Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fermentation Fever

Well it might be Sunday but today has been very productive, with a bit of help from my step mum, Jan.

My morning started with making wholemeal sourdough crumpets for breakfast.

This is a two stage process whereby you mix sourdough starter, water and flour the night before, cover and let it ferment overnight and in the morning you add bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk together before cooking in egg rings in a frying pan. 

Once you've tried these it would be very hard to go back to bought crumpets. On This Blog is a simpler recipe and I think I will give it a try next time.

After breakfast I started the day long process of making sourdough bread.   I absolutely LOVE making this bread. When I watch it rising in the oven I am filled with an overwhelming sense of well being and I never get tired of it. I'd happily make bread every day but sadly I just can't eat enough of it.

Although it takes all day to produce, the actual hands on  the dough time is probably only about 20 minutes.

My rye starter was beautifully active overnight, so much so that it overflowed its jar! I knew it was going to be a good day for bread. I must stress that there are many, many recipes and methods for making sourdough. My way has evolved over a couple of years and will no doubt change over time, as I read and learn more, but for now this is what works for me. I have found this blog very helpful for info on making sourdough.

My Active Rye Starter 
Today's bread was made by mixing

Mix Ingredients and let rest (autolyse)
200g starter
500ml rain water
350g Wholemeal spelt flour
300g white spelt flour
50g lupin flour
100g kamut flour
17g ground sea salt

This is mixed together until it forms a cohesive mass and then let to sit 'autolyse' for 20 minutes for the flour to absorb the water. After 20 minutes take it out of the bowl and give it a 10 second knead before putting back in the bowl. After 10 minutes take it out and give it another 10 second knead and put back for 10 minutes. After another 10 second knead put it back, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour.
After an hour stretch the dough into a rectangle and then fold in thirds one way and then the other, before popping back in the bowl and letting sit for another hour and doing it again.

After the second hour take the dough out, divide it in two halves and shape each in to a round. This is done by pulling the edges into the middle as you turn the dough. (sorry about the extra paraphernalia ie gloves, flyswat and cleaning spray, in this next series of photos) 
Once you have your basic round shape, flip the dough over so that the seams are on the underside and then you want to tighten the surface by turning while putting slight pressure inwards on the bottom edges of the dough. (this is really hard to describe!)

Once you have the shape nice and tight pop it in your proving basket or banneton, bottom side up. I have discovered that rice flour works very well to stop the dough sticking to the basket and works far better than wheat flour.  If you don't have baskets you can line a bowl or colander with a very liberally floured linen tea towel, or you can just go freeform and pop it on a tray but it will spread more and produce a flatter loaf. Next, put your baskets inside a plastic bin liner and leave somewhere that they can sit for 5 or 6 hours until proved and ready to bake.  Normal room temperature is fine, it doesn't want to be too warm.

The dough is ready to bake when it springs back after you gently poke your finger in it. It is better to err on the side of under proofed than over. About half an hour before you think the dough is ready preheat your oven and baking tray (or even better if you have one, a baking stone)  to 250 deg C.
You'll need to have ready; a tray lined with baking paper, a water sprayer, a serrated knife and, if you are using them, some seeds to sprinkle on your bread.
Now, pop your tray over the basket and quickly flip your dough onto the paper lined tray. Spray the dough all over with water, sprinkle with seeds and then cut some expansion lines in the dough with a sharp, serrated knife, or a lame (bakers' slashing knife)  If you don't cut lines the bread will burst   where ever it wants to as it rises, usually on the side.
Take your dough to the oven and moving quickly so that you don't lose all that lovely heat, slip the dough, paper and all, onto your hot tray and close the oven. Cook at 250 deg C for about 20mins (you should get a nice 'oven spring' during this time) then turn down to 200 deg for another 20 mins. You want a nice dark crust and it is better to be  a bit over than under cooked. Let the bread cool completely before cutting....if you can wait that long!

Phew! That sounds so complicated, but its really not once you get the hang of it and it is soooooo satisfying, not to mention delicious!

While all this was going on Jan and I made lemon cordial. This could not be easier. You simply combine freshly squeezed lemon juice with an equal quantity of sugar i.e. 1 litre of lemon juice to 1kg sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then pour into clean bottles. As you can see I have used Pimms bottles which seems entirely appropriate because Rossco's evening drink is a mix of Pimms, lemon cordial and soda water. I don't rinse the bottles of Pimms before I store them and that way the alcohol keeps them nice and clean, ready to pour cordial straight in to. As there are no preservatives in it this cordial must be kept in the fridge for it to last. Fortunately we have a cool room and can store quite a bit! Mixed with soda water this makes a most refreshing summer drink.


  1. Your sourdough looks great! I can't help but be jealous as I managed to just kill my sourdough starter before it even had a chance to make anything.
    Back to the drawing board for me!
    Also loving the idea of lemon cordial, I've been toying with that one for ages!

  2. Thanks Christine. Lately I've been brushing the loaf with beaten egg yolk before baking, it gives a lovely colour and seeds stick to it really well. I hope you keep trying with the sourdough, it is so satisfying. Gives me a thrill every time I make it!
    The lemon cordial is really delicious and refreshing on a warm day. Goes very well with gin and soda too!