This is a copy of a post I added to my Facebook page that I am copying here because I want it logged on my website too…
This autumn and into winter, I have seen a real trend for overheating starters, and consequently many poor starters are over fermenting, and getting thin and hungry as a result from being too warm for too long.
The fact is: A thin starter is a weak starter and will not lift a dough. And by putting starters in so much warmth for so long that’s what will happen.
So please pass this onto anyone you think it might help:
First and fore mostly, please tell anyone that you see doing do so, to stop putting their starters in warm places, places like ovens with pilot lights on/the top of the fridge/the airing cupboard/near the stove/by your Aga/or by wood burners, for hours on end, and days and nights at a time. It’s much too warm for much too long. The starter will ferment like mad and get thin and weak as a result.
I understand that people worry when it gets cold, but I’ve just made 14 brand new starters in my kitchen over the last week, including the one above, and they all just sat on my kitchen counter, at whatever the temperatures happened to be, which happened to be between 13C – 19C that week, and did their thing very happily. I didn’t put them anywhere special, or anywhere warm, just on my kitchen counter.
The fact is: They really do not need to be coddled so much.
A little bit of warmth is fine, but mostly your kitchen counter, or some part of your kitchen, is ideal. You don’t need special gadgets or anything else just your kitchen counter.
I understand that people worry about starters, especially new ones, but they really are far more resilient than people think, just give them a chance to do their thing…yes, some need tweaks along the way, but they don’t need to be cooked.
These are the facts:
If your starter is growing quickly, getting almost frothy, it’s too warm. If it’s got a layer of dark liquid on the top, it’s too warm. If it’s got a flat surface with teeny tiny bubbles it’s become thin from being too warm. If it smells very strongly of acetone, or just very strongly at all, it’s too warm.
These scenarios can all be fixed by feeding your starter less water than flour, making it nice and thick again, then continuing on with the process, on the counter.
Follow the process, follow my tips, and it will be fab!
Watch your dough and not the clock, this is key to ensuring the dough proves as it needs to.
Do not leave dough on the oven overnight with the light on, it?s too warm for too long and it will over prove.
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.
But if your dough does over prove, use it to make fabulous focaccia or flatbreads. NEVER EVER throw dough away, always use it.
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.
If your dough does not look like mine but bakes to a fabulous loaf, that is perfect, it does not matter what the dough looks like if the loaf is everything you hoped for.
Sourdough is a wonderfully slow process, let it happen and enjoy it, it will be worth it.
If you do not have a banneton, line a same sized bowl with a clean tea towel and sprinkle it with rice flour.
If you do not have rice flour, grind some uncooked rice, it is the same thing.
You can use any covered oven proof pan just make sure it is big enough.
You do not need to preheat your oven, or your pan.
Always my biggest and most important tip: If it tastes good IT IS GOOD!
Do not focus on looks and holes and scoring, they do not make it taste any better, plus sourdough is not defined by having ears, or being big round loaves, or full of holes. Sourdough is bread that has been made with a sourdough starter, that is it.
Enjoy what you are creating, do not spoil it by being pulled into the beauty contest.
But, if your loaves are not as you hoped, there?s always ALWAYS a particular reason and an easy tweak.
Check out all of the info throughout my site about flour, weather, scoring, storing, the FAQs, baking times takes, there is lots of free info here for you.
These are just some of the tips I share regularly, but are hopefully useful. Happy baking!
This loaf was made using my master recipe with the first mixes done in my KitchenAid mixer. The details below explain how I made it for anyone that would like to, or needs to, use a mixer when making my recipes.
Sourdough can be made in many ways, I love to make mine by hand, but sometimes using a mixer is useful when I have lots of doughs to make, or I want to give my arms a break; as always, there is no mess, no faff, no unnecessary steps with my process. Just simple straightforward steps.
You can use any size of KitchenAid mixer, I used my tilt head one to make this loaf, using the dough hook and the stainless steel mixing bowl that comes with the mixer, and baking in my usual enamel roaster.
PLEASE NOTE: if you are in the UK the amazing people KitchenAid UK have given me a discount code ELAINE15 to share with my bakers.
This code provides a 15% discount across the site and is valid to 31st December 2023 (perfect for Christmas shopping!). Please note that there are a few products excluded from this offer.
