Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Bread-o-lution - May Borodinky Bread

I finally caught up with all by blog posts and actually doing May post on time – yay me! This month’s project is Borodinsky bread – bread I used to eat a lot as a child. I remember my grandma coming back from a work trip with five loaves “just for the weekend” – so as you can see its been a family favourite for a while :) 
I love baking rye bread, and have baked a number of German style loaves, as well as made up my own recipes using rye flour, but for some reason I never tried a hand at making Borodinsky bread. Well, this is the whole point of this project – to learn new and to re-discover old recipes! 

I wanted the bread to be as authentic as possible, so I decided to do all of my research in Russian, mainly looking for GOST (ГОСТ in Russian) recipes. GOST is a set of technical standards maintained by the Euro-Asian Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification (EASC), and in the old communist days, all bread production had to comply with that standard. 
 It was fairly easy to find recipes for Borodinsky sourdough bread, the hardest thing was to decide which one would be the closest to the “true” recipe and bring back my childhood memories of that wholesome, slightly sweet loaf with a generous sprinkling of coriander seeds. 

Russian Borodisnky Sourdough 
200g rye starter (100% hydration) 
380g rye flour 
100g white bread flour 
20g barley malt syrup 
2 tsp ground coriander 
250ml boiled water 
100ml spring water 
¼ tsp yeast (optional) 
½ tsp molasses 
30g molasses sugar 
10g salt coriander seeds to decorate 

I had such a difficult time trying to work out whats the hydration for this bread is supposed to be. None of GOST recipes state water percentage – the recipes I saw had anywhere from 60% to 90% hydration, and the only GOST guidelines I found talk about 60% to 75% hydration – thanks, that’s really helpful! 
This bread is made in a number of stages – starter, scald, sponge and then the final dough. It might feel a bit like a faff, but its worth it, and its actually easy enough to do in a day with a bit of planning. 

I don’t normally keep rye mother starter, just the white starter, as I don’t think rye starter keeps that well in the fridge. So I started building up my starter a few days before making the bread – starting with a spoonful of white starter and feeding it rye flour and spring water twice a day until I got the required amount. 
Most of the recipes I read call for dark malt powder – I didn’t have any at home and didn’t think it was worth ordering a whole bag for just one recipe. However, I do have barley malt syrup that I use for making bagels, so I decided it would have to do – plus it was very easy to get, you can buy it in any Holland & Barrett shops. 
To make scald, mix together in a medium size bowl malt syrup and boiling water until the syrup has dissolved completely. Add 80g of rye flour and ground coriander. Whisk together until all the liquid has been absorbed and make sure that there are no lumps. 
Cover with cligfilm and leave in a warm place for 2 hours. 
To the scald add your rye starter, 50ml of cold water, yeast (if using), molasses and 200g rye flour. Mix until everything is well combined, and the sponge was taken a darker colour from the added molasses – it can be a bit hard to mix it in. 
Now, I normally don’t like adding commercial yeast to sourdoughs, but in this particular case, my sourdough wasn’t at its peak when I decided to use it and I felt that such a rye-heavy bread would need a bit of help. If your starter is very ripe, don’t bother with the yeast. 
Cover with clingfilm and leave for 4 hours in a warm place. 
it wouldn't have changes much during that time - not to fear, its all going according to plan
For the final dough, either use a mixer or mix everything in a large bowl with a spoon. You won’t need to mix the dough for very long, as you don’t need to develop gluten, so its just as easy to mix it by hand. I was a bit lazy and did use a mixer – but only cause I love my KitchenAid so much :) 
Add the rest – 80ml – spring water, sugar, 100g of each rye and white flours and salt for the sponge. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. The dough won’t come together, it will look like a brownish mess – that’s exactly the look and consistency you want! If you can’t find molasses sugar, feel free to use white sugar, maybe increase the molasses in previous step slightly. 
Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 1/2 hour to an hour. 
The dough will puff up a little bit, but you won’t see much increase in size – rye dough is very different from white dough. It doesn’t look like anything is happening, but trust me – its all go underneath. 
Line a loaf tin with baking parchment to prevent the dough from sticking. Oil your countertop generously, and pour out the dough. With oiled hands try to shape the dough into a loaf – don’t overwork it too much, just kind of pat it into a brick. 
Place the dough into the tin and smooth it out to get an even surface. 
Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 3 hours at room temperature. 
Spray the top with water and sprinkle with whole coriander seeds. You don’t have to do this step, but it does look prettier this way. 
Preheat oven to 200C fan and bake with steam for 45-50 minutes until the loaf is a nice, rich brown colour. Take out of the tin and cool on a rack overnight. Do not cut the loaf until at least 12 hours after its been baked – it needs time to develop full flavour. 
I had a couple of slices of it in the morning with a bit of butter and hard cheese – and it definitely takes me back to my childhood. 
A deep and subtle flavours, with a slight hint of sweetness from barley and warm taste of coriander. Got big thumbs up from my nana when she tried it – “just as I remember”, so I call it a success!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Bread-o-lution - April Colomba Pasquale

