Sourdough is all about time. As time has passed since my last post about sourdough, I’ve patiently and diligently continued on my quest to make fantastic sourdough. I’ll reiterate that regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread.
Dave is all grown up, well, fourteen months old at the time of writing, and I’m feeling far more proficient in my yeast husbandry. Interestingly, this craft feels quite like parenting in the sense of becoming more and more unconsciously competent as time goes by; I’ve almost stopped thinking about the details and just get on with it.
Lots of great questions have been coming my way recently so I think it’s the perfect time to take stock and get my latest methodology down for posterity.
For my best sourdough loaf, I currently do the following (based on my equipment and environment):
- Make sure the starter is on top form and recently fed and watered – if it’s been chilling out in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process then give it a 50/50 organic flour and water feeding, a good mix to aerate it and at least a day at room temperature. You’ll know that it’s good to go if a spoonful of the starter floats in water.
- Before going to bed, mix 80g of the starter with 80g of organic white bread flour and 80g water. This is your sponge. Cover it with a cloth or a shower cap (it’s your yeast-farming duty to liberate them from hotel rooms at every opportunity).
- The following morning, start the autolyse process by mixing 50g organic white rye flour and 450g organic white bread flour into your sponge with 300ml tepid water. Leave it (covered with a shower cap) for an hour or so. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the water, start the fermentation process, and ultimately make it much easier to knead.
- Add 15g salt dissolved in a splash of water and knead your dough for 10 minutes until it’s beautifully smooth and elastic. There’s some real technique to be developed in kneading and shaping your dough, especially when it’s wet, but it isn’t hard to get the hang of it and if you’re like me, you’ll eventually find it more therapeutic than stressful.
- We now venture into bulk fermentation. Leave your dough covered for an hour and then lovingly ‘stretch and fold’ with wet hands a few times to incorporate a touch more water and increase hydration à la ‘eau de bassinage’. This technique will help to develop the gluten further and improve the crumb. Repeat this each hour and then after four hours, shape the dough. To help it keep its shape, you want to stretch the gluten to wrap around itself tightly. I do this by drawing the dough towards myself (google/youtube it).
- Pop your dough into a well dusted banneton (wicker bread proving basket). I use rice flour for this as it’s anhydrous and prevents the dough sticking. Sprinkle some semolina over the top and cover it with your trusty shower cap.
- Put your dough to bed in the top of your fridge and leave it until the following morning. This is the retarded method – it will slow the fermentation down, leading to a more digestible loaf.
- Pop a large cast iron pot into your oven and turn it up as high as it will go. After 30 minutes everything should be stinking hot.
- Take your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper.
- Score your dough with a lame or a razor blade in confident, even strokes. This will not only make your bread look good, but it will also help it expand in the oven.
- Being both quick and unbelievably careful in the process, remove your cast iron pot from the oven and lower your dough into it, give it a tiny spritz of water, pop the lid back on and then slip it back into the oven.
- After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to about 210° and bake it for a further 50 minutes.
- Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.
I’ve recently started doubling up on my ingredients to make two loaves at the same time – especially worthwhile given that sourdough bread keeps in perfect condition for such a long time.
Good luck, godspeed and look out for future updates on my preferred method here and on instagram @foodfitforfelix
The cake of Saint James – a medieval masterpiece that pairs perfectly with a mid-morning cortado coffee.
Its exact origins and specific recipe are long gone in the winds of time, but the celebration of the patron saint of Spain continues, especially on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and in the Galician capital Santiago de Compostela.
I’m not a huge fan of cakes or even baking them, but this simple gluten-free almond recipe has me hooked. It feels a touch more, grown-up. I’ve spent a while experimenting and have finally settled on this recipe.
- 6 eggs
- 250g ground almonds
- 250g golden caster sugar
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- zest of 1 unwaxed orange
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- icing sugar to dust
- Preheat your oven to 160°C (140°C fan)
- Grease and line an 8 or 9-inch springform baking tin.
- Separate the egg yolks and whites.
- Whisk the yolks with the golden caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Mix in the almonds, zest and extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Gently combine the two mixtures and fill your baking tin.
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
- Rest the cake in its tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
10. When completely cool, dust the top of the cake using icing sugar and a stencil of the cross of Saint James.
Serve with a little crème fraîche if you like. I certainly do.
As promised, here’s the recipe I’m generally following to make sourdough loaves. It assumes that you have a dutch oven, but if you don’t, you can use a large cast iron cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.
