A review of my ‘perfecting your sourdough’ course…

I’ve been making Sourdough for several months now using Elaine’s starter Star, but I fancied treating myself to a New Year break, and the chance to perfect my sourdough skills, so I booked myself in (with a friend) to one of her courses.

It was lovely to finally meet Elaine after all our online conversations and her helpful tips helping me on my sourdough journey.

The course was wonderful, and I left full of inspiration and ideas to progress and improve with my sourdough baking.

We were met with a cuppa and then Elaine explained about the different flours we would be using, from strong white bread flour to spelt, kamut, einkorn, rye and emmer. We made different shapes and sizes of bread loaves and bread buns, as well as preparing and baking with spice mixes, seeds and grains.

Lunch is included in the course and Elaine treated us to some fabulous sourdough focaccia and an assortment of salads and dips.

We finished the day after shaping and baking our own sourdough loaf, which we took home in a fabulous cotton bag with a packet of Elaine’s sourdough starter, the star!

I learned so much and Elaine was informative without baffling us with science! It’s not just Perfecting your Sourdough Skills but it’s simplifying sourdough too, with lots of hands on activity and the chance to make invaluable notes.

Highly recommended and very reasonably priced.

Karen

https://www.lavenderandlovage.com

My breakfast mix loaf…

I think I can honestly say that I love this little loaf; the shape, the colour, and flavour, the texture…it was all lovely.

Let me explain…I make big batches of a ‘breakfast mix’ that I eat daily, as seen in the photo below, and I decided to throw some in with some dough and see how it went…and it went well!

The mix is made up of oats, milled flaxseeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds, whatever chopped nuts I have in the cupboard, and lots of my chai inspired spice mix.

The spice mix includes ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper, the amounts descending in that order. I don’t measure it but as a rough guide I’d say that cinnamon makes up about 50% of the mix, the ginger and turmeric is probably 10-15% of each, and everything else decreases in quantity after that with the smallest amount being the ground black pepper which is only there to get the best out of consuming the turmeric. You can make it to suit your tastes.

I soak 4 heaped tablespoons of this mix with water overnight, then mix it with mashed banana in the morning, heat and eat! And I love it, every single day I love it!

Anyway, back to the bread…you can now see that the colour comes from the spices, particularly the turmeric; with the inclusion of the oats and milled flaxseeds, it also adds some firmness to the dough, hence making it a delight to score..

This was another little loaf using my 17cm diameter banneton, which is working perfectly for such experiments.

The loaf smelled amazing whilst and once baked, and tasted good fresh, the smelled amazing again when toasted!

To make this lovely loaf, I used the process of my master recipe, link to the left, with the quantities below, feel free to scale it up at will. I baked it at 220C fan (240C non fan) for 30-35 mins.

260g strong white bread flour

40g of my breakfast mix

210g water

30g bubbly starter

1/2 tsp salt

If you try it, I hope you like it! Please do let me know xx

My master recipe focaccia..

This lovely vision was created by using my master recipe process and converting it to make focaccia; by using my recipe and process all the way through to the morning after the overnight prove, you can then use the dough to create this lovely bread.

NOTE: if your dough has proved overnight and is reaching the top of the bowl or hitting the shower cap by the early morning but you’re not ready to use it yet, gently do one round of pulls and folds to calm it down a bit, then cover it again to allow it to grow and fill the bowl again over the next 2-3 hours for when you want to use it.

For this focaccia, I scaled down the quantities of my usual recipe, but you can keep them exactly as they are to make a bigger loaf than mine, or use the quantities below to make a smaller version.

Ingredients

300g strong white bread flour

210g water

30g bubbly active starter

1/2tsp salt or to taste

Additions: rosemary, garlic, or whatever you fancy!

Method

*The details for my master recipe and process are in links to the left of your screen.

Following the process up to the morning after the overnight prove, prepare a large baking tray by liberally drizzling it with a good amount of olive oil.

Using a bowl scraper or your hands, gently ease the bubbly risen dough from the bowl and let is fall onto the tray; it will pretty much plop onto the tray, which is fine, just take care not to handle it roughly or press out any of the lovely bubbles.

Gently turn the dough over so that it is all covered in olive oil and cover loosely with a large plastic bag or cling film and leave it on the counter to prove again for 1.5 – 2 hours.

Heat your oven to 200C fan (220C non fan).

Using your fingertips, push the dough out to a rectangular/oval shape until it’s about 1″/2-3cm thick. Use your finger tips to firmly press dimples all over the dough.

Sprinkle or place whatever toppings you choose over the dough; here I’ve used dried rosemary and sliced garlic (not too thinly sliced).

Bake for 17-18 until browned, or longer if you’re using a bigger dough at the start. If like me your oven has a hot spot, turn the tray round half way through.

Ease off the tray and place on a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it whilst it’s piping hot.

Cut when ready to consume and enjoy!

This makes a lovely holey light focaccia with a nice crunchy base.

A review of my superStar…

When making sourdough bread, a good sourdough starter is essential to get your bread to rise as it should, regardless of the flour combination or recipe you’re using. I tried for a long time, unsuccessfully, to get my own starter nice and robust but it just wouldn’t cooperate. Finally I decided to buy some of Elaine’s starter, Star, and what a difference it made!

She dehydrates her Star at the peak of its strength. Star comes from a long line of Elaine’s starters that have been performing consistently well for many years, and that was evident from the very first loaf I baked.