This is what I do:
*I use my standard master recipe: 50g starter, 350g water, 500g flour, salt *I mix the ingredients in the standard stainless steel bowl with the dough hook on setting 1 for 4-5 mins. *I take the dough hook out and place it in a covered bowl in between uses so that the dough does not dry on it. *I then cover the bowl and let it sit on the counter for 1.5-2 hours, I then mix it again using the same dough hook on setting 1 for 3-4 mins. I cover the bowl again and let it sit. *After an hour I perform a set of pulls and folds on the dough with the dough still in the mixer bowl. I cover the bowl again and let it sit. *Before going to bed I do another set of pulls and folds then cover the bowl again and leave it to prove overnight. *In the morning, with the dough still in the mixer bowl, I pull the dough into a tight ball and place it into my usual banneton. Covered it and put it into the fridge. *After a few hours, I turn the dough out into my usual enamel roaster pan, scored, put the lid on and bake at 220C/450F fan/convection for 55 mins from a cold start, with the lid on the whole time. *And the lovely loaf above and below is the outcome.
I made this loaf using my KA with the standard size 4.3l bowl. I also have a larger sized machine with a 4.8l bowl which is perfect for making 2 doughs at once and still all staying in the bowl the whole time, the double batch fits in it perfectly for mixing and proving. Or you can use whatever mixer you have.
TOP TIP: soak your mixer bowl and dough hook in cold water to soak off any dough, not hot water, it will cook the dough onto the bowl.
I also tested using the KitchenAid Bread Bowl with my master recipe and it works well!
The ceramic finish is lovely, the dough does not stick at all, there are lines etched on the inside that are a very useful guide, AND once the dough has been proved in the banneton and in the fridge for a while, you turn the bowl over and bake in it. It works PERFECTLY from a cold start, and the size encourages a beautiful round loaf.
A question that I am often asked is: where can I get a better lame, mine does not seem to work that well?
And as much as I have a very beautiful new branded lame I might very happily wish to sell you, usually the issue is not actually the lame, it is the dough.
If you are having issues scoring your dough, it truly is unlikely to be an issue with the lame. Instead my questions to you would be:
Was your dough soft and sticky after the overnight proof?
When you turned your dough out from the banneton did it spread?
When you tried to score your dough did the lame just drag through it?
Did the dough collapse and not hold any shape?
But first and foremost, I would ask, how did your loaf bake?
The answer to all of the questions that I get posed about dough and loaves, is always, how did the loaf bake; because if your dough bakes to a wonderful loaf that you thoroughly enjoyed, then it does not matter how the scoring went, or how your dough behaved.
However, if you feel you would like your loaf to be somewhat enhanced or different, then read on..
If you have a nice sharp lame, or a thin sharp blade that you use, and still it drags through your dough, your dough needs some input. If your dough is soft and sticky it either needs less water from the start, or it over proved, or just needs to be pulled tighter for the banneton.
If you are happy with your dough but would like an cleaner surface to score, or more time to score pretty patterns, before baking, place your banneton full of dough into the freezer for 30 minutes, then turn it out, score and bake.
If you would like to purchase one of my lames, of course you would be more than welcome and you can find them here. But to get the best out of using them, or whatever you have got, work on firming up your dough first. Then score slowly, be decisive, and score deeper than you probably think you need to. If I can help, get in touch.
What makes a gummy loaf? I get asked this a lot so I thought I’d share some answers and possibilities here, there can be a few reasons:
Slicing into a loaf before it’s cooled enough will give you a lovely warm slice of fresh bread, but it won’t be at its best, it will end up gummy from the steam; I leave my loaves for hours and hours before slicing into them. That way they’re light and dry and the texture I want them to be. If you can’t wait, go for it, but just do keep this in mind.
Over proving can produce a moist crumb, if your loaf is wide and flat and pale on the outside with small holes and a slightly damp interior, it may well be over.
Under baking can produce a gummy interior. Try baking for longer.
Is your pan big enough for your loaf? If the pan is too small and your loaf doesn’t have the space it needs to grow as it bakes it will hinder the bake and prevent it from being fully baked inside.
Too much water can also produce a damp loaf. Try less water with your flour.
Uneven heat in your oven can be the culprit – if you loaf is nicely golden on the outside but gummy or moist in the inside, it’s baking too quickly on the outside. Trying reducing the temperature you’re baking at and bake for a bit longer. Experiment until you find the sweet spot, and take notes along the way.
Consider if you’ve added any inclusions? Have they added liquid to the dough you didn’t account for?
If you live somewhere humid and you’ve baked your lovely loaf and left it out for several hours to cool, the humidity can soften the crust and damped the loaf, try to catch it whilst it’s still crisp on the outside and store it in something that will repel moisture.
