Scalded Rye Sourdough

A dark, dense, moreish loaf that will sit so stoically supporting your avocado and eggs or cream cheese, dill and luscious cured salmon.

Ingredients

  • 375g leaven (recently fed sourdough starter)
  • 375g hot water (77°C)
  • 500g organic dark rye flour
  • 12g fine salt
  • 25g black treacle

Method

This recipe starts with your sourdough starter, which you can make using this recipe HERE if you don’t already have one. The night before your bake, refresh your starter and feed it with equal quantities of flour and water to make up your 375g leaven.

I make this bread using a stand mixer (trusty Kitchenaid) with a dough hook, as it’s particularly sticky and difficult to handle.

  1. Pour the hot water over the rye flour, mix together, cover with a shower cap or damp tea towel, and leave to autolyse for 4 hours.
  2. Add the leaven, treacle and salt.
  3. Mix/knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Cover and leave to proof for 4 hours.
  5. Heavily flour a material-lined banneton basket.
  6. Tip your dough out, squash it all together and pop it into the banneton with the help of a dough-scraper.
  7. Cover the basket and leave it to proof for another 4 hours.
  8. Preheat your oven and baking stone or dutch oven if using, to 250°C.
  9. Bake at 180°C for 1 hour.
  10. Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

This bread will improve in flavour if given a couple of days to mature.

Homemade Russian scalded rye sourdough bread

Sourdough Is For Life, Not Just For Lockdown

Like puppies at Christmas, sourdough starter deserves enduring love and care – the starter you made, bought or were gifted during the coronavirus lockdown will actually live on, in perpetuum. I fear that a significant number of those who developed a newfound love of home baking during the unprecedented Covid-19 restrictions will all too quickly revert to mass-produced pappy, low-nutrition loaves from supermarket shelves as people start returning to their hectic working lives. After all, good sourdough is all about the devotion of time and attention to detail.

There’s hope though. If you baked enough sourdough loaves during the lockdown, developed your process and timing, and savoured the unique flavour that’s only achievable to the artisan baker, you’ll be hooked. Once you’ve tasted the good stuff and appreciated the undeniable magic that is transforming flour, water and salt into open, tangy crumb, you’ll no doubt want to persist with your endeavours.

But, alas, my bet is that most of the sourdough cultures that thrived during the height of lockdown, will have now sadly perished; neglected, and simply starved to death.

So how might we be able to save these vulnerable lives? Read on, my flour dusted friends.

  1. Refrigerate – covered over to protect it from the cold, dehydrating air of the fridge, your sourdough starter will easily survive for a couple of weeks without feeding. The cold will slow down the activity of the culture, so if it’s been fed just before going into the fridge then it’ll have enough food to keep it going. It may develop a layer of hooch on the top, but you can just mix it all up and feed it over a couple of days at room temperature to get it back to peak performance. Refrigerated sourdough starter
  2. Freeze – the extreme cryogenic option. Pop some of your starter in a ziplock bag, seal it up, label it and chuck it in the freezer. I’ll admit that I’ve not yet tried to revive any of my own backup starter from the freezer yet, but in theory it’ll just need to be defrosted and then given a good feed, air and warmth (I’ll update this post in due course) Frozen Dave 
  3. Dehydrate – take a little starter and spread it out very thinly on a sheet of greaseproof paper or a silicone mat. Leave it on a wire rack in a warm, airy environment until it has dried out completely. Once it’s brittle you can pop it into a labelled glass jar and store it for ages. This is an ideal option for transporting a starter.

     

  4. Share – keep sharing cuts of your starter with friends and colleagues with instructions on how to look after it (just like the traditional Amish Herman the German friendship cake https://hermanthegermanfriendshipcake.com/). This is the ultimate in offsite backup options – especially if your friends and family keep some in their freezer. dave
  5. Perfect – I’m convinced that once you’ve mastered a routine and timing which you can literally ‘work around’, it makes it so much easier to just keep baking! It’s of course sage to retain a backup starter using one or more of the above methods. 