I really need to get better at this – its past mid-May and I am only just posting April project. But – the good thing is that I just finished May bread, so next post shouldn’t be too far behind. 
My planning was completely off this month – I decided to bake Colomba Pasquale – a traditional Easter cake – for Easter celebrations this year. But, what I forgot to do is to check my calendar - I celebrate both Catholic and Russian Orthodox Easters – both of them fell at the beginning of the month this year, plus I had booked a trip to Russia with my little ones at the beginning of the month, so there was no way on earth I was going to finish my baking on time. 

Anyway, I got there at the end, and to make up for the lateness, I’ve made five (yes, five) loaves just to test out different recipes and shapes. I tried using very traditional as well as more available ingredients, tall and round panettone cases and shallow and wide “dove” cases, and I finally came up with something I am quite happy with. 
As usual, my research started with TheFreshLoaf, and a number of other bread sites – I settled on txfarmer and rosas yummy yums blogs, which have very similar base recipes, with slight difference in the amount of butter they use and how they incorporate the fruit.

Sourdough Colomba Pasquale 
1st dough: 
150g Italian starter (100% hydration) 
400g Italian bread flour 
135g soft non-salted butter 
105g sugar 
3 egg yolks 
150g+105g water 

Final dough: 
All of the 1st dough 
90g Italian bread flour 
15g honey 
4g salt 
30g sugar 
3 egg yolks 
50g soft non-salted butter 
1 tsp vanilla essence 
1tbsp limoncello or aroma veneziana 
zest of 1 lemon or orange 
200g candied orange peel 

Topping: 
100g sugar 
1 egg white 
50g pine nuts 
100g almonds 
50g hazelnuts 
Pearl or regular sugar Icing sugar 

Don’t get scared when you read recipes that talk about “sweet” or “Italian” starter – all they mean is a very active starter that you refresh often – every 4 or 6 hours. Its called “sweet”, because the starter doesn’t have time to develop the levels of acidity that longer feeding schedule would give you. 
I built up my starter from my regular mother starter, feeding it spring water and Italian flour every 4 hours until I have the required amount. Do try to find Italian flour – I made this bread with strong bread flour and the texture wasn’t as soft, so its really worth sourcing the right flour. 
Mix sugar and 150g water in a small saucepan, bring it to boil, reduce the heat and simmer until all of the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and cool completely. 
Place starter, egg yolks, cooled sugar syrup and flour in a bread mixer (I am using my trusted KitchenAid) and mix until everything is well combined. Add the remaining 105g of water, about ¼ cup at the time, making sure that its all absorbed before you add the next bit. 
Slowly add butter – bit by bit – and mix until you have a very wet and silky dough – it will just start coming from the sides of the bowl. I have this wonderful new glass mixer bowl – and I just love watching dough being mixed in it. In total, I think it took about 2 minutes on speed 1 and another 3 minutes on speed 2. 
Cover the dough with clingfilm and leave to rest for 12 hours at room temperature. The dough is meant to grow quite a bit (3-4 times the size), so make sure that you have a large enough bowl. 