A gummy loaf could be as a result of one, or more, of these. As always, the best way to find your solution is to go through an elimination process and change one thing at a time and make notes, always make notes.
If all else fails, make toast. Dry your slices of bread out in the toaster and enjoy!
I am very excited to share a recipe from my upcoming new book with you! These stuffed pizza rolls are perfect for a family get together, pretty much for any meal, for a pack up, a picnic, a party, a snack, breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and really any event. They also freeze and defrost perfectly, and are fun to make yourself or with kids or as a shared baking project. There’s minimal shaping, the muffin tin does it all for you, just roll them up, chop them up, stuff them into the muffin pan wells and bake!
I hope you will give them a go, give them your own twist, and that you love them…
These pizza rolls are made using one of my favorite processes—stretching out my dough after the main overnight proof, covering it with my favorite ingredients, rolling it up, chopping it up and baking the pieces into filled rolls. In this recipe, I have updated my process and use a standard muffin tray to bake the rolls in. This works perfectly to provide a uniform size but also helps to shape the rolls. It means that even if the dough gets messy or hard to handle, you can stuff it into the muffin spaces and it will still bake up beautifully to even sized muffin shaped rolls.”
🌟🌟🌟 watch the video of my recent international bakealong and you can see me making these rolls in my kitchen 🌟🌟🌟 click here to watch.
Equipment: Have a 12-hole muffin tray ready, preferably nonstick. If your muffin tin is not nonstick, lightly spray or grease inside the wells with a neutral or flavorless oil or butter.
Makes 12 roll ups
50 g (1⁄4 cup) active starter
325 g (11⁄3 cups) water
500 g (4 cups) strong white bread flour
7 g (1 tsp) salt, or to taste
150 g (3/4 cup) pizza sauce
200 g (2 cups) grated cheese (I use hard “pizza mozzarella” that I can grate. You can also use a mix of mozzarella and Monterey Jack)
Additional pizza toppings of your choice (for example, thinly cut mushrooms or sliced meats such as pepperoni or chorizo [avoid anything too thick or chunky])
Step 1: In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the ingredients, except the pizza sauce, cheese and any other filling ingredients, leaving the dough shaggy. Cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover and leave it on the counter for 2 hours.
Step 2: After the 2 hours, perform the first set of pulls and folds on the dough; it will be sticky at this point, but stretchy. Cover the bowl and leave it on the counter.
Step 3: Once the dough has rested for at least an hour, complete two more sets of pulls and folds on the dough throughout the evening, covering the bowl after each set. The dough will be nicely stretchy and will easily come together into a firm ball each time. Complete the final set before going to bed.
Step 4: Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 10 hours, at 64 to 68°F (18 to 20°C).
Step 5: The next morning, place the dough, untouched but still covered, in the fridge for at least an hour, until you are ready to use it; this could be for lunch, dinner or a meal the next day. The dough will firm up, making it easier to work with later.
Step 6: When you are ready to bake, decide whether you would like to bake in a preheated oven or from a cold start. If preheating, set the oven to 400°F (200°C) convection or 425°F (220°C) conventional.
Take your bowl of dough from the fridge. Sprinkle flour over your kitchen counter. Using a bowl scraper or your hands, gently ease the bubbly risen dough from the bowl onto the counter. Use your fingertips to start stretching and pushing out the dough, until it becomes a rectangle that measures 18 x 12 inches (45 x 30 cm) with an even thickness all over. The dough will want to pull back as you stretch it; continue to pull it gently, careful not to make holes in the dough. If the dough starts to tear or seems very hard to stretch, let it rest on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes allowing the gluten in the dough to relax and try again.
Spread the pizza sauce evenly all over the stretched dough and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top, right up to the edges. If you are adding extra fillings, place them over the sauce and cheese. Roll up the dough from one of the longer edges toward the other to make an even, tight roll of dough. Using a dough knife or sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces, approximately 11⁄2 inches (4 cm) wide. Place them, cut side down, in the muffin pan hollows. If the rolled up portions of filled dough start to fall apart, or you struggle with the dough holding together, push them into the pan hollows however they come. Do not worry about perfect shaping; the muffin pan will create the roll shapes for you as they bake.
Step 7: If you preheated the oven, bake the rolls uncovered for 25 minutes. If you are using a cold start, place the filled muffin pan in the cold oven, set the temperature as above and set a timer for 30 minutes.
Step 8: Once they are baked, remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the rolls and let them sit briefly on a rack before serving. They are best eaten freshly baked, but my testers also informed me that they were still great eaten a few days later and reheated in a microwave for 30 seconds.