In an ideal world, we’ll return to a place where the deep knowledge and experience of baking at home is commonplace once again. 

As always, do get in touch if you have any questions. 

Sourdough Pizza

Another dangerous path of culinary adventure that requires tightrope level skills to maintain the balance between joyous deliciousness, and an inevitable descent into morbid obesity. Thankfully, unlike flatbreads, this recipe takes many hours to execute, which will hopefully prevent it becoming a regular go-to carb snack.

There are literally thousands of sourdough pizza recipes out there that use wildly different methods, but this is the first time I’ve really been happy with the end product and content that it will give consistent results.

Sourdough pizza

I think it’s fair to say that the cooking method is probably more important than the ingredients for once – controversial, and something I never imagined I’d be writing.. If you’re lucky enough to have a proper wood-fired oven, you’re likely to get great results with literally whatever kind of dough you’ve got going. For me, the little burnt bubbles and flecks around the crust are the holy grail of pizza, and almost impossible to achieve with a crappy conventional oven.

If, like the majority of the population you don’t have access to a fabulous oven, I’d recommend at the very least investing in a decent baking stone and getting it as hot as your conventional domestic oven will possibly take you.

Ingredients:

  • 300g sourdough starter (See HERE if you don’t already have one)
  • 15g salt
  • 500g strong white flour (I particularly like Tipo ’00’ and always use organic)
  • 250g water

Method:

Like anything in the sourdough world, this recipe is all about time.

Make sure your sourdough starter has been fed recently and is raring to go – bubbly, lively and buoyant if you drop a teaspoon of it in water.

Mix together all of your ingredient and then knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and silky.

Split your dough into three (or more) and shape it into tight balls. Pop them into the fridge (covered) until the following day. This is where the sourdough culture really does its thing, developing your dough and taking it from pedestrian to the sublime.

sourdough pizza dough

The following day, your dough is going to need a few hours out of the fridge (still covered) to come back up to room temperature.

Stretch or roll out your dough to the desired thickness using plenty of fine semolina and you’re all set and ready to go.

Add your toppings, bosh it in your super-hot oven and cook until it looks done and on the verge of burning.

sourdough pizza

Toppings:

TOTALLY. UP. TO. YOU – but just don’t overload it, or you’ll end up with a pie. If you’re making a few, you may as well make the first a classic tomato, mozzarella and basil margarita to act as a gauge and really show-off your dough.

Pizza

Alternatively:

If you’re looking for a faster (and slightly less awesome) pizza, click HERE for a non-sourdough version.

Godspeed.

As ever, get in touch via here or social media if you have any questions, suggestions or special requests!

Sourdough pizza

Lockdown Sourdough

The staff of life. Bread connects every human, transcending continents, countries, creeds and clans. The COVID-19 outbreak appears to have encouraged a resurgence in home baking (and a run on flour amongst other basic staples). There are many different types of bread, but I’m obsessed with classic sourdough bread – the old way of baking using a living wild yeast starter, before dried yeasts were invented and mass production led us astray.

I’ll try to summarise everything you’ll need to know about creating a starter, looking after it and baking sourdough bread – please do reach out to me via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or email if you have any questions or queries.

To start, you’ll need a starter (!)

Making your very own unique starter from scratch is really straight forward and it’s something you can be really proud of – everything you need to know is right here: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/02/21/sourdough-starter/

I’ve been handing out cuts of my sourdough starter, Däve, to anyone who’s local enough to collect him from the wall outside.

What to do if you’re gifted a live starter?

First of all, you’ll probably want to find him/her a new home (and think of a name for your new lockdown companion!).  A 600ml jar with a lid is ideal for looking after your starter as it provides enough space for it to grow if you’re keeping it around 100g.