The first time I make this bread, I mixed it in the morning, and was hoping to carry on with it after work. Unfortunately it was quite a cold day and the dough hasn’t grown as much as I expected. I didn’t have time to wait for the dough to do its thing, so I banged it in the fridge overnight, took it out of the fridge the next day, just before I went to work and left it at room temperature for 8-9 hours. 
By the time I got back from work, it was truly blooming, and I was ready to move onto the next stage. 

Place all of the first dough, egg yolks, honey, flour, salt, zest, vanilla and limoncello (or aroma veneziana) in a mixer bowl and mix on slow speed for about 3 minutes. 
Original recipes calls for orange zest, but I used lemon as I didn’t have any oranges at home. Aroma veneziana is a very traditional flavouring in Italian recipes, and it has a really sweet and zesty citrus smell. I didn’t have it the first time I made this bread, so I just used some limoncello instead – figured it was citrusy and Italian, so I couldn’t go wrong :) I did use the proper stuff the second time around, and it did give the bread a more traditional flavour, however I wouldn’t waste too much time looking for the essence – limoncello works just as well, if not better. 
Add the sugar, tablespoon at the time, then add butter, bit by bit and mix on medium speed until the dough feels very smooth and elastic and starting to come together in a ball, clearing sides of the mixing bowl. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add candied fruit, mix for about a minute until thoroughly combined. 

Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 1 – 1.5 hours at room temperature. 


Divide the dough in two and place into cases. My dough weighted around 1.5kg and the first time I baked this bread, I split the dough between two large panettone cases – the dough just covered the bottom of the case, maybe 1/5th full. The second time I baked this, I used two proper colomba cases as well as a medium panettone case. Personally I prefer the panettone shape, I think the dough feels a bit lighter when baked in a larger shape. 

Cover the cases with clingfilm and leave to proof for 3-4 hours at room temperature, until the dough nearly tripled in volume. Panettone cases filled out really well – nearly to the top of the cases, whether colomba cases were still only half full. 
Toast pine nuts, hazelnuts and half of almonds (leave the other half for decoration) for a couple of minutes. Cool completely and blitz them in a food processor for get a rough crumb. 

For the glaze mix sugar and an egg white – only enough egg white to make the glaze spreadable. Spread the glaze on top of the loaves – don’t worry about a few spills, it will only make it look more authentic. 
Cover evenly with the nut crumb, decorate with the remaining whole almonds, sprinkle with pearl or regular sugar and dust heavily with icing sugar. I’ve been looking for pearl sugar for a while, and I am glad I found it, as it gives the bread that extra crunchy texture. However, if you haven’t got it – regular sugar will work just fine. 

Bake on the lowest oven shelf at 160C fan for 40 minutes, check in the last 10 minutes to make sure that they are not getting overdone. You are after very golden colour where the topping is just beginning to caramelize – be careful not to over-bake it. 
The bread will have a HUGE oven spring and will fill your house with the most amazing smell as it bakes. Do make sure that you give the bread time to cool down completely before slicing it. 


This is such a nice looking bread – looks and tastes delicious – plain or toasted. Its much lighter and fragrant as your typical brioche and not as sweet as panettone – has a great soft texture with open crumb and lots of little bubbly holes. 

I love a slice or two of it, toasted with a cup of tea for breakfast, and my kids take it plain as an afternoon snack. 

Would I make it again? You betcha – especially how that I have 8 more colomba pasquale cases – they only came in a pack of 10 :)

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Bread-o-lution - March Black Pumpernickel

Month three of my Bread-o-lution project, and to be perfectly honest I am finding it a bit hard to keep it up. Partly due to quite difficult breads I have chosen and partly due to, well, being a working mum. I have also started a parenting (read ranting) blog which is taking some of my time as well. 

