Baking bread. I've been an eager convert ever since we got our first breadmaker three years ago. But around at Mike and Elena's in December, I read their copy of Leith's Baking Bible. Yum. Three pages of detailed instructions on making one loaf of sourdough bread; the adjectives were inspiring promising thick crusts and intensely chewy insides. And there's no need to add yeast; it gets captured from the air around you.
So Mary found me a copy for christmas and Freddie and I have been busy successfully experimenting ever since. And the breadmaker that was once my pride and joy is relegated to a five minute knead every now and again.
So what does it involve, making these loaves, you ask? It takes about five-ten minutes a day to have a 1kg loaf every three days. Here's what you do:
- Weigh 225gms organic strong white flour and put it in a into a pudding bowl
- Weigh 340gms organic strong white flour and 110gms of organic rye or wholemeal flour and put it into a bowl large bowl
- Pour 450gms of starter* into the mixing bowl
- Add the 225grms of flour in the pudding bowl and 225ml of water to the starter, stir, and put back into the fridge
- Pour 150ml of lukewarm water into the mixing bowl, and knead the lot for 10 minutes
- Leave to rise overnight in an oiled bowl covered in oiled clingfilm (Steps 1-6 should take 8 minutes to complete)
- Oil hands, knead it for one minute, then put it in the fridge first thing in the morning (1 minute)
- Take it out of the fridge when you get back from work around 6:30pm
- Oil your hands and a worktop, stretch out the dough and sprinkle two teaspoons of sea salt, six tablespoons of seeds (any will do, preferably edible ones!) , and one tablespoon of either caraway, cumin or aniseed.
- Knead for one minute until the seeds and salt are thoroughly mixed in
- Roll into a ball, then pop it into a banneton floured with rye flour
- Leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size (about three hours) (steps 8-12 should take three minutes)
- Turn the oven on to gasmark 6 putting your baking stone on the top rack and a metal dish on the floor of it
- Turn the dough out onto a floured breadboard
- Slash it a few times with a razor blade
- Wait ten minutes, then mist it with water and put it in the oven for 30 minutes
- Turn it over and bake for a further five minutes
- Place on drying rack for an hour (though steps 13-18 takes an hour and a half, only 3 minutes are required of actually doing anything but waiting…)
You're done; a thick crunchy crust and incredibly chewy texture combined with that inimitable 'sourness' will make you the toast of town.
* That 'starter' bit. To get things going, mix 225 grms flour with 225mls water, and a handful of unwashed grapes and leave uncovered for three days. Then mix a further 225grms flour with 225mls water to it and leave uncovered for another three days. Then go to step one above.
Image of the starter getting a mixing on the left.