Not Sourdough Bread

Sourdough crackers - final

My sourdough bread is still a bit hit and miss. A recent experiment with apple and walnut bread ended up as an over chewy frisbee. LSH gamely ate his way through a couple of slices (that’s husbandy loyalty for you!) but the rest ended up in the bin. So I thought I’d try something different – sourdough crackers.

There are various versions of this on line. Mine is a rosemary and garlic version based on this one on the Fresh Loaf website as it was the only one I found in weighed measures.

I mixed 100g of my rye starter with 50g of white bread flour. I added 20g of olive oil along with 1/8tsp of garlic salt and 1 tsp of finely chopped rosemary. It came together into a sticky but still workable dough which I kneaded for about 10 mins before leaving to rest for about 5 hours.

I cut some greaseproof paper to the size of the baking tray and then rolled the dough out very thinly directly onto the greaseproof so that it was only a couple of millimetres thick.

Sourdough crackers - pre bake

I cut these into small diamonds and scattered some sea salt over the top. They were then baked for 15min at 180C.

LSH definitely preferred these to sourdough bread and scoffed a bowl full of them in no time. He thought that they were cheese as the taste was very tangy and said he would eat those again. They were a little too tangy for my taste so next time I will reduce the amount of sourdough starter and increase the amount of rosemary. A promising start though and a whole new lease of life for my starter.

Sourdough crackers - final 2

Morning After Sourdough

Well the party went well – possibly too well for any kind of productive day. So I dusted off an old sourdough recipe to give it an airing. This is a variation of a recipe that produced the first successful sourdough I made, which includes honey and spelt flour.

First the starter. Bertie had been warming up on the kitchen worktop for a couple of days by now after having a good feed when he came out of the fridge. I spooned 130g of him into a bowl. I realised at this point that sourdough is not a morning after bread. He smelt very strongly of beer – not a good thing to smell after a long pub session the night before….

I then added the rest of the ingredients – 200g white bread flour, 50g white spelt flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I dissolved 1 tablespoon of honey into 160g of warm water and then mixed it into the dry ingredients.

sourdough - dough 1

It is a VERY sticky dough so make sure you start kneading that you have a small bowl of flour nearby to clean your hands. I can safely say that your hands will be covered in dough along with everything else that it touches. Mine certainly were!

sourdough -doughThe dough was then put into an oiled clean bowl, covered and left to rise til it had about doubled in size. This took about 3 hours.

I floured my work surface with rye flour, shaped the loaf and popped it into a proving basket til it had about doubled again.

This is how mine looked at the start.

sourdough - before prove

And this is how it looked at the end

sourdough - after prove

I preheated the oven to its maximum temperature with a roasting tray in the bottom.

When it was ready, I put it onto a baking tray and slashed a cross in the top. I put it in the oven and added boiling water into the roasting tray at the bottom.

It was baked for 10min on max and then turned down to about 170C for the remaining 20mins or so it needed to bake.

The final loaf had very dark crust with a chewy and flavourful interior. Just the thing for a cheese on toast lunch after a long night.

sourdough top

Introducing Bertie

The time has come to introduce you all to the other “man” in my life. Meet Bertie, my rye sourdough starter, born on the 26th September 2012.

He’s my second go at a sourdough starter – the first ended up in the bin after most of my sourdoughs looked more like frisbees than bread. So I had another go and Bertie is still with me (although he has not been “frisbee-free”).

Starters are supposed to have a regular feeding regime and I have to confess that mine doesn’t. In fact if there were such as a thing as a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sourdough Starters, I suspect that I would be pretty high up their Most Wanted list. In my defence he does live in the fridge and has quite a thick consistency but even so I suspect that “when I remember” isn’t quite what proper bakers have in mind!

But my tough love style appears to be paying off as he seems to be a quite lively – if I feed him at night with equal weights of water and flour, by the next morning he’ll have doubled in size with a mousse like texture. Clearly what a sourdough starter needs is patience and some rough treatment. So if you think that keeping a starter is too difficult and time consuming, it doesn’t need to be. Once you’ve got it through its first week or so the odds are that it will be able to cope with a fair degree of neglect.

So give it a go and let me know how you get on.

(More) Sourdough

sourdough seeded bread 1

The perfect sourdough loaf continues to be a very up and down business. Having had a success with Andrew Whitley’s Cromarty Cob I thought I’d give his French Country Bread a try, but with a higher proportion of white flour. Alas it didn’t work as well – it took ages to prove and collapsed when it went onto the tray. It tasted good and had an open texture but was very much on the flat side. I think that I added too much water for the flour that I was using.

But I’ve tried again. This time I wanted to make a seeded bread. I used a variation on the same recipe as before but with less water. This produced a sticky but workable dough. I then kneaded in a mixture of toasted fennel seeds, poppy seeds and nigella seeds, adding more water at this stage as it felt a bit too dry.

I left it for a further hour and then shaped it and popped it into a proving basket. Where it was then left for a very long time as LSH and I went to the pub. I think it had had about 7 hours by the time we got back ( not all of it in the pub I hasten to add!) and it was probably slightly over proved. Whilst it seemed to lack oven spring it didn’t collapse either on the tray or when in the oven.
sourdough seeded bread
It didn’t have a very open crumb (probably down to the reduced amount of water) but I don’t think that that would have worked with the seeds. It still had a good texture though and crispy crust. But the best bit was the flavour – the seeds, particularly the fennel, gave it a wonderful fragrance and taste. Maybe not everyone’s idea of a sourdough but a loaf worth making again.

Sourdough Success

Cromarty Cob

Sourdough is one of those things that I’ve had very mixed success with. Occasionally it’s worked brilliantly, but more often than not its produced bread looking more like a frisbee than something you’d want to eat. If I did get it to rise the texture was invariably too dense and chewy for eating it to be an enjoyable experience.

Cromarty Cob - crumbBut still I’ve┬ápreserved in the hope that eventually I’ll get there. And at last I think I have. ┬áThis time I painstakingly followed the recipe in Andrew Whitley’s book Bread Matters for Cromarty Cob which uses a rye starter with a 50:50 mix of white and wholemeal flour.

I’d refreshed my starter the day before. When it just started to collapse again I used it to make the production leaven. The eventual dough managed to rise above the level of its proving basket (I clearly need to add to my collection!) and produced a lovely loaf, rich in flavour with a good texture.

Now all I need to do is be able to slash the loaves properly. I think that may take a bit more practice….