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.
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 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.
But still I’ve preserved in the hope that eventually I’ll get there. And at last I think I have. This 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….
For Christmas I was given a copy of Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters book by my Long Suffering Husband. Whilst I’ve read through a lot of it, its taken me a while to get round to baking anything.
The first bread that I tried was his Cheese Bread but being impatient I couldn’t wait by making the sponge so I used my rye starter instead. Whilst the flavour was good the texture wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So I reduced the amount of starter and increased the white flour, adding a small amount of yeast to compensate. I also had some bacon to use up so I kneaded that in with the cheese. And wow! Just what I was looking for- all the taste but with a lighter texture. Even LSH was impressed!
You can find the recipe here
Bacon and Cheese Bread