So, this month’s project is pumpernickel – this is not new new recipe for me, as I have tried it twice before, but just wasn’t happy with the results. 
 I made my very first pumpernickel following Nancy Silverton’s recipe – it turned out way too dry, and with very gummy feel to it – most of it ended up in a bin :( 
The second attempt was made following Andrew Whitley recipe from “Bread Matters”, and even though the result was edible, it wasn’t quite what I was after – the bread was too light, not enough salt in it and it went all moldy only two days after I baked it. 

This time I was determined to do it right and spent most of the month doing the research. As always, good old TheFreshLoaf turned out to be the best source ever. I looked at these blogs by dmsnyder and ananda, which had the easiest to follow and had the best pictures. As always, I changed a couple of things just a little bit, and here is the end result : 

Sourdough Black Pumpernickel 
Starter 
200g 100% hydration rye/wholemeal sourdough starter 

Rye berries soaker 
140g rye berries 
250g water 

Old bread soaker 
140g old bread – preferably rye or brown 
160g water 

Dough 
All of starter above 
All of berries above (drained) 
All of old bread above (squeeze out as much water as possible) 
175g rye chops 
220g white flour 
275g sping water 
1 level tsp of dry yeast 
12g salt 
25g black molasses 

I didn’t start planning for this bread in time, and have been working mainly with wholemeal starter. I’ve only refreshed the starter with rye flour for a couple of days before I started on this loaf, so it was somewhat of an in-between wholemeal and rye starter. 

Soak rye berries overnight and boil them for about an hour or until they are properly cooked – I think it took about 40 minutes in my case. Skim any grey form that forms on the top. 

Cut old bread in cubes and soak overnight. I didn’t have any rye or sourdough bread in the house, so I ended up using some old shop-bought bread, and I think some of it was plain white bread too. But it would definitely be better to keep some slices of old rye bread in the freezer for this reason exactly – I will need to remember to do it for next time 
Next day 
Drain rye berries and leave to dry for a couple of hours. Squeeze as much of water out of bread soaker (hardly any water came out of mine). Mix starter and both soakers in a large bowl and mix until everything is evenly distributed and you have a mix of a regular texture. 
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix everything together with a large spoon for 5 minutes or until it comes together. I am sure you can mix this dough in a mixer as well, but my lovely KitchenAid is still broken :( Plus the dough is really wet, and feels almost fragile and I would be afraid to over-mix it. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. 
Oil your kitchen top slightly to prevent the dough from sticking and pour it out on the counter top. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape them into cylinders. “Shape” might be a bit of an optimistic way to describe it, you pretty much just roll the dough to form a thick sausage. 

Most of the recipes call for a Pullman loaf tip to give you that traditional flat top shape of pumpernickel. And whilst its something that I do have on my wishlist, I wasn’t going to buy one just for this recipe. I ended up using two of my 900g square side loaf tins – one narrow and long and the other one wide and short. Old the tins and line them with parchment paper.

Place the shaped loaves into loaf tins, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for 1 – 1.5 at room temperature. As soon as you start little bubbles forming in the dough and some bubbles trying to “break” through the top of the loaves – they are ready. 
Tear two large pieces of foil (large enough to fit over a loaf tin), run one side with a bit of vegetable oil and cover each tin with a piece of foil (oiled side down). Crimp foil around the edges of the tin to form a sealed “lid”. 

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan). Take a large baking tray – place both loaf tins in the tray side by side and fill the tray with water – about half way. 
Bake loaves for 1 hour, check the water level and top up if required. 
Turn the oven down to 130C and bake for another 3.5 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the loaves in overnight or for at least 8-12 hours, without opening the oven door. 

Take the loaves out, wrap them in clean kitchen towels and leave to rest for 24 hours. 

