Baking

Rye Bread & Tupperware

On Monday, I made rye sourdough bread.

I seem to have developed a Monday baking pattern, which is working well. But knowing me, I’ll need to mix it up soon, or I’ll get bored! Perhaps I’ll put my starter in the fridge for a few weeks.

This time, I went for roughly half and half white bread flour and rye flour, as most recipes seem to mix two flours rather than go for 100% rye. In my case, 300g of each flour, plus the white flour in my overnight fermenting starter. And I added a couple of teaspoons of honey to get the yeast going – apparently molasses is often used in rye bread, but I didn’t have that.

Since rye apparently doesn’t rise very well at all because of its lack of gluten, I went with a wet dough, a folding technique (rather than kneading), and I let the dough rise in the heavy-bottomed, metal saucepan I’d be baking it in so that I wouldn’t accidentally knock the air out of it when I moved it.

I also sprinkled the dough with poppy seeds before its rise in the pan, and I forgot to slash it before baking. Is the slashing just to make it pretty?

It came out terrifyingly round:

After all of that effort, I discovered that I’m not really a fan of rye bread or poppy seeds. Haha! Never mind. I managed to pull off a difficult loaf, and it is edible as toast. Although, I’m not sure my gut likes it!

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Anyone want the rest of my bag of rye flour?

In other kitchen news, I finally got round to sorting out the chaos in the Tupperware drawer. So satisfying.

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Huzzah for no more rummaging. And, oh look! My toes. 😄

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Baking

Freshly baked bread

You know how they tell you that the smell of freshly baked bread makes people more likely to buy a house? Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but oh my days, the smell of my second sourdough loaf was incredible. I kept coming back and smelling it again!

This particular loaf was made in the following way:

1 tablespoon of bubbly starter in 2oz strong white flour mixed with 2oz water, left to ferment overnight in a bowl covered with clingfilm.

In the morning, mix it with another 5oz of water until it is dissolved.

Half way through, realise you might wake your housemate up because it’s only 6:30am and you’re a bit keen!

Weigh out 200g (yes, I know that’s inconsistent!) of wholemeal plain flour, and 400g (I think) of strong white flour.

Mix the water/starter mix with the flour to make a dough. Then realise you don’t have enough water, and add some more until it just comes together to make a dough!

Leave to autolyse (i.e. absorb the water) for 1.5 hours.

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Knead the dough by hand for ten minutes and then shape into a ball. (It’s worth Googling how to do this properly, you want to create surface tension.)

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Put into a big, lightly-oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise for 8 – 9 hours, moving it half-way through to a sunny spot on the window sill because it doesn’t seem to be rising very well.

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Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 9. – Every time I bake bread, this sounds ridiculously hot! – And put a thick-bottomed metal casserole dish into the oven to pre-heat.

Wander round trying to find the craft knife you used to score the top of the bread last time, give up and use a knife to score it. This didn’t work. You really need a super sharp knife.

Once the oven has heated up, attempt to move ball from the bowl into the casserole dish using a metal spatula and your hands. Accidentally deflate one of the sides.

Note to self: next time, try allowing the dough to rise in the casserole dish and see whether this affects the cooking. 

Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on (so the trapped steam makes the crust crisp), and another 20 minutes with the lid off.

Take it out, tap on the bottom to see if it is cooked. It should sound hollow. Stand there knocking on it, not convinced whether it does sound hollow or not, and put it back in the oven for five minutes, just in case!

Cool on a rack, and keep coming back to smell it.

sourdough bread

By the time the loaf had cooled, I had eaten my dinner and didn’t have room to eat any bread. So some time later, I had a couple of slices as belated desert!

Sadly, the natural light had gone by then, so this picture isn’t great:

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As you can see, the ‘crumb’ (i.e. the texture) is different to the last loaf I made; more like conventional bread. I think that it was probably caused by a combination of using a different technique (the previous recipe was fold rather than knead); a much dryer dough this time; a lower protein percentage (plain flour has less protein than strong flour), and the use of a percentage of wholemeal flour.

The verdict?

It tasted really good! I love a wholemeal loaf, generally. But all my previous attempts (prior to sourdough) were a bit disappointing – just a bit tasteless. The sourdough really lifts the flavour – it’s like a whole different product. Delicious.

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Odds & Ends

Stuff you come across

One of the joys of heading into the internet-baking-advice rabbit warren is all the wonderful things you come across along the way.

How about a fabulous cats vs. sourdough starter Venn diagram by Molly McCahan? 😄

Or a video from the British Museum, in which chef Giorgio Locatelli attempts to bake the kind of loaf they found preserved in Pompeii:

I also came across this wonderful song by Stephen Foster (written in 1854, but performed in 2008 by Mavis Staple), via a reflectful post by an American blogger; musing on bread, life’s struggles and politics amongst other things. The song is called ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’ and it makes my heart ache:

Amongst these random discoveries, I also found lots of really useful stuff actually about baking bread, like experiments in autolysis and interesting discussions about salt in bread.

