hope you like it!

A piece of bread with many holes in it.

My sourdough spelt banana bread…

Introducing my sourdough banana spelt bread…I used white spelt flour in this loaf, feel free to substitute it for any flour/s of your choice. I’ve used all and any flour to make this recipe, it works whatever you choose to use. Try it with a mix of white and wholewheat/wholegrain spelt flours, a portion of rye flour, any ancient grain flours, they all work.

The starter adds flavour and texture but not lift in this recipe as it is an immediate recipe. It’s great freshly baked but also good later and the next day once the flavours have developed.

As is my choice, I used a small amount of honey in my loaf. If you would prefer something sweeter please feel free to double it or replace it with 100-150g of your choice of sugar. You could also add chopped nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, whatever you fancy.

Ingredients

200g white spelt flour (I use this one)

100g bubbly active starter

50g runny honey

50g softened butter

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2tsp baking powder

1 egg

3 medium/2 large ripe bananas, roughly mashed

An extra banana if you want one for decoration, sliced

Method

Either grease or line a 2lb/900g, 23 x 13cm/9″ x 5″ loaf tin

Mix all of the ingredients together well, but not over mixed, spoon the mixture into the loaf tin.

Place into your cold oven, turn it up to 160C/320F fan/convection, 180C/360F non fan/convention and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a metal skewer comes out clean.

Eat!