what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the category “sourdough”

National real bread maker week and disappointment in Waitrose

Just a little plug for the Campaign for Real Bread’s National Bread Maker Week.

“Real Bread Maker Week is Britain’s biggest annual, national celebration of Real Bread and its makers.

Its aim is to encourage people to get baking Real Bread or buying it from independent bakeries to support their local communities.

This year, as well as raising awareness for Real Bread, we knead your help raising cash.

The Real Bread Campaign has great new plans to help people who, for one reason or another, have a tougher time than most of us enjoy the social, therapeutic and employment opportunities Real Bread making offers, but we need the dough to do it!

Can we count on your support?”

If you’ve never made bread why not try – you’ll be surprised how easy it can be. I’ve suggested lots of recipes on various pages of the blog, or search for Dan Lepard’s recipes as a very easy way into making bread at home.

Still not convinced? Then why not try your local independent café or bakers or farmers market and see what they make and check out the difference between factory-made bread and bread made locally.

If you’ve never bought flour from a local miller, then why not search one out. To coincide with the week there’s a number of water and wind powered mills open. Check out this list and see if you can find one to visit this weekend. We had a fab visit to Mill Green in Hertfordshire recently, we learned a lot and got some great flour. If you can’t get out there’s some deals on mail-order flour on the campaign website.

Disappointment in Waitrose? They have opened a spangly new supermarket near us and it doesn’t have an in-store bakers. They’ve just got ovens to give factory prepared loaves a suntan. A real opportunity missed by Waitrose.

Me? I’ve been baking sourdough again – got a lovely sweet starter going right now and I bake it with white and wholemeal flour. The warmer weather still means it takes about 10 hours to do its stuff, but it’s been great, but doesn’t seem to hang about long enough to get a photo taken. And I’ve been doing a bit of biking too for my LondonSurrey 100 mile event, so haven’t had a lot of time at weekends to do much baking. But least I use the calories I’m scoffing the rest of the week.

sourdough with 3 flours and doing slow things quickly

Sourdough with 3 flours – rye starter and then 50:50 extra strong wholemeal and strong white flours, and some salt. That’s it, no oil, no sugar, no yeast, no seeds, no absolutely anything artificial.


Indescribably good!

As a part of learning how to do this I’ve also found my oven goes up to 275 C – dare I go that high? These were started at 260 and turned down to 200 after 10 minutes.

Doing slow things quickly – what does that mean?

I’ve heard it said that people don’t make bread at home because they don’t have time. Having a breadmaker makes it easy because it does it all for you. What they are missing is the hands-on feel of mixing, kneading, smelling, judging, flouring, slashing, and finally baking. Something I have found with trying sourdough is that because it is really slow, it is paradoxically really quick and easy because the amount of baker intervention is small and spread out. With yeasted breads they have to be watched reasonably carefully to make sure they don’t rise too quickly and the cook books give periods of time like an hour, or an hour and a half, things you need to measure. Sourdough is happy to fit in around the baker. For instance, with the River Cottage approach I have been using I add starter to flour and water and leave it ‘overnight’, or in my case, ‘about six hours while I’m at work’, then it needs mixing with more flour and some salt  and kneading for about 10 minutes. I do that stage when I get home before going to do the school run. Then it is left for an hour, and then worked into a ball. So I do that when I get back from the school run – but with no rush. Then it is rested and worked into a ball again – up to four times in total – you decide! I decided on one more ball stage while I made and ate dinner and then worked into three loaves and left it to rise. Again, you have to wait for the dough, so the book says 1 to 4 hours. For me last night it was about three hours and in that time I went swimming and put Adam to bed, see no worries about the bread. Then finally when everything was quite I could bake the bread and it’s done and dusted and ready for the morning.


Cherry, fennel and rye loaf

My second Mellow Baker’s loaf from Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf – page 106 since you ask.

Into this goes:

strong white flour, fine rye flour (didn’t have this so just sieved a bit of regular rye flour), salt, fennel seads, rye leaven, water, fresh yeast, dried cherries, cooked and soaked rye grains and white poppy seeds for dusting on the top (didn’t have them so used some golden linseeds).