Slice very thinly and enjoy with some hard cheddar and onion or some cream cheese and salmon 


Overall thoughts : 
my make-shift Pullman pan idea worked well, I ended up with reasonably flat top loaves
-  I could have baked the loaves for another 15-20 minutes easily, but I was worried about them becoming too dry 
- when the loaves came out of the oven, the colour was a bit un-even at the bottoms, but 24 hours later they wend rich dark brown all over 
- thin and long loaf tin produced better bread than short and wide one 
- I could cut down on molasses by 5g or so, molasses flavour was a bit too strong for me 
- I need to cut bread for bread soaker in smaller pieces, as now and then I’d come across a “chunk” of old bread 
- But all in all, this is a wonderful bread, and I wish I sliced and froze some to use as a soaker for next time 
- I will definitely make it again

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Bread-o-lution - February Pain de Campagne

It has taken me a while to write this post up, partly due to time commitments, and partly due to the type of the bread I’ve chosen to make. February project is Pain de Campagne – a traditional French sourdough loaf. I have first seen a recipe for Pain de Campagne about I guess 10 years ago, and as a beginner baker I found it really interesting. Its French – I love all things French, its sourdough – which sounded difficult and I love all things difficult and it requires basket/banneton proving – I didn’t even know what a banneton was at the time, so that’s sounded intriguing enough – and yes, I do love a bit of intrigue …

I am afraid to tell you this, but now 10 years on, looking at a recipe as an experienced baker, I find this recipe slightly boring. I won’t blame you if you give up reading about now, but if you a bread nerd like moi (see, French! :), then read on.

First of all, I must say that I was surprised at the number of different variations on the basic recipe – for a recipe as old as this one I would have expected the recipe to be pretty formed and established. However, I found quite a few different recipes – yeasted or sourdough, wheat flour or rye flour, butter or no butter – the only thing all the recipe seemed to have in common is the level of hydration (high) and the length of proving time (long).

The best sourdough recipes I found were “The Bread She Bakes” and “Weekend Loafer” – both excellent sources of sourdough recipes with great pictures and instructions. I decided to try out the weekend loafer version, as it seemed a bit less complex and I was running out of time to make my February loaf.

Pain de Campagne 

320 g wholemeal starter (130% hydration) 
440 g white flour 
30 g wholemeal flour 
30 g rye flour 
250 g filtered water 
10 g salt

I had quite a wet starter, around 130% I am guessing so instead of following a two phase approach – mixing a starter and mixing dough – I decided to skip build of starter step and went straight for mixing dough. In hindsight, I should have put in the effort and built up a fresh starter, and the one of lower hydration.

Again, if you are new to bakers percentages, don’t get scared – it represents amount of total water to total flour. To determine how much flour and water I have in 320g of starter which is 130% hydration : 

Flour = 320 (starter weight) / 230 (100 points flour to 130 points water) * 100 (points of flour) = 139 g 
Water = 320 (starter weight) / 230 (100 points flour to 130 points water) * 130 (points of water) = 181 g

To determine total recipe hydration, divide total water over total flour in the recipe (counting starter) : 

Flour = 139 g (starter) + 440 g + 30 g + 30 g (flours in the recipe) = 639 g 
Water = 181g (starter) + 250g = 431 g Loaf hydration = 431 / 636 = 67% - which is a pretty high hydration I must say! 

So, back to the recipe – whisk the starter into water until you see bubbles – to be perfectly honest I have no idea why you need to do that, but I have noticed that a lot of rye based recipes ask you to do that. Add flours and mix it all together until all the water has been incorporated – you will end up with something that can only be described as a grey shaggy mess – leave it for 10 minutes. Add salt to the shaggy mess and mix for 10-20 seconds until all the salt is evenly distributed, leave for further 10 minutes. By this time the mess should look less shaggy and more wet-dough like. Now its time to work the dough, and I mean work it hard - Richard Bertinet style – slap and stretch that sucker, “show the dough who is the boss” in the man’s words. The whole process should take no more than five minutes, and you should see the dough transfer before your eyes – from a sticky, messy unworkable mess into a smooth and live dough.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove at room temperature for 5 hours. At the end of 5 hours you should see some increase in volume, but don’t expect it to double or anything.