I also made a new friend in The Winsome Baker! If she didn’t live all the way over in New Zealand, I’d probably be asking if I could pop over for a cup of tea and one of her amazing brown sugar and pecan biscotti. You should totally check out her website and maybe the little review that I wrote because I liked her website so much.

Thank you, internet, for all the help and distractions over the past week! I appreciate your existence. 😄

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Baking

Rivers Know This

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” – Winnie the Pooh

Making sourdough is a wonderful all-day, slow-journey of a bake.

But to cut to the end of the journey, the result was ‘go-back-for-a-second-slice-even-though-you’ve-just-had-dinner’ good.

Yes, the loaves were ugly – they stuck to the tea towels in my makeshift proving baskets and undid all my careful shaping. And I pretty much burned them – normally our oven is slow, so I don’t know what happened there. But wow! Does the bread taste good!

And the cross-section doesn’t look too bad either, even under electric light against the backdrop of the fridge. 😄

I’ve made various loaves in the past, using conventional yeast, but these are the first loaves I’ve made where I’ve actually really enjoyed the result and not just the process. One – nil to sourdough.

I’ll definitely need to rethink the proving basket scenario – maybe a less wet dough, but you don’t want it to be perfect the first time. Where’s the challenge in that?

Here’s some photos –

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I used the bubblier stuff on the right, the rest went back into the cupboard.

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There’s something beautiful about flour in the morning sunlight, even when it’s just ordinary Tesco bread flour.

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The best light is right next to the window, even if it does mean balancing your mixing bowl between the drainer and the window sill. 

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The dough really was wet!

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Beautiful loaves before their second rise, sitting happily on their starry flour galaxy. 

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I can feel the dough sticking to the tea towel in this photo. Past me had no idea.

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At this point, I thought the loaves were going to be inedible, but I was still feeling positive. 

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So flipping tasty. I think I might even have another slice before bed.

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Baking

It’s alive!

“The thought made me shiver, that the creature whom I left in my apartment might still be there, alive.” – Victor Frankenstein

I was so excited to see bubbles over the surface of my sourdough starter this morning. It’s alive!

My little yeasts have been busy over the last 24 hours, eating themselves silly on the flour, giving off CO2, and splitting themselves in half over and over. Although, apparently yeasts can sometimes reproduce sexually, but it’s less common… You can take the Biology graudate out of the Biology department, but you can’t take fascination with microorganisms out of the Biology graduate!

As I was considering the next stage this morning, I realised that I’d got the recipe wrong yesterday. I was meant to add 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water, but I put 2 oz of each in. (Using ounces always makes me feel all nostalgic. My mum always baked in ounces. Warm and fuzzies!) So, in a panic, I added the full amount for today, and hoped for the best.

Sourdough starter

Today’s flour and water added and stirred in vigorously with a fork (the whisk wasn’t washed up). I think the fork worked better.

It’ll all be fine though! Having now read the recipe I’ll be using, I’ll actually only need 1 tbsp of the starter per loaf of bread. If anything, I can’t understand why we’re making so much starter. Maybe it will become evident as I follow the recipe through. We shall see.

I must remember to make sure I have enough flour on my next Tesco delivery, which is booked for tomorrow evening!

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Baking

A little yeast

“Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” – Jesus

This morning, before church, I made the bold decision to create my own sourdough starter.

Sourdough bread apparently tastes far superior to ‘normal’ bread, or so says the internet. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually eaten any, but I’ve decided to take the internet at its word, and dive into the complicated world of sourdough.

I say ‘complicated’ – and so it seems at the outset – but from what I can tell, the mysterious ‘mother dough’ (or sourdough starter) is essentially pretty easy to make. The naturally occurring yeast in flour, on our hands, and in the atmosphere just need flour and water to live in, and they’ll grow into a happy little colony ready to make bread with.

In preparation for this particular adventure, I watched a number of YouTube videos and read some ‘how to’ instructions. They all varied quite a bit – type of flour (white, wholemeal, strong flour, plain flour, organic etc.), type of water (cool, warm, filtered), weight of flour/water to be used, exactly when to feed the dough with extra flour/water, and if and when to throw some of the flour mixture away – so I’ve just chosen a method that seems simple to follow and gone with that.

I’ve used organic white bread flour (what I had in the cupboard) and the mixture is currently living in a plastic jug with some cling film on it, in my baking cupboard. At least one of the methods which I read said to put the cling film on loosely – to be honest I didn’t have any choice! I wasn’t sure the cling film was even going to stay on.

I spent ages weighing the flour and water accurately, and then realised the mixture definitely needed more water to get the right kind of consistency. I also spent some time running around the kitchen like a loon, trying to find some scissors to cut the cling film that was dangling precariously from the top of the plastic jug. But apart from that, the process on Day 1 was without incident. Tomorrow I’ll be adding some more flour and water.

Sourdough starter day one

Apparently, some people name their sourdough starter. I refuse to engage in this silliness…

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