Top Tip: If you would prefer to bake them later, follow step 6 to fill, roll and cut the dough up into pieces, and then place the rolls into the muffin tin. Cover the tin with a large plastic bag or damp tea towel and place it into the fridge. When you are ready to bake, you can bake them directly from the fridge, following the directions above.
Happy baking! Happy making, rolling, cutting, baking, and EATING! If you choose to order it, I truly hope you like my new book xx
Today I proudly give you my sourdough hot cross buns! I am so happy with these, all of my taste testers have given them a thumbs up, and now I happily share them with you in celebration of the upcoming release of my new book and in readiness for Easter..
For the rolls, I used my lighter enriched sourdough recipe from my book The Sourdough Whisperer as my base, and I made 2 versions: one all white flour, and one wholegrain version. For the loaf, I made a dough with oat milk and maple syrup that could also be used for rolls.
Sourdough hot cross buns are never going to be as light and fluffy as shop bought yeasted hot cross buns, these have more texture and depth to them, as you’d expect from a sourdough version, plus I did pack in a lot of dried fruit and peel! But, I am very happy to say that each of people that taste tested them (and there was quite a few) gave them a big thumbs up!
Dough notes: please keep in mind that these doughs are slow to fully prove, even without the additions, enriched and milk based doughs are slow growers; add in the dried fruit and peel, and they‘re even heavier; add in the spices and especially the cinnamon, and it slows them down even more. So don’t worry if they haven‘t fully proved in the morning, just leave them and give them a few more hours to do their thing.
My hot cross buns
Makes 12 rolls
White flour version:
50 g active starter
330 g reduced-fat or 2% milk or plant-based milk
1 large egg yolk (reserve egg white for brushing)
50 g butter (I use slightly salted butter), at room temperature
Note: I used a mix of dried fruit and mixed dried peel, mine included sultanas, raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, orange peel and lemon peel.
For the crosses, for use just before baking only
100 g plain/all purpose flour
100 g water
For the glaze, for use after baking only
100 ml water
100 ml honey
Try adding 1 tbsp orange essence, and/or 75g chocolate chips, to the dough, or anything else you fancy!
A medium baking tray lined with parchment paper
Icing bag with smallest nozzle, or sandwich bag with tiny hole cut in one corner
Step 1: In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all of the dough ingredients, except the reserved egg white. It will be a very sticky dough, even sticker if you are using the wholegrain spelt flour, and it may be easier to use a bowl scraper or spatula to mix it at this stage. Leave it roughly mixed, cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover and leave the bowl on the counter.
Step 2: After 2 hours, perform the first set of pulls and folds on the dough. Lift and pull the dough across the bowl as far as you can, turn the bowl slightly and repeat, round and round the bowl, until the dough come into a soft studded ball, then stop; it will be a sticky dough, but will eventually easily come into the soft ball. You may find that you have to fold the dough over onto itself rather than pull it and stretch it at this point. Cover the bowl again and leave it to sit on the counter.
Step 3: Over the next few hours, perform three more sets of pulls and folds on the dough, covering the bowl after each set. The dough will remain sticky but will become stretchier, and should come together into a nice soft ball each time. Do the final set before going to bed.
Step 4: Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 10 to 12 hours, at 18 to 20°C/64 to 68°F.
Step 5: In the morning, hopefully the dough will have grown to double in size, with a smooth surface. If the dough has not doubled yet, allow it a few more hours to continue to prove. This is a very slow and heavy dough, even heavier than usual with all the added dried fruits, and it may take longer to fully prove.
Once ready to shape, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Have your lined pan ready. Cut the dough into 12 equal weight pieces. Shape each portion into a smooth ball, and place the dough balls onto the paper lined pan, spaced evenly, with 1-2 cm gaps between them. Cover the pan with a large plastic bag or damp tea towel, and leave it on the counter.
Allow the balls of dough to prove again, letting them grow to double the size. This may take 2 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
Step 6: Mix the plain/all purpose flour with the water and stir it until it make a smooth paste. Spoon it into your piping bag. Use a small nozzle or cut a 2mm hole in your piping bag and test piping the paste on your counter, ensure that it holds its line when you pipe some out.
Note: testing the paste before piping it onto the prepared rolls is a tip that I was given from the brilliant Cherie Denham (read more about her at the end of the post). She also said that if you do test the paste on your counter and it’s too sloppy to hold itself, add more flour to the mix to thicken it up, and then test it again. If it’s holds a nice smooth line, go for it..
Mix the egg white with a tablespoon (15 ml) of water and brush the top of the balls of dough gently with it.