Next you’ll want to feed/refresh it. If you’ve only been given a small amount, you might want to bulk it up in size, but generally you’ll halve the starter (discarding or baking with half) and feeding the other half with a 50/50 mix of flour and water.

Bread flour can be tricky to get hold of at the moment, and you’ll need enough to keep your starter alive, so here’s some tips for:

Reducing flour consumption

  • Refrigeration: Popping it into the fridge in a sealed container will slow down the fermentation process so you can get away with feeding it once every couple of weeks (although you’ll need to refresh it a few times to get it back up to strength before you can bake with it again)
  • Freezing: believe it or not, you can freeze a portion of your starter in a ziplock bag and keep it in suspended animation – defrosting and feeding at some point in the future.
  • Dehydration: spread a little starter out on a piece of greaseproof paper (very thinly) and leave it on a rack to try out completely – you’ll be able to store your precious culture in a jam jar and rehydrate it when you can get hold of flour again.
  • Keep your starter small!

The bake

My preferred process for baking sourdough can be found here: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/12/18/sourdough-2-0/ although I’ve more recently been baking my loaves for a total of 50 minutes rather than an hour, and I no longer use semolina as it becomes a little hard after baking. I’ve also decided that I prefer the flavour from wholegrain or malted flour rather than white rye; the choice of flour is yours (as long as it’s strong flour) – you’ll no doubt want to start experimenting with different kinds of flour once you’ve perfected your baking process.

Don’t overlook freezing – just slice your freshly baked bread, wrap it up and freeze it. You can toast slices directly from the freezer.

Leftover bread?

Unlike wine, this does actually happen in our house. Sourdough bread lasts much longer than processed bread. If you have some leftover which has started to go stale (but not mouldy) then you can make a panzanella salad (google it), croutons for soup or perhaps the gold dust that is pangrattato – https://foodfitforfelix.com/2019/01/13/pangrattato/

If you can (and ensuring social distancing rules are respected), share! Starters, flours, fresh bread, tips, ideas, bannetons, recipes, hope and joy.

sourdough bread

Pangrattato

Everyone should have homemade pangrattato in their store cupboard. It ticks so many culinary boxes:

  • easy to make
  • easy to store
  • virtually free
  • absolutely delicious
  • improves a plethora of dishes
  • reduces food waste
  • you can’t buy it in the shops

It’s remarkably satisfying, so why wouldn’t you!?!

What is it?

A literal translation from Italian would be ‘grated bread’ – basically, pangrattato is toasted breadcrumbs.

sourdough pangrattato

Uses?

I use it as a garnish to add a little flavoured texture and make dishes more interesting – risotto, spaghetti, baked cheeses, lasagne, creamed leeks, gratins, Mac n’ Cheese! It’s gold dust in my eyes.

I’m sold, so how do I make it?

Tear up any bread that you have leftover (that’s not mouldy obviously) and pop it into a food processor with a clove of garlic and a few fresh herbs if you have them. Give it a blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs and then drizzle in a little olive oil with the motor still running. It only needs enough oil to very lightly coat the crumbs.

Tip the crumbs into a dry frying pan and toast them over a medium heat, stirring and moving them around constantly until they become golden in colour – you’ll hear the sound change as the crumb becomes crispy. Tip it out onto a tray so that it can cool evenly and then store it in a glass jar, ready for sprinkling when the moment takes you.

You can experiment with flavours if you like – try adding different combinations of herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme, perhaps an anchovy fillet and a little of its flavourful oil or some unwaxed lemon zest. Dried chillies will give it a deeper flavour and a bit of a kick.

Now, I appreciate that many people will discard the crusts from their sliced loaf as a matter of routine. @toastale actually make good use of this bread to make beer from packet sandwich manufacturing! If you chuck your crusts and any leftover bread into a freezer bag now and again, you’ll be able to defrost it all at the same time and cook up a big batch of pangrattato every few months.

Not an ounce of my precious sourdough goes to waste!

sourdough bread