The story begins with a sourdough starter. If you don’t already have your own, you can find my recipe here.
- 80g sourdough starter
- 580g strong white organic flour, plus extra for dusting
- 380g water
- 15g salt
- Rice flour for dusting
- Semolina for dusting
Equipment that will help:
- Digital scales
- Measuring jug
- Dough scraper – good for shaping and moving your dough
- Large bowl
- Shower cap/cling film/cloth
- Banneton – wicker basket for proving
- Greaseproof paper
- Lame, razor blade or bread knife
- Water mister/sprayer
- Dutch oven or cast iron pot
- Cooling rack
Sourdough is all about time. You can’t rush flavour.
- The night before you want to bake, combine 80g of your sourdough starter, 80g strong organic white flour and 80g water in a bowl or tupperware container, mix thoroughly, cover and leave at room temperature. This will be your sponge.
- The following morning, add 300g water to your sponge and very roughly mix in 500g strong organic white flour. Cover with a shower cap and leave for an hour to allow the flour to absorb the water. This stage is called the autolyse.
- Mix in 15g salt and knead the dough on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. It will hold its shape and become less sticky as the gluten develops.
- Shape your dough into a ball, lightly dust with flour, and place it in a bowl. Cover and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, knock it back and reshape it into a ball by working the outer edges into the centre. Cover and leave it to rest at room temperature for a further hour.
- Knock the dough back and reshape a further two times, until it has spent a total of 4 hours fermenting.
- Dust your banneton or bowl liberally with rice flour, shape your dough for the last time, place it inside and cover with a shower cap or cloth. Leave your dough to prove for 4 hours.
- Preheat your oven to full temperature with your dutch oven or cast iron pot inside. I wait around 30 minutes for everything to heat up sufficiently.
- Carefully turn your dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper dusted with semolina.
- Slash the top of your dough with a lame, razor blade or sharp bread knife.
- Very carefully place your dough inside your dutch oven and spritz with water.
- Bake for 10 minutes before turning the temperature down to 230 degrees centigrade and baking for a further 40 minutes.
- Carefully remove your bread and leave it to rest on a cooling rack.
- Admire and devour.
I find that a dutch oven creates a great environment for the bread to bake in the absence of a professional oven. The reality is that there are many, many variables in play when it comes to baking bread. Literally everything makes a difference, from the water, air and flour temperatures, to brand of flour and type of oven. For this reason, regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread. The more you bake, the more you’ll learn and develop that all important feel for what’s going on with your dough.
Apples going spare? We seem to always have a glut in our house, so I did a little thinking and made a batch of apple crisps as a snack for the children. These children are now addicted to them. Good job that they’re super-easy to make, healthy as, well, apples, and cheaper than a bag of deep fried salty potatoes.
It’s nearly Christmas, so a dusting of aromatic cinnamon seemed only appropriate.
- Core your apples (although this isn’t essential if you can be bothered picking out the pips).
- Slice them thinly using a mandolin or a food processor. I cut them to 2mm thick to get a crisp result. Any thicker and they become chewy.
- Lay the slices out on a baking sheet making sure they don’t overlap.
- Dust them with cinnamon powder.
- Bake at 110°C fan (120°C conventional oven) for 25 minutes.
- Flip them over and bake for a further 20 minutes or until they’re perfectly crisp.
The crisps will store for a few days in an airtight container if you can resist them…
What better way to enjoy food than sharing? This dish is a joy-inducing crowd-pleaser and ideal for a lazy weekend brunch with family and friends.
I think that it works best in a cast iron skillet or small oven-proof pan (about 23cm), but a baking tin will suffice if you don’t have one.
This is my twist on Jamie’s One-cup pancakes with blueberries recipe as part of the Food Revolution campaign 2017. Simple, simple recipes that anyone can master, and everyone will love.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250ml milk
- 150g self-raising flour
- 20g butter
- 175g blueberries or raspberries
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Crème fraîche to serve
- Icing sugar to dust
- Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
- Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a large bowl.
- Sift in the flour and mix to make a batter.
- Heat the butter in a 23cm baking tin or pan in the oven. Once melted, carefully swirl it around, pour in the batter and sprinkle over a handful of blueberries or raspberries (about 50g).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.
- Whilst the pancake is baking, pop the remaining soft fruit in a small pan with the maple syrup and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until it turns into a sauce.
- Dust the pancake with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and the sauce. Do be careful with the pan – it’ll be hot hot hot.
This is a great way to use up frozen berries (i’m forever popping the last few from the fridge into a freezer bag before they turn).