Oil the counter slightly (to prevent the dough from sticking), pour the dough out and shape it into a boule. This is where I started to suspect that things might have gone slightly wrong – either my initial starter was slightly too liquid or I have proved the dough for too long or both. Anyway, I wasn’t going to give up, I floured my banneton VERY heavily, shaped the dough as best as I could, covered it with clingfilm and placed it in the fridge for 12 hours. After a long rest in the fridge, take the dough out and leave at room temperature to warm up for 4 hours.

I decided to bake my loaf in a Le Creuset pot to give it a really nice crust and to help it keep the shape a bit – it was looking so wet I was worried that I was going to end up with a loaf as flat as a pancake or crêpe :) If you are planning on using a Le Creuset or any other cast iron pot, start pre-heating it (lid on) about an hour before you want to bake to get it nice and hot.

Preheat oven to 230C, gently flip the dough into a pot, slash it - not too deep- put the lid back on and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and turn down the heat to 200C, bake for further 10 minutes.

The loaf came out not as light or as high as I would have liked, but the texture is quite nice, and the flavour is good too. I am not wild about it, and probably won’t be making it again, but I am glad I tried making it, even if not as successful as I would have liked

Monday, 16 February 2015

Sesame Sourdough

I need to get on with researching my February project for my Bread-o-lution, but that would require a bit of digging for the right kind of a recipe. Meanwhile I was running out of bread and stumbled upon a box of sesame seeds in my kitchen – literally, it fell out of a cupboard on top of me :) I am a bit fan of sesame seeds – who can resist a golden bun with tiny amber sesame drops on top? I always imagine sesame breads to be soft and fluffy, with slightly sweet taste. I was imagining it so much, I started drooling – before long I decided to create a recipe that combines all of my memories of a perfect sesame loaf. 

Sesame Sourdough Loaf 
200g 100% white sourdough starter 
 400g white bread flour 
100g wholemeal flour 
290g mineral water 
20g honey 
20g sesame seeds 
1 heaped tsp salt 
20g unsalted butter, room temperature 
Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional) 

 My wonderful shiny Kitchen Aid has had a bit of an accident this morning – I measured out all the ingredients into a bowl, turned the mixer on and … nothing happened. I hear the motor running but the dough hook is not rotating and its making some strange noised, creaking and moaning (pain-like!) which didn’t sound too good. 
So, instead of a quick machine kneading recipe I have ended up with a hand mixed one – never mind, it will take longer but will be just as tasty. 
Measure out flours and sesame seeds into a bowl. Add water, starter and honey. Either hand or spoon mix until you get a very shaggy looking mess, turn it out on a counter (slightly oil it first) and knead it very quickly for about 10 seconds, yes – 10 seconds! The dough will be quite wet – it is nearly 70% hydration* after all, so don’t worry if you can’t do much mixing – it WILL try to stick to your hands, just try to pat it down as much as you can. 
Sprinkle salt over it, cover with an upside-down turned bowl and leave for 10 minutes to rest. When you come back the dough should look more “shaggy”, but still resemble a flat messy ball. 
Now its time to show the dough who is the boss – this is a well known and incredibly popular method of mixing dough – Richard Bertinet high hydration mixing method. I am sure you will find a lot of videos if you google “”, but here is one that demonstrates it really well. In my household its generally known as “slapping technique” – and I can only say one thing about it – it really does WORK! I remember trying it for the first time and thinking what the hell?! Its all over my hands, no way this will come together without adding extra flour, this is just one big mess. Buuutttt ….. 5 minutes later and I had a very shiny, very flexible dough in my hands as if by magic. Seriously – Richard is a genius, you MUST try his method, you will never be the same again. 

