Sourdough Bread

IMG_6372One of my summer projects was to make sourdough bread.  I made my own starter and tried out a few different recipes/techniques.  What initially seemed like a massive faff to make bread, quickly developed into a bit of an obsession and I’m now making sourdough whenever I’m home at the weekends.  It’s time consuming in that the dough needs to be mixed and stretched and risen over 24 hours, and you do need to plan ahead.  But once you know the routine, there’s something quite relaxing about tending to the dough periodically throughout a day.

I follow the instructions from The Kitchn almost to the letter.  I use slightly less water and my rising period in these cool climes can be longer.  Instructions here.

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Fig and Walnut Bread

Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread.  This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air.  It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off.  We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.

I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again.  For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too.  Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though.  It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.

Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package.  I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though.  This ratio was more to my liking.)

300ml tepid water

1 tspn dried active yeast

1 tspn brown sugar

150g spelt flour

350g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

6 dried figs

1 teabag

75g walnuts

A little oil

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
  • Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
  • While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
  • When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs.  Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
  • Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
  • When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven.  Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly.  This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.

Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.

Happy New Year!

A Happy New Year to you all!

I’ve got some lovely recipes to share including a chocolate cake that even I wanted to eat and an onion tart which my husband didn’t say would be improved with a little chorizo/bacon/other meat product.  That’ll be another night though.  It’s the first Monday night back at work after the holidays and I’m good for nothing.

Have a peek at some Marco/food photos from over the festive period instead.

Salted Rosemary Bread (and some more good news)

My second piece of good news is that I got a place in the 2014 London Marathon.   Delighted!  I’ve ran this distance twice before in the Loch Ness Marathon, a great race with beautiful, peaceful route and a fantastic atmosphere amongst the runners.  It’s one I’ll most definitely do again (and maybe again after that) but, for now, I am looking forward to next year where I’ll be running a route with far less climbs (man, I hate the Dores hill) and more shouts and cheers from crowds the whole way along.  I’ll be fundraising nearer the time for the MS Society and Brain Tumour Research.  If you’d like to sponsor me,  keep an eye on this space in early spring for details.

Today’s recipe is a loaf.  The basic bread recipe is one I’ve published on these pages.   The addition of rosemary to the dough and the sprinkle of sea salt on top makes this a real treat of a snack.  It needs nothing more than a smearing of good quality butter.

Salted Rosemary Bread

(Makes one big loaf)

300ml warm water

1 tspn dry active yeast

400g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

1 tspn chopped fresh rosemary

Olive oil

1 tspn sea salt crystals 

Extra flour

  • Add the yeast to the warm water and set aside until the yeast foams a little (around 10 mins).
  • In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, and rosemary.  Add the yeasty water and stir to create a wet dough.  Leave for 5 mins.
  • Smear a little olive oil onto your work surface and plop the dough out onto it.  Knead for a couple of minutes.  (You might need to add a tiny bit more flour if the dough is really too sticky to do anything with but don’t add much.  I just dip my hands in flour a couple of times if need be.)
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a teatowel.  Leave in a warm (not too hot!) place for 30 mins until doubled in sized.
  • Knead the dough for a couple of minutes again and place back in the bowl for another 30mins.
  • Final stage.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and dust with flour.  Place dough onto work surface and pull into a flattish rectangular shape.  Roll dough up lengthways and tuck the ends underneath.   Place seam side down and cover with the tea towel again.  Leave to double in size in the same warm place.
  • Meanwhile, heat your oven to 210 oC (or 200 oC if fan assisted).   When oven reaches the right temperature place a cake tin of hot water in the bottom of the oven.  Leave for 10 mins to let the oven get steamy.
  • Brush the risen dough lightly with water then sprinkle with the sea salt.  Dust lightly with flour then use a serrated  knife to make 3 slits across the top of the loaf.  Place in the oven and bake for 40 mins until golden.
  • Leave to cool on a rack before eating.