The recipe is reasonably easy to follow but you have to start the day before to cook and soak the rye grains. Rye grains aren’t the easiest of thing to buy but I managed to find some in London yesterday, in an emporium where they charge £2.49 for a small sourdough loaf. The rye grains were only £1.39 and 500g will go a long way. Dried cherries are the most expensive ingredient in this loaf and I think as such might be the restricting element to making it again, so I might practise with raisins until it improves.

So pictures of what happened are down below. The dough was never soft as described in the recipe, being quite hard and resistant, and also cold to the touch. I did put it in the oven with the ‘dough rising’ setting on for a few minutes to raise the temperature while it rested for the first hour, but not enough to heat the dough. It was left to rise on the baking tray for longer than the recipe said, but I don’t think that’s inhibited it in any way.

Soft evenly combined dough…. I don’t think so, it was quite tough at this stage

After kneading after first 10 minute rest, a bit smoother

After leaving for about 2 and a half hours

sourdough experimenting

Bank Holiday Monday and we’re all at home and somehow bread just evaporates so I knew I’d have to bake some more. I didn’t have enough of either of the sourdough starters to make a loaf so a bolt from above said “use a bit of both”. Top idea I thought, thanks! But in a spirit of adventure I did not just change one thing about the recipe. I also adapted Dan’s basic sourdough to using more wholemeal, I did something like this:

200g strong white flour, 200g wholemeal four, 100g or thereabouts of both starters, 225ml water and 1 and half teaspoons of salt.

And I left it to rise twice before shaping, mostly because I changed my mind about going out and just had to go out for a couple of hours. So, it was kneaded for 10 seconds, left to rise for about an hour and a half, kneaded again and left to rise for another hour or so, then shaped and left while we were out for almost two hours and then baked when we got back.

Now just marking time until my new Dan Lepard book arrives and I can start joining in with the Mellow Bakers. I have also ordered some crumpet rings and hope that will make another story too.

sourdough with white starter

I took some of the rye starter and then kept adding 30g of white bread flour and 30g of water for a few days, until today when I seemed to have enough starter ready for a loaf. The starter didn’t smell as nice as the rye one, but it doesn’t smell bad or off in anyway. So I used the same flour as for the two previous efforts – 300g white flour, 100g wholemeal, 200g starter, just under 225 ml warm water because the starter was quite sloppy and 1 and a half teaspoons of salt. And asThe Guardianoften used to say et viola







sourdough baking results

This week I have had two attempts at using the sourdough starter.

The starter looks much like this now:

So I tried a ‘recipe’ from Knead to Know, which was basically mixing some starter with water, leaving it for a while, then adding rye flour and salt and putting it all in a tin. And the result was as might be expected, a mesopotamian mud brick!

 It doesn’t taste too bad, but it is rather solid.

Rather more success was had with a Dan Lepard recipe – some wholemeal flour, white flour, water and salt, kneading lightly, leaving for a couple of hours, shaping, proving and then baking.

And inside it looks like this

The crust is rather chewy, but the texture is good and tasty.

sourdough end of day 4

It seems to be progressing OK with lots of tiny holes in it. This looks very like the first signs of fermentation as described in the River Cottage Handbook number 3 bread. So I’ve scraped it up and fed it again and left it for another day.

sourdough end of day 3

 There were teeny tiny bubbles visible on the surface this evening. And it smelled kind of sweetish.

Some tiny bubbles were visible on the surface

After feeding it looked like this.

So it’s back in the box and we’ll see how it is again tomorrow.


sourdough starter for 10

The apogee of breadmaking is thought by many to be sourdough bread. This is naturally leavened without the use of bakery yeast or other starters and is made using a starter that contains mostly just flour and water and uses the natural yeasts from the air and flour to start fermentation.

Here are some pictures of my sourdough starter during its first few days. It is stoneground rye flour and water, that’s all. I keep it in a plastic tub on the worksurface in my kitchen. My kitchen isn’t very warm so I’m hoping for some warm spring weather to get it going a bit.

Day 1 just starting

Day 2 before adding extra flour

Day 2 with extra flour

Day 3 steamed up lid

 I wonder if this is a good sign!

Day 3 inside morning

I’ll be adding more flour and water this evening.

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