Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: baking

Sourdough September – how to make the king of loaves

There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that miraculously rises from some water, flour and salt. When you explain to someone for the first time how it’s made they never quite believe that it’s possible or for that matter just how easy it is. Sure the process to make sourdough takes some time and some patience, but in terms of actually doing something to make it the time taken is less than 20 minutes. Once you have a starter that works and get into the cycle of feeding it and making a loaf you will soon become addicted to baking what is rightly known as the king of loaves.

Being the good social media user that I am I of course post photos of these wonderful loaves when I bake them at the weekend just to make sure folk know exactly how awesome I am. Over the past month or so this has resulted in a few people asking me for the recipe so they can have a go at baking a sourdough loaf themselves. I happily obliged and wrote up my method and recipe to share because what can be better than spreading the sourdough love? Unfortunately they are now doing their best to upstage me and make better sourdough than I do, but I shall try not to hold a grudge.

The recipe is mostly based on one from the Fabulous Baking Brothers (of Hobbs House bakery, makers of truly amazing bread) with a few tweaks I’ve learnt along the way. I thought it would be useful to share the recipe here also rather than sending it out on email each time. There are a few approaches to making sourdough but some seem a lot more complicated than this and this simple, straightforward approach seems to work well so why make things harder?

If you ever wondered about sourdough and the mystery of how to make it please do give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make something so tasty. There is definitely no better time of year to start either, as the days get noticeably shorter and colder a warm slice of sourdough with butter on is just the tonic! If you do decide to have a go please do share the results, I’d love to see them. Always happy to answer any questions you may have too.

Before moving onto the recipe I thought I’d share some photos of the loaves others have made with this recipe, if this doesn’t convince you to have a try I don’t know what will.

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Stirring away the gloom

The past week in our house has been a bleak, one of those weeks where illness descends on the house and as a parent all you can do is try to survive. Patience has been tested as has the washing machine and the ability to do the daily chores while being stuck under a child that will only settle on you.

But slowly this weekend we have emerged from this fog, the children have whined a little less and amazingly actually managed to eat something AND not be sick. To celebrate we have embarked on a little festive baking spree, inspired of course by Sunday being stir up Sunday.

I have fond memories of standing on a chair as a child holding a wooden spoon and looking down into one of my mums big blue china mixing bowls full of dried fruit. It’s one of those great traditions where everyone can get involved and you can start showing your children how magical this time of year can be.

We also made the first batch of mince pies, I know it’s not even December yet, but I do love a mince pie and as the first batch are inevitably the worst as you’re out of practice it makes perfect sense to get them out of the way early don’t you think? Plus it turns out that a mince pie is the perfect accompaniment to a single malt, I can see myself partaking in that combo more than once in the coming weeks.

The pastry was a bit thick if I’m honest but it still tasted good and I quite liked my experiment with the mini muffin tin and star shaped lids. Matilda and Henry are becoming little pro’s at using the cutters now and as long as you get to the pastry before they can shove the freshly cut piece into their mouths they’re very helpful.

Incidentally Matilda is VERY excited about Christmas, she asked me at least 5 times on Sunday if we could go and buy a Christmas tree. Not entirely sure how she has become so interested in Christmas because we haven’t mentioned it at all but it’s going to make for a lovely experience this year. Particularly as she’s excited about the tree (which is having chocolate on apparently, again never done that or mentioned it so no idea where it comes from) and baking things but no mention or awareness at all about presents.

Sourdough magic

We have a new tradition in the Fool’s household and that is eating a whole sourdough loaf on Saturday’s (and possibly another one on Sunday’s).

And you know what? We don’t even feel guilty.

sourdough Let me explain, you know I love bread and more than that have become a little bit obsessed with baking my own. It started around this time last year with trying to make the ultimate white loaf. It took a bit of a backseat after Henry was born as spare time became non existent for a few months. But with the discovery of how to make sourdough the urge to bake bread every week has been awoken.

Sourdough is bread making wizardry, just flour and water used to make the most amazing bread. I’m still not convinced that some little pixies don’t creep in at night and sprinkle some yeast in there. But however it works I don’t think there is a loaf better than sourdough and there certainly isn’t toast better than sourdough toast.

Making sourdough is all about routine, once you get into the habit of the weekly cycle you can have a fresh loaf every Saturday morning with less than 20 mins work. Sound good? Then read on:

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First you need to get your starter going and I warn you this definitely gets better with age so don’t be surprised if the first loaf you make isn’t amazing, just be patient.

  1. For your starter you’ll need a jar with a secure lid, I use a Kilner style one so it’s nice a secure.
  2. In the jar put 75g of wholemeal or dark Rye flour (I really like the Rye for flavour) and enough water to make a mixture like thick paint. Give it a good stir then pop it on your kitchen worktop.
  3. Repeat this every day for the next 4 days, you should start to see bubbles forming in the mixture as the natural yeasts work their magic.

Now you’re ready to make a loaf, if you want to eat your loaf on Saturday then make up the dough on Friday evening. It then proves overnight ready to be baked when you get up. With no yeast added it needs a nice long, slow prove.

  1. photo 3In a bowl put 460g of strong white bread flour, add 10g of salt and 300g of your starter.
  2. Now add enough warm water to make quite a wet mix that should hold together well but be a bit sticky on your hands. A wetter mixture is definitely better than a drier one.
  3. Turn out onto the worktop and knead for 10-15 minutes until you have a nice smooth and springy dough. The best way to kneed is to put one hand on the end of the dough nearest you and then use the other hand to stretch the dough out away from you. Then fold it back up and repeat.
  4. Once you’ve finished kneading place the dough in a bowl and cover it. The best thing to use to cover it is a shower cap, which sounds a bit random but it keeps the moisture in and can be reused unlike cling film. Leave it to rise like this for 3-4 hours.
  5. Now you also need to feed your starter again with 75g of wholemeal or rye flour and some water, but this time pop the starter in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation and means you don’t need to feed it again.
  6. photo 1Just before you go to bed, take the dough out of the bowl and gently shape it into a loaf. So far I’ve only used a loaf tin to cook it in so you just make the dough into a rectangle and pop into a well floured 2lb loaf tin. Cover it again with the shower cap.
  7. In the morning the loaf should have nicely risen, heat up the over to 230 degrees and pop the loaf in. After 10 minutes turn the over down to 200 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes.

Pretty simple isn’t it? Now you just need to get into the cycle of taking the starter out of the fridge on a Friday morning, giving it a feed and then making your bread on Friday evening. Feeding the starter again after you make your loaf and then popping it back in the fridge and so on.

Let me introduce you to the other woman in my life

You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet on this here blog over the last week or so. Mainly because we’ve been trying to sell our house and quite honestly the combination of that and work has been all my brain can handle. But amazingly our house sold in less than a week and we’re pretty close to buying a house also, all of which means I now have the brain power to tell you about the other woman in my life.

This, ladies and gentlemen is Susie, or to give her her full name Susie the sourdough starter. The new love of my life, a woman who makes me salivate just at the thought of her.

She is my latest obsession, a never ending mission to make the perfect sourdough loaf. It’s truly fascinating being able to make bread when no yeast at all is added, just some water, flour and magic fairy dust from the air. I think it also appeals to that little boy scientist inside making a magic potion, mixing and stirring and then watching as it bubbles away to itself in its jar.

Of course the main reason for doing this is that sourdough bread makes the greatest toast in the world, add a couple of rashers of bacon and a poached egg and you have the perfect sunday brunch.

Susie is now 2 weeks old and spends weekdays relaxing in the fridge, then on Friday morning she’s awaken from her slumber with a nice feed ready to make the dough on Friday evening and then baked in a loaf on Saturday morning. In theory if you keep this process going your starter will last forever and just gets better with age, plus if you keep the routine going you have an awesome fresh loaf of bread every weekend. What more could a man want?

Food porn photos to follow on Instagram….

 

Almost a master baker…

Yes you guessed it my obsession with baking bread has continued, in fact I reckon I’m starting to get pretty good at it. Since my last bread based post here I have changed recipes and am now using one from the new Fabulous Baker Brothers cook book. As these guys are one of my biggest food heroes and make amazing bread I figured it was worth a try.

YeastThe recipe is really nice and produces an amazingly elastic dough. I’ve also learned 2 very
important tips from this book. Firstly don’t use quick action yeast, no need to use fresh yeast but make sure to buy normal dried yeast. I’m using one from Allinson which seems to be very good and gives a tastier bread that what I used previously. The slower action of this yeast gives more time for the flavour to you see. Secondly when you put the bread in the oven put a small cup of water into a hot metal baking tray in the bottom of the oven. The steam from this makes a real difference to the crust that develops on the bread.

Here’s this weekends effort, starting to look like something you’d buy in a bakers I reckon. But still a few things I want to play with; at the moment I’m just using bog standard flour from the supermarket so plan to try out some more artisan flours. I also need to find a knife to cut the top with, it needs to be really bloody sharp and my knives just aren’t doing it. The last thing is the recipe uses oil in the recipe, I’ve used extra virgin olive oil so far but want to try out some different types and rapeseed in particular to see how it changes the flavour.

A quite fascinating process all in all and a quite enjoyable way to spend some time while Matilda naps at the weekend.

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