So, back to the recipe, after 5 minutes of slapping (and calming down all the neighbours – the whole slapping makes an awful lot of noise), I was rewarded with a very smooth, very soft piece of dough. But I wasn’t done yet – I popped little dots of butter all over the dough and began mixing again – in the usual push and pull way this time. Because the slapping method makes such a good dough, mixing in of butter only took 3-4 minutes of hand kneading. 
Once all the butter is incorporated and the dough is looking and feeling elastic-y, place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Stretch and fold the dough 3 times over the next hour and a half, then leave to rest for 3-4 hours. 
Take the dough out of the bowl, deflate and shape. I went for a tin loaf, sandwich shape again, its such a soft and wet dough that I didn’t think it would hold together as a free-form loaf. Line a tin with baking parchment, place the shaped dough in the tin, sprinkle with some more sesame seeds and cover with clingfilm to prevent it from drying out. I placed the dough, tin and all, inside and old shopping bag to ensure complete cover. 
Place the loaf in the fridge overnight, or anywhere 10 to 18 hours, take it our and leave at room temperature (still covered) for 4to 5 hours. 

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 30 minutes. Once baked, take it out of the tin, remove baking parchment and leave to cool on a cooling rack for 2 to 3 hours or best overnight. 

I must say that I was surprised how such a small amount of sesame seeds give such a strong flavour – its has a nutty, sweet taste and toasts extremely well. 

* Hydration is calculated as weight of all liquid ingredients over all dry ingredients : 
100g water (from starter) + 290g mineral water + 20g liquid honey + 20g butter (using soft butter, but it will melt when cook, so counting it as part of liquids) = 430g 
100g water (from starter) + 400g whole + 100g wholemeal flours + 30g sesame seeds = 630g 
430/620 = 69.3% 

Baking schedule : 
5:00 pm – 5:30 pm = mix the dough 
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm = stretch & fold 
7:00 pm – 11:00 pm = 1st prove 
 10:30 pm = shape 
10:30 pm – 11L30pm = 2nd prove 
11:30 pm – fridge overnight 
Next day 
3:00 pm – take out of fridge 
7:00 pm bake

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bread-o-lution - January Cottage Loaf

January here we come – this is the first month of my Bread-o-lution project as committed in December last year.

I decided to start with something nice and simple – and what could be simpler that a good English loaf. Mind you, it’s a fancy shape one, but at the end of the day its just a plain white loaf. Being a sourdough freak I wanted to see if I can make a sourdough version of Cottage Loaf, and was surprised to find virtually so sourdough versions of this recipe.

I did find some very useful advice on a number of sites – “Fig Jam and Lime Cordial” (cool name by the way) has a lot of good tips on hydration and shaping. “Signor Biscotti” is full of wonderful pictures and a commercial yeast recipe. “Carmella Cooks” and “The Nourishing Gourmet” are the only recipes I could find that use sourdough instead of commercial yeast. I researched for the last three days and discarded any recipes that used any type of sweetener - sugar or honey, and any recipes that gave directions to apply an egg glaze – I believe that only sweet enriches dough should have a glaze – but that’s just me.

Read on to see how I got on

Sourdough Cottage Loaf
200g 100% white sourdough starter 

400g white bread flour 
100g wholemeal flour 
242g mineral water 
1 heaped tsp salt 
30g unsalted butter, melted 

Everything that I read about Cottage Loaf has convinced me that I should be looking to make a lower hydration dough than what I am used to. Ideally it should be 57-60% hydration.

Don’t get scared away by bakers hydration terms – it literally means expressing weight of all the different ingredients as a percentage of recipe total flour weight. Similarly, hydration of sourdough starter indicates weight of water over flour in the starter. 100% starter means you have equal amount of flour and water, 50% hydration means you have half the amount of water to flour – the lower hydration the firmer the starter is, the higher hydration, the more liquid it is.

