Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Sourdough Bread Made Easy: second edition

Well the second edition is now published in paperback and e-book on Amazon. I just received my authors copies and realised there was a typo on the back cover but fortunately it only took a few moments to correct and update it.

I've started experimenting with some of the methods and recipes and realised that I can make another change to the Lekue bread recipe. The recipe at the moment says to bake at 220C as that is the maximum for the Lekue, but of course I take it out for the second part of the bake, so can crank the oven up and shorten the bake time to compensate. Looks like it will improve the crust so I'll try some different settings and see what works best. 

Thursday, 7 May 2020

2020 Update

I have been using the lock down period of the CoVid-19 virus epidemic to finally get around to updating Sourdough Made Easy, to produce the second edition. I've added in most of the things that I've told you about on the blog and some additional recipes as well. 

I just need to go through the publishing details with Amazon. 

Meantime stay safe and enjoy your baking (if you can get enough flour).

All the best,

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.