A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Introducing Albert’s Offspring or how to make Sourdough Bread

As you may have seen on a previous post, we are providing board and lodging to another creature - Albert, our Sourdough Starter. On this post I shall introduce Albert’s offspring or the Sourdough Loaf I made this weekend. I was very pleased with the results and (not so) secretly happy that my attempts were far more successful than Ian's. My Nan would have been proud of this loaf!

I used a recipe from the River Cottage Website which you will get to if you follow this link, but below is a summary that I have printed and added to our family recipe book. The website does show how to make a starter also, but as we have Albert this was unnecessary.

The first step is making a “sponge” the night before baking day:
The sponge left to ferment overnight.

The Sponge:
100ml of active starter
300ml warm water
250g plain flour

The night before you want to bake your loaf, create the sponge by combining the starter, warm water and flour. Mix well with your hands or very thoroughly with the handle of a wooden spoon then cover with cling-film and leave overnight.
In the morning, it should be clearly fermenting; thick, sticky and bubbly.

The Loaf:
300g strong bread flour
1 tablespoon of olive oil
10g salt

Add the extra flour, oil and salt to your sponge and combine it all with your hands into fairly sticky dough. If it seems too tight and firm add a dash more warm water; keep it as wet as possible.

Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky. This takes roughly 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it so it gets a light coating of oil. Cover with lightly oiled cling-film, and leave to rise for a good few hours until it is doubled in size and feels springy to the touch.

Knock the dough back on a lightly floured surface. To prove the dough form it into the shape it will be for baking. Use a proving basket or a bowl lined with a lightly flour dusted, clean tea towel. Place your dough inside the basket and cover with oiled cling-film and leave to rise in a warm place this time, until roughly doubled in size. This might take up to four hours.

Preheat the oven and a baking sheet to 250˚C or Gas Mark 9. Create a steamy atmosphere in the oven by adding a tray of boiling water to the bottom of the oven just before you put the loaf in.

Dust the hot baking sheet with flour, and carefully transfer the risen dough to it by tipping it out of the proving basket. Slash the top of the loaf a few times with a serrated knife.

Put the loaf into the hot oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 200˚C  or Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the well-browned loaf vibrates and sounds hollow when you tap its base. Leave to cool completely, on a wire rack.

I made this recipe twice and both times it produced a nice loaf with a very crusty outer layer. The only part of the recipe that we didn’t manage to do correctly was waiting for the loaf to completely cool before attacking it with the bread knife and butter… And I can certainly confirm that it made a great cheese and tomato sandwich for my lunch at work today!

There is just one problem with this loaf - it doesn't last long enough, not because of it getting dry or mouldy, we just keep eating it...