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.




Monday, 2 February 2015

Easy Honey Oat Loaf

While I am putting finishing touched to my first BREAD-o-lution project, here is something to feast your eyes on - a quick one-day sourdough I’ve made yesterday. 

We’ve been eating quite a lot of porridge lately – according to my 3 year old, “porridge is the best!”. We’ve been trialing a lot of different oats, and jumbo porridge oats weren’t such a hit in a porridge form, so I’ve decided to turn them into a bread. And to be honest, my kitchen was getting overran with different bags of porridge – there is only that much of oat you need in your life :) 

This is a very easy loaf – I’ve mixed it up around 11am and baked it around 11pm, so 12 hours in total, but the actual involvement is very minimal. 

One-Day Honey Oat Loaf
150g 100% wholemeal starter 
150ml water 
150ml milk 
30g runny honey 
450g white bread flour 
80g jumbo porridge oats (but I am pretty sure you can use any other oats you have) 
1 heaped tsp salt
 50g butter, room temperature 

Place starter, milk and water, honey, flour and oats in a free-standing mixer. Mix on the slowest speed for 6 minutes – I have a KitchenAid mixer, and I use speed 1, but I am sure you can mix it by hand as well – mix the dough for about 10 minutes if doing it by hand. 

 This is quite a wet dough, roughly about 70% hydration (read more here on how to calculate hydration). I am dividing total weight of all the liquids (75g from half of the weight of starter, 300g milk and water and 50g butter) over total weight of all the flour (75g from half of the weight of starter, 450g flour, plus adding oat weight as its super absorbent) = 425/607 = 70%. 

Cover the bowl and leave for 20 minutes to rest. 
Add salt and turn your mixer to a slightly higher speed – I use speed 2 on my KA, and slowly add butter, adding a little bit at the time. Mix for 4 minutes in total. Again, it is possible to do this by hand, just a bit trickier and messier – mix for 12 minutes if doing it my hand. The dough should me reasonably wet, but not sticking to your hands, nice and glossy texture. 
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Do stretch and fold 3 times at 30 mins intervals. Leave to prove at room temperature for 5 hours. It won’t quite double in volume, but it will look bigger and softer. 
The dough looked quite soft, so I decided not to risk it and bake it in a loaf tin. Normally I bake free shape loaves, and I wanted a nice toast loaf, and with the dough being so soft I didn’t want it spreading out all of the place. 
Line a loaf tin (I think line is 2lb) with baking parchment – to be honest you probably don’t need to do this as its been enriched with the butter. 
Deflate the dough and shape it into an oblong shape – oil your workbench and your hands slightly – this will stop the dough from sticking to everything. The dough was very wet, so any kind of shaping will do. Don’t be afraid to over-handle it, its very forgiving, plus you have another prove ahead. 
Cover the loaf loosely with clingfilm and leave to rest at room temperature for 3 hours. It won’t have doubled in size, but it should look very marshmallow-like, soft and wobbly. Spray top of the loaf with water and sprinkle with some rolled oats – this is purely for decoration, you can leave that bit out. 
Bake in a preheated oven – 200C fan – for 30 minutes. Take out of the loaf tin, remove backing paper and leave to cool for at least two hours or best overnight. 
I really enjoyed the flavour of this bread, soft crumb, with quite rustic taste – that would be the oats. It started getting a bit crumbly after day 3 – I guess that’s oats drying out, so best eat it in a couple of days.