Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Using Autolysis

In the evening, I measured the ingredients: 

400g strong white bread flour
270ml water (more than usual)
100ml sourdough starter 

I am not using salt at the moment but you could add a pinch if required.

I mixed the water and sourdough starter in the measuring jug and then added it to the flour in the mixing bowl. 
 
Then I gently mixed them together until there was little lose flour and no liquid. 

I covered it with a tea towel and left it to autolise for 30 minutes.



After 30 minutes the autolisys has done it's trick and the dough felt springy.

You could at this point use stretch and fold to knead the dough, but as it was quite wet and I wanted to keep the hydration high so I gave it 5 minutes in the mixing machine with the dough hook at its slowest speed.

 


After five minutes, the dough had formed a nuce gluten structure as predicted.

I covered it with a tea towel and left it to prove overnight in the kitchen.





The following morning the dough had incrreased in size about three fold.

I scraped it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knocked it back.

Then using stretch and fold I worked it into a sausage shape.

Dropped it into the Lekue, closed it, covered it with a tea towel and left it to rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until it had doubled in size.

I then put it in a cold oven and baked it at 200C for 25 minutes.
 
I then took it out of the Lekue and baked it for another 20 minutes.


Then took it out of the oven to cool.





Once cooled and cut it had a nice crisp crust and a beautiful soft open crumb.

These early results would suggest that using a period of autolysis improves the quality of the bread, just as Calvel predicted.



I used more water and a higher baking temperature than usual in this test and I intend to try some different variations, but I think this is even better that my previous best sourdough method.



Monday, 13 July 2020

Autolysis


This is my latest line of research and is an alternative to the sponge method. It was originally developed by French bread expert, Raymond Calvel. Autolysis is the process whereby enzymes change the nature of the substance they are part of. His autolyze (pronounced auto-lese) method begins with a gentle mixing of all the flour and water in the recipe, followed by a rest period of 20 to 60 minutes. After the rest, the remaining ingredients are added, and kneading can begin. 

This pause allows the bread dough to become fully hydrated early in the process (flour takes much longer than you may think to fully absorb all its water) and the enzymes start to break down the proteins in the flour and turn the flour’s starches into sugars (which are what the sourdough starter feeds on once it is added to the dough). This means the dough becomes more stretchy and easier to knead and means the sourdough starter can get to work faster and easier.

Some bakers stick strictly to Calvel’s method, some vary the autolyze time up to several hours, some include the starter and even salt in the autolyze. I am currently experimented with the various options on the autolyze, but the one that seems to work best so far is as follows:

Gently mix all the ingredients (including starter and salt if used), cover and leave to autolyse for 30 minutes.

Do a short knead until the dough has developed a nice gluten structure (about 5 minutes). Then cover and leave overnight in a cool place.

In the morning, knock the dough back, shape it, put it in a banneton or bread tin, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for around three hours, until it has doubled in size.

Then bake as usual. So far it has worked out well and the results are excellent.


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,
John.


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,
John.

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,
John.

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: