Monday, March 17, 2008



Two weeks ago, I came home from work to find the oven that we bought over a year ago no longer in our bedroom but finally in it's place in the kitchen. I have a 70cm wide oven and a ceramic hob with touch sensitive controls. I love it and the difference the oven has made to my bread is quite excellent.  It rises so much more and cooks without it colouring unevenly. I can also watch it bake through the clean glass window instead of using my nose to guess when things are ready. I also love the fact the thermostat doesn't lie - which is quite odd and I can open the door with a handle instead of my fingers wedged in between the door and the oven. Basically I love it. The first thing I baked was a sourdough loaf....

It's amazing what you can achieve from fermenting potatoes, water and flour, time and patience. As I have mentioned  previously, I'm quite into making sourdough and am loving it and am ever so slightly obsessed with making it. Not one sourdough loaf seems to be the same, yet each loaf seems to taste pretty good. The flavour and texture I'm achieving is great but I can't get that proper looking loaf, you know the loaf that sits in deli windows, covered in flour with artful slashes across the top? But I will keep trying until I do.

I think to achieve that rustic look, you may need proper 'Bakers' equipment which I'm not using. Bakers use proving baskets, floured linen, bakers peel, baking stone and a spray bottle with water to get some humidity in to the oven. Stretching the skin/membrane of the dough as you shape it is also very important to achieve that rustic look. I often manage to tear the bubbly delicate skin as I’m forming the shape of the loaf, which then reveals the layers and structure of the dough underneath. I quite like this look once baked, I think it adds to its charm.

This recipe is for Angie. Good luck and get obsessed!

Feeding the starter prior to using it:

If you have 200g starter – and if it’s from me, it’s the’ mother starter’, it is more liquid than
a starter taken from a pre-salted kneaded batch.

Keep starter in a large glass jar, Kilner jars are ideal.
Take starter out of fridge and bring to room temperature. I usually give it 4-6 hours but it depends on your room temperature.

100g organic strong white flour  (sometimes I add 50g rye/50g white)
100g lukewarm filtered or bottled water. Use hot water from boiled kettle.
Mix with a wooden spoon.

Leave for another 6 hours.

Repeat above feed. Leave for another 6 hours.

Example Times:

Remove from fridge midday
First feed 4pm
Second feed 10pm.

  • Start mixing the dough in the morning.

  • The starter should be bubbly, thick and smell yeasty, fresh and slightly of apples.

  • Take 250g starter and mix with 750g organic strong white flour. And 450 – 500ml of lukewarm water. The amount of liquid will depend on the flour using and also the consistency of the starter.

  • Knead until you have combined flour and dough, it should take no more than 5 minutes. I use the bread machine on the dough setting and stop it once it has all combined and has a rough surface. Push your finger into the dough, it should be soft and springy and a little sticky.

  • 5_mins_knead_2

    Rest for 20 minutes for the gluten to develop.

  • Meanwhile, warm a large bowl in the oven on a very low temperature.

  • After the rest, the dough will have developed a stringing elasticity.

  • After_first_20_minute_rest_2

  • Turn on bread machine if using, and use the dough setting and add:

1tbsp olive oil
15g Maldon sea salt.

  • Knead for 15 minutes.

  • Tip dough into warmed oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling-film and leave to prove for 3 hours in a warm, draft free place.

  • Once the dough has risen, very gently knock back the dough as you tip into on to a floured work surface.

  • Without kneading, divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces. It will be soft, warm, pliable dough and a little sticky.

  • Then gently tuck the dough under, to form a round shape.

  • Repeat this process for each piece of dough then sprinkle the dough with flour and smooth over.

  • Make sure you leave space between each piece.

  • Cover with a floured cloth and leave on the surface to rest for 20 minutes.

  • After_secong_20_min_rest_on_worksur

  • Taking each piece of dough, again gently form a ball shape by tucking the skin under the loaf, this is the point when it often tears.

  • Sprinkle again with flour.

  • Place ball on to silicone matt or baking parchment and cover with plastic to stop a skin forming.

  • Leave for final proofing for about 2-3 hours. Use indentation test*** to check if it's ready for baking (see below)

  • At some point towards the end of the proving time, preheat oven to 220 Âșc placing the baking stone and tray in the oven too

  • Spray oven with water and very gently place bread in hot tray. Bake for 25-30 mins. You may need to turn it. To achieve a dry crust, keep the oven door open for last five minutes. It's cook when the bottom of the loaf sounds hallow when tapped.

***Indentation Test
To check the dough has proved enough, gently press your finger into the dough. If the dough springs back leaving no indentation, then it needs to be left to prove for longer.
If the dough springs back and leaves a slight indentation in the loaf, then it’s ready.
If the dough doesn’t spring back, quickly get it in the oven with knocking it, as this will disturb the gases that make it rise.


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