Pipe lines of flour paste across all of the buns to form the crosses.
Step 7: When you are ready to bake, decide whether you would like to bake in a preheated oven or from a cold start. If preheating, set the oven to 200°C (400°F ) convection or 220°C (450°F) conventional.
If you preheated the oven, bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. If using a cold start, place the uncov-ered pan of dough in the oven, set the temperature as directed and set a timer for 30-35 minutes and bake until the rolls are browned.
Heat the water and honey in a pan over a medium heat, let it simmer and thicken slightly.
Step 8: Remove the pan from the oven and allow the rolls to cool briefly. Brush with the warm honey water to make them shiny. Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool briefly before tucking in!
Note: you can also make a glaze using sugar and water, or there’s various other ways which you can find online.
Hot cross bun loaf
I made this dough and baked it as a loaf but it could also be used to make buns in the same way as the above process. I have used oat milk and maple syrup so this loaf is ideal as a vegan option, you could also use milk of your choice and honey if you’d prefer.
Note: you could also use either of the above doughs to make a loaf following the same process as below
Makes 1 loaf or 12 rolls
Ingredients for the dough
50 g active starter
375 g oat milk
500 g strong white bread flour
150 g mixed dried fruits and peels
50 g maple syrup
7 g salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Optional for the criss cross design
50 g plain/all purpose flour
50 g water
A lined loaf tin, I used my Pullman tin, minus its cover, 21.5 x 12.5 x 11.5 cm (81/2 x 5 x 41/2 inches)
An icing bag with tiny nozzle or sandwich bag with tiny hole cut in one corner
Step 1: In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the dough ingredients until you have a shaggy, rough dough. Cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover and leave the bowl on the counter for 2 hours.
Step 2: After 2 hours, perform the first set of pulls and folds until the dough feels less sticky and comes together into a soft studded ball. This will be a heavy dough. Cover the bowl again and leave it on your counter.
Step 3: After another hour of rest, do one more set of pulls and folds on dough, covering the dough again afterward.
Step 4: Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 10 hours, at 18 to 20°C/64 to 68°F.
Step 5: In the morning, hopefully the dough will have grown to double in size, with a smooth-ish dough surface around the dried fruits and peels. If the dough hasn’t grown sufficiently, give it more time, this is a heavy slow dough. Have your pan ready and place the paper liner on the counter. Gently lift and fold handfuls of dough from one side of the bowl into the middle in a line, using the same pulling and folding action as used previously. Turn the bowl 180 degrees and do the same on the other side so that you have a thick sausage of dough in the middle of the bowl.
With a wetted hand, place your whole hand over the dough, turn the bowl upside down and gently ease the dough from the bowl into your hand. Place the dough, seam side down, on the paper and slip your hand out from underneath the dough. Use the paper to lift the dough into the pan, cover it with the same shower cap and leave it on the counter. Allow the dough to proof again, letting it grow level with the edge of the pan until it is just peeking over the top. This may take 2 to 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. The surface will become smooth and the dough will spread to fill the pan.
This step can also be done in the fridge for a longer, slower second prove, up to 24 hours, and can be baked directly from the fridge.
Step 6: When you are ready to bake, decide whether you would like to bake in a preheated oven or from a cold start. If preheating, set the oven to 200°C (400°F ) convection or 220°C (450°F) conventional.
Option: to add the criss crosses, pipe a flour paste design across the top of the loaf before baking. Mix 50 g plain/all purpose flour with 50 g water until it makes a smooth paste, and use a piping bag to pipe lines across the top of the loaf.
Step 7: If you preheated the oven, bake the loaf for 45 minutes. If you are using a cold start, place the pan of dough in the oven, set the temperature as above and set a timer for 50 minutes. If the surface of the loaf looks like it is going to bake darker than you would like, cover the top of the loaf with another pan or some foil.
Step 8: Remove the loaf from the oven and the pan, tap the base of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, the loaf is baked. If not, return it to the oven, out of the pan, directly onto the rack to bake it for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool briefly on a wire rack before slicing.
To glaze, brush with warmed, melted apricot jam or golden syrup after baking and while still warm.
I must say a huge thank you to the very brilliant Cherie Denham for holding my hand through making these, Cherie is a brilliant baker and cook and helped me hugely! If you’d like hear us in conversation do check out my recent podcast episode – Cherie is wonderful and a true inspiration. Find us talking here:https://foodbodpod.podbean.com/e/the-foodbod-pod-episode-2/and subscribe to the channel so that you don‘t miss future episodes.