Monday 2 September 2013

Because bread just goes beautifully with most homegrown produce...

I have been making my own sourdough bread since Carl Legge taught me in beautiful North Wales then sent me home with a little bit of his starter to set me off. Over the months, I have learnt some more, among others from Sonia and Joanna. And, with time, I have come up with my reliable recipe and a process that is adapted to my lifestyle. As my lifestyle is busy busy tired tired, I have gone for the least folded sourdough bread ever. Still, we are happy with the results here at Casa Cecconi, so we stick with it.

My starter's name is Bruna. She started off as a wholemeal wet starter, but now she has turned white. I freshen it up once a week or up to 10 days with as much again water (that has been left for a while so that chlorine & other chemicals they use to make it drinkable evaporate) and as much again organic 0 flour from Italy***. So 1/3 starter, 1/3 water and 1/3 flour.

After leaving the starter to bubble up (up to a day, so that is smells nice and sweet and milky), I take 200g for my bread and put the rest away in a Kilner jar in the fridge. She emerges again in one week or so (often sour and smelly of vinegar so much it takes your breath away) gets to room temperature, then I freshen it up.

And here for my reliable recipe.

Sourdough bread

  • 200 g starter
  • 675 g white flour (I use plain flour rather than strong, and up to 150 g of it I often replace with wholemeal rye, rye meal, wholemeal rice, wholemeal spelt or just wholemeal**)
  • 300-350 g lukewarm water (depending on how the dough feels, which depends on the flour)
  • 1 tbsp barley malt extract

Mix all together in a glass bowl (using a spoon with rye, as it sticks to your hands like hell), knead a little bit and leave 20 minutes to hydrolize. Then I add

  • 15 g salt
diluted in a little bit warm water, and knead it until it reaches the right texture again. This would be the time to add any seeds to the mixture ( I have done it only once, with chopped pistachios).

Just untucked for you to have a peek...

Then I leave it to rise for a day, or a night, covered with a plastic freezer bag I wash and reuse all the time, in a warm place. Inside the oven with the light on was suggested, or on a sunny windowsill, kitchen surface or my mother in law used to tuck in her pizza dough under the duvet (warning: danger of spilling!).

My "lifestyle process" is so adapted that I can make bread around a fulltime job away from home. So if you freshen up the starter in the evening and make the dough in the morning then you can bake it in the evening. Or, conversely. if you freshen up the starter in the morning, then you can make the dough in the evening and bake in the morning. Easy peasy.

I don't bother kneading until my muscles ache, or bashing the dough around, as some TV presenter seems to think necessary. 

When the dough has risen, I turn on the oven to 225 C (regular, not ventilated) with my stone in it. It requires about 40 minutes for the oven and the stone to heat up to the right temperature. At the start of that, I shape the loaf, after folding it a couple of times, and give it a nice sprinkling of flour. Then I cover it with the (upturned) glass bowl, the one I had mixed and let it rise in, and go about my business.

Loaf in the oven

When the oven alarm goes off, I score the loaf (with a razor blade wetted in cold water) and place it in the oven for 55 minutes, together with a little metal dish with a tbsp of water to improve the crust.

Best to leave your bread to cool before slicing, but
sometimes you just can't resist...

When the alarm goes off again, the loaf is out of the oven and put on a wire rack to cool. 

I store it in a straw basket inside a towel, where it keeps well for a week or so.

I can send you some starter if you wish to have a go: it's not so difficult!

*** the reason why I am using Italian white flour for my starter, is that one of the friends helping me is Italian and she knew best how to rescue an ailing starter (too vinegary for my liking) with Italian flour types, and that was the only Italian flour I could get. Since it worked, I stuck with it. If you use UK white flour for your starter, keep it mind it comes with additives (more about flour fortification on the RealBread Campaign website).
** two years on, I have tried with chestnut flour, 250 gr of it, the rest plain white. It goes with a tablespoon of honey instead of the malt, and one of cocoa. Does not rise much, but it really nice, and goes well with butter and smoked salmon too.


Joanna @ Zeb Bakes said...

The only suggestion I would make, tentatively, is that if you refeed the starter before you put it away for the week in a ratio something like 20 g old starter to 50 water and 60-70 flour you will find it comes out of the fridge less sour as it has more 'food' to nibble while waiting. But that is a beautiful beautiful loaf! x Jo

M.Paola Andreoni said...

That makes sense: more food, lasts longer! However Bruna does not smell vinegary any longer, even after a week or so, has that happened to you? Fascinating living things starters are, and I think Bruna has gone through some sort of new phase, it now smells strongly aromatic (wouldn't be able to describe it though)...