When I received my packet of dried starter all I needed to do was to rehydrate it and it was ready to bake with. Elaine provides simple and clear instructions, and in a little over a day I had a fully active starter I could either bake with then or store in the fridge to use later.

I just can’t say enough about how much more fun baking has become for me now!

Katie

Minneapolis, USA

Creating sourdough with Mrs Middletons beautiful flour…

Mrs Middleton is actually a lovely lady called Whizz, and Whizz’s farm is very very close to where I live. For several years Whizz has sold a lovely light rapeseed oil made from her own crops, and recently she also started to sell flour from wheat grown on her land and milled at a local historical mill. This flour therefore is grown and milled very close to where I live and therefore sits it firmly in my heart.

Whizz produces just two flours as shown above, and I love the plain natural white stoneground flour; but do not be fooled, this is not what you would think of as ‘plain flour’. This flour is 13% protein and therefore perfect for bread making. It also has a slight pink tint to the flour which bakes to a light brown, and it’s not just the colour that behaves like a wholemeal/whole wheat; this flour takes up a lot of water, which you have to take into account, and bakes to a gloriously flavoured textured loaf.

If used solely, the loaf will be quite dense and heavy unless you add extra water, which is what I did for the first 2 photos of this post; or, I lift it with some white spelt flour and it works perfectly, as these last 2 photos show. These loaves and the one below are made using my master recipe with 250g Mrs Middletons plain white flour & 250g white spelt flour, otherwise all the same quantities,

And this is definitely my most favourite flour mix to date, the dough is generated is so smooth, it’s beautiful to handle, and when turned out it’s always wonderfully firm and a joy to score…

I’ve also use this flour for making sourdough buttermilk biscuits/scones…

I can happily recommend trying Whizz’s beautiful flour, and I even had the honour of meeting her and teaching her how to make sourdough, which was lovely.

Trying new flours is so much fun, and this one has definitely been a successful experiment for me.

You can find Whizz’s lovely flour and oil here.

A review of my ‘perfecting your sourdough’ course..

I thought that I ought to write a review of the sourdough course that I did recently with Elaine Foodbod, at her home in Milton Keynes.

To put this into context I trained as a chef and have spent 40 years catering, and cooking for the military as well as various members of the Royal Family, as a Private soldier right through to Lt Colonel, but whilst that gives me a head start perhaps, as most of us know, sourdough pretty much breaks every rule I’ve ever known when it comes to yeasted products. Few other doughs are as ‘wet’ as sourdough, most other doughs require warmth for proving, none that I can think of would you cold prove, nor bake in a cold oven, put in a freezer for 45 mins before baking and most require some sort of vigorous kneading, not the gentle stretch and fold associated with sourdough.

Having said that, the day (really just 4-5 hours) was invaluable to me as a learning experience. Up to that point my home starter Herbert had made 20 or 30 loaves with each being a slight improvement on the ones before but I just couldn’t achieve the ‘open structure’ that is associated with sourdough breads. It wasn’t until I’d experienced handling a starter of Elaine’s that felt and looked so different to mine, and a dough that also handled different to mine which Elaine had prepared earlier, (which I was to make myself during the day) was I able to see where my errors were. It really did make so much difference being able to handle it all ‘in the flesh’ as it were. So, an absolute positive for me and that’s before I talk about Elaine herself, her instruction and her hospitality!

Elaine is clearly passionate about what she does, she does all in her power to make you feel at ease and comfortable and most importantly of all allows things to progress on the course at your pace, making sure that at each stage of the process you understand what you’re doing and why you are doing it! I couldn’t recommend Elaine’s course highly enough and I look forward to sometime in the future working with her again.

Andy Main

Sourdough rolls…

These rolls were made using my master recipe, link to the left, using Shipton Mill finest bakery no.1 white bread flour, but I also think that their Canadian bread flour would work well as it creates a slightly firmer dough in my experience. I also think they’d be lovely with various mixes of flour..

This week my lovely baking friend Steve and I made sourdough rolls together; I followed my master recipe exactly as it is, then after the overnight prove I pulled the dough together gently, placed it onto a floured surface then we cut it into 16 equal portions..as modelled by my lovely helper…

These pieces were rolled gently into rounds with the sides of our hands – very gently, the dough was very light and airy, and we wanted to preserve the bubbles – and placed onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

We then left them to sit for 10-15 minutes whilst preheating the oven to 200C fan (220C convection)

As they sat they did spread a little, and grow a little, which is good as it shows that the starter is still active.

They were too soft to score so I snipped crossed in the tops with scissors..

We baked them for about 18 minutes, turning the tray around half way through so ensure an even colour across the top.

As they baked we watched them grow beautifully, up into lovely balls.

They came out lovely and crusty on the outside and soft and holey in the middle.

We forced ourselves to let them cool once baked whilst we made some spiced root vegetable soup (I topped my soup with my homemade homous, whilst Steve lashed piles of my homemade harissa on his) to enjoy them with…and it was worth the wait, they were so good!

We cut the dough into 16 pieces and made smaller rolls; if you want to make bigger versions, you may need to bake them for a bit longer.

Happy baking!

An update: I made rolls again (below) and these were much bigger, I split the dough into 8 this time and I baked them for about 20 mins until slightly browned on the top…

So good!!!

Another update: I baked these rolls from cold; I put the tray in the fridge for 1-2 hours after shaping them, then baked them from a cold start…

Once I put the tray into the oven, I turned the oven on and up to 200C fan assisted, and left them for 25 mins total. Perfectly baked!

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 🙂

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