So, lets work out bakers percentage for the recipe above : Lets find out total flour amount, beginning with the starter. My starter is 100% hydration, which means its 100g water and 100g flour. Add to that the rest of flours and total flour weight is 600g – 100g from starter, 400g white and 100g wholemeal. I want the dough to be 57% hydration, so how much water should I add? Multiplying 600 by 57% I get 342g. My starter already accounts for 100g water, meaning that I need to add 242g water to get to the desired hydration. Salt should account for 1-2% of flour weight, and a heaped tsp is about 7-8g – perfect. I want the dough to have a slight creamy taste without brioche-like feel, so I butter is only 2% of flour – anything over 5% and it becomes an enriched dough, which is not what I am after. See, easy as – you are now a pro at understanding baking percentage! For comparison purposes, a typical French bread is 55-60% hydration, everyday sourdough is 60-70% hydration, and something like ciabatta is 80-90% hydration. The higher hydration, the more large irregular holes you get, the lower the hydration, the more regular crumb.

Another tip I picked up from my research is how to handle lower hydration dough – preferably mixing by hand and resting a lot. Its been ages since I mixed my bread by hand – I love my KitchenAid and use it pretty much for all my dough mixing. This time I decided to mix it by hand and use Dan Lepard’s bread mixing technique, which you could read more on here.

To the actual mixing. Measure out starter, water, flours, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix everything roughly together with one hand. I had to keep one hand clean for taking photos :) Don’t worry about proper mixing it just yet, just get all the ingredients into a messy lump. 






Tip the dough out on a workbench – you don’t need to flour or oil the bench, it’s a reasonably dry dough so it won’t stick to anything. Start kneading your dough – you only need to do it for 10 seconds, yes, I said 10 seconds – trust me on this. Cover the dough – I just put the dough bowl over it to stop it from drying out – and leave for 10 minutes. Uncover the dough, knead it for 10 seconds and leave for further 10 minutes. Repeat once more – 3 kneads over 30 minutes. Each time you come back to the dough you should see it becoming smoother and more “relaxed”.




Place the dough into a large bowl, cover wit clingfilm to prevent it from drying out and leave for 5 hours at room temperature

Once the dough has proven long enough – mine hasn’t quite doubled but was close enough, split the dough into two pieces, 1/3 and 2/3 of the weight.

Roll each piece into a ball and press down on the dough balls to flatten them a bit. 


Place the smaller ball on top of the larger one. Flour your index and middle finger and put them through the middle of the two balls, almost piercing them together. You’d have to press down quite hard, and might need to do it a couple of times to make sure that the balls have properly fused together. That’s where floured fingers help – the dough won’t stick to your fingers and tear as you sticking the balls together (this whole paragraph feels very rude for some reason :) Some of the blogs I’ve read advise you to prove the balls before sticking them together. I decided against it, as didn’t think I would manage to arrange the loaf without deflating individual balls too much.

It makes it easier if you start the whole loaf arrangement on a baking sheet, as moving this ball construction might be a bit tricky. Slash the loaf using either a lame or a very sharp bread knife – break knife works better than a regular knife as it doesn’t tear dough as much when is slices through it. Some people don’t slash cottage loaves, leave them as they are, but I wanted to try out my lame slashing. I did the slashing from bottom up in a straight line, trying to keep the slashes at about same distance. 



Cover the loaf with a large bowl – turned upside down – to prevent it from drying out. And leave for further 1 – 1 ½ to prove some more.


Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 200C fan oven. Cool on a rack before slicing.


As you can see the loaf has gone a bit wonky during the second proving, but I kind of like it – makes it look rustic :) The loaf if not as big as I thought it might be, but its nicely baked, and it’s a fun shape. The flavour developed really well after 24 hours – it has a nice soft crumb with a slight sourdough tang. It toasts well, and goes well with butter and jam. My kids love dipping it into soups – the texture stands up to soup really well – doesn’t go too soggy.

Would I make it again? Probably not as an every day bread, but perhaps for a party.