Thursday, 10 January 2019

Catching Up

First my apologies for the fact that it is a long time since I've posted anything. I realised it when a reader asked me if I was still making sourdough bread. The answer is yes and I am also still experimenting and sometimes things go wrong (I should have taken a picture of the last one!).

Since the weather turned colder the sponge and loaf are taking longer to ferment and rise, I think I'll go back to rising the loaf in the oven with the pilot light on. I am also experimenting with the wetness of the dough and aiming to get a good balance between an open sourdough texture and ease of handling.

I'm still happy with the Sage mixing machine but still enjoy using my hands making sourdough pizzas. If you haven't tried it yet, they taste brilliant. Also playing around with a mix of strong white flour and rye in various proportions. Rye 50/50 with white makes a nice soda bread as well.

Meantime enjoy your bread making and if you do have any questions I am still here.

All the best for 2019,

Friday, 14 July 2017

Mixing Machines 2

Well I said the Kenwood was not too wonderful but it was cheap and the poor thing nearly shook itself to bits. Obviously mixing dough three times a week was too much for it! 

So I studied what was available in more sturdy models and homed in on a Sage, by good fortune I popped into a Lakeland shop and they had one on special offer (about half price) as they were just bringing out a newer model so I snapped it up. Fortunately I had kept all the other Kenwood bits in pristine condition so I was able to re-sell it quite quickly.

This is the new machine in all its sturdy glory. Much heavier and more solid than the old Kenwood and it has a great timer that will either count down the time and turn off or count up the time.

The mixing bowl is quite a bit bigger and it has a really substantial dough hook (see lower picture). 

What is really great is that it mixes and kneads in half the time (5 minutes against 10 minutes) of the old Kenwood. And the dough is like satin.

So goodbye Kenwood and welcome Sage.

I've mixed most types of bread with it and pizzas, just have to do baguettes and bagels to complete the range.

I've also started work on the next edition of Sourdough Bread Made Easy, which will incorporate all the things I've reported on in this blog. It should be ready by September.

All the best for now and happy baking,

Friday, 5 August 2016

Mixing Machine

In the quest for an even better sourdough loaf I have started experimenting with a mixing machine (a Kenwood Prospero, it's not wonderful but it was relatively cheap). The reason for this is that a wetter, stickier dough, produces a nicer open crumb but it is almost impossible to knead a wet sticky dough by hand, hence the machine.

I have now reached, what I think is the ultimate recipe (based on my better sourdough recipe (on page 25 if you've got the book):

400g strong white bread flour
100ml sourdough starter
275ml filtered water

Make a sponge mixture of half of the flour and all of the starter and water and leave to ferment overnight in the mixing bowl covered with clingfilm.

In the morning add the other half of the flour (and a pinch of salt if you wish) and mix on the slowest speed for five to ten minutes until the dough looks smooth and silky.

Use a spatula to scrape it out into a Lekue (or bread tin) as it's too runny to form into a loaf. Put it in the over covered with clingfilm, to rise for about two and a half hours or roughly doubled in size.

Remove clingfilm and bake at 220C (180C fan) for 30 minutes.

Remove loaf from Lekue and bake for another 25 minutes until nice and golden.

Turn oven off and leave the loaf in the cooling oven for another 5 minutes, then place it on a rack to cool. This is the one I made yesterday morning:

Friday, 24 June 2016


In the spirit of the age I am experimenting with reducing the amount of salt I add to a loaf. I am down to about a small pinch (two small twists of a sea salt mill) and so far no problems. If anything the loaf has a nicer, more open crumb and a crisper crust. The only downside is that it the loaf gets stale a bit sooner once it is cut open but I've started to slice up any loaf left the day after baking and freezing it. It's great for toast.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Lékué Bread Maker

Lékué are a Spanish cooking aid company, based in Barcelona, who have developed a number of interesting products for cooking in an oven while retaining steam (which encourages a better crust). They claim that their bread maker is a single tool for mixing, kneading and baking bread in, so I decided to buy one (£19.99 from Lakeland) and try it. Although it comes with an instruction and recipe book, feedback from people who had tried it was to use your traditional recipes.

The bread maker is a slightly floppy silicone bowl that fastens at the top to form a rugby ball shape (see illustrations below).  While it proved fine to mix the ingredients in and to bake the bread in, it did not prove that easy to knead the dough in (it really is too floppy), so I decided to try it out using the low effort (no knead) method so I really could do everything in the bread maker. This also meant I could go for a wetter dough for a more open crumb. This is how it worked out.

350g strong white bread flour (or a mixture of white and rye/wholemeal)
1 teaspoon sea salt
100ml sourdough starter
240ml water

The Method

Got the starter out of the fridge and brought it up to room temperature for two hours.

Put half the flour in the Lékué, mixed the sourdough starter and water in a jug, then mixed it in to the flour in the Lékué, as illustrated on the left, 

Closed the Lékué, covered it with cling film (see illustration left) and left it to prove overnight.

In the morning the sponge was fermenting nicely (thick and bubbly). I mixed in the other half of the flour (but not the salt), closed the Lékué, covered it and left it to rest for 30 minutes.

Then I dissolved the salt in a small amount of water, added it to the dough, mixed for 15 seconds, closed the Lékué, covered it and left to rest for another 15 minutes.

Once more mixed the dough for 15 seconds and left to rest for another 15 minutes.

Then gave the dough one final 15 second mix, shaped it roughly into a sausage in the Lékué, closed the Lékué, covered it and left it to prove in a warm place (the oven with the light on) for around 2½ hours until nearly doubled in size.

Once risen, I uncovered the Lékué  but left it closed, put it in the centre of a cold oven and baked for 30 minutes at 230°C (190°C fan).

Then removed the loaf from the Lékué and baked it for another 20 minutes until golden.

Then turned the oven off and left the loaf in the cooling oven, with the door slightly open for another five minutes, then placed on a rack to cool.

The loaf had a nice crisp crust so the Lékué lived up to its promise in that respect.

Once cooled I sliced the loaf.

The crumb was nice and open and had an excellent sourdough taste and feel. So the low effort method had paid off as well.

Well done Lékué.

While I was about it I wondered how it would work out with my soda bread recipe so that was what I tried next.

Once again I did everything in the Lékué using 200g wholemeal + 150g strong white + 1tsp soda + 1tsp salt and 350ml buttermilk. Mix together adding a little more milk to get a soft, sticky dough, shaped it roughly and baked for 25 minutes + 10 minutes out of the bread maker.

It produced an excellent loaf of soda bread, nice crisp crust and a lovely texture crumb. I decided to name it 'Hedgehog Soda Bread' as that's what it reminds me of. Well done again Lékué.

Friday, 5 September 2014

San Francisco

I decided to try out some Goldrush Old Fashioned San Francisco Style Sourdough Starter (from Bakery Bits) for a change from my own home grown starter. 

Interestingly Bakery Bits and Goldrush both supply (different) instructions for getting the starter going so I'm comparing both and my own process as I go along and this is how it is working out:

Day 1
Mixed 100g white bread flour and 200g filtered water in a glass mixing bowl, then added the sachet of sourdough starter, covered the bowl with cling film and put in a warm place for six hours.

Fed the starter with a small cup (50g) of flour and the same volume of water, covered and left in a warm place for a further 24 hours.

Days 2 to 3
Fed the starter with a small cup of flour and a small cup of water, gave it a good stir, covered and left in a warm place for another 24 hours.

Days 4 to 6
The starter is getting more active each day but was a bit runny. Discarded one cup of starter and fed it with a small cup of flour and half a cup of water. By day 6 the starter looked ready to use.

Loaf Bake
I decided to make a small plain white loaf (using my better sourdough recipe) to see what it looked and tasted like. This was the result:

Nice texture and crumb, soft and chewy inside nice crisp crust on the outside and it tasted good.

We ate the second second half of the loaf for lunch the following day and it was still excellent.

I've now decided to throw away my old starter and stick with this one from Goldrush, it's a real winner!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Best Sourdough Bread

By incorporating the use of a banneton and cloche (see last week's post) you can produce what in my humble opinion is the best ever sourdough bread. I like to bake in the morning (fresh baked bread for lunch) so this starts in the evening but if you want to bake in the evening just start in the morning.

This recipe makes a loaf of around 650g (about 1½lb). 

400g   strong white bread flour
220ml  filtered water at room temperature
100ml  sourdough starter at room temperature
1 teaspoon sea salt

Sponge Proof
In the evening, get the sourdough starter out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature for about 2 hours (it should foam and bubble). Make the sponge by mixing the sourdough starter, water and half the flour but not the salt and leave in a bowl covered with cling-film overnight.

Loaf Proof
In the morning the sponge should be fermenting (thick and bubbly). Add the other half of the flour and salt and mix well. Add more flour or water if necessary but keep the dough as sticky as possible.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny (around 10 minutes). 

Shape the dough and place it in the floured banneton, sprinkle flour on top, cover with a tea towel and prove in a warm place for two to three hours until nearly doubled in size.

Invert the dough onto a baking dish, slash the top, cover with the cloche, put into a cold oven and bake at 230°C (190°C fan), 450°F or gas mark 8 for 25 minutes once the oven has come up to temperature. 

Remove the cloche and bake for another 25 minutes until golden. 

Turn the oven off and leave the bread in the cooling oven, with the oven door slightly open, for another 5 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool for at least an hour.