No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Sourdough May 2013

Sourdough Starter:
Mix 100g of warm water and 100g of flour* in a jar with a loose lid. Keep, covered, on your worktop.

*My grandchildren and I have proved to my satisfaction that a starter can be made from pretty much any flour. However, organic wholemeal is my preference - and the inclusion of rye flour is always good.

Feed the Starter (every 24 or 48 hours)
First feeding - simply add 100g each, flour and water and mix in. 
Second and subsequent feedings - remove half (known as the discard)* and then add another 100g of flour and water. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughout, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here's the gist: When your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. 

*What to do with the 'discard'.

Refrigerate the Starter:
Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid. 

Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. 

Hooch.  Aside from weekly feeding, the only other thing you need to worry about is hooch. Hooch is a layer of watery liquid (often dark) that contains alchohol. It smells a bit like beer, because it is a bit like beer - but don't drink it! Hooch builds up in your starter, especially in the fridge. Just stir it back in. It doesn't hurt anything. 

(The following has been contributed by my friend Dennis, who's really taken to the sourdough method. Thanks, Dennis!)

The sponge and loaf:
The following recipe I’ve tweaked from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day.  We want fresh bread at lunch time, so this is what I do most days.

1.  First thing in the morning refresh starter, leave on side.

2.  After a couple of hours - mix 100gs active starter, 250gs of bread flour (white, brown, whatever) and 275gs water.  Cover, leave on the side.

3. At some time in the evening, add about 1 tbs of oil, olive, rapeseed, whatever, stir in, add 300g bread flour and about 5g of fine salt and mix together.

4.  Turn the dough out onto an oiled surface, knead with oiled hands, form into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl ensuring dough has oil all over it.  If you cover with a plastic bag it shouldn’t stick, leave on the side overnight..

5.  First thing the following morning, knock back, fold and shape.  Prove in a proving basket or oiled loaf tin, cover, let it rise for 1.5 to 3 hours.  Mine usually takes about 2 hours.

6.  Heat oven to 250C if possible.  Preheat a baking tray if you have one, dust it with flour, place loaf on it - bake for 15 minutes, turn oven down to 200C for about 30 minutes but do check, some ovens run hotter.

‘Precision’ is not my middle name.  If, pouring the 100gms starter into the bowl, 120gms goes in, I just carry on, once it was 150.  I adopt the same approach to everything else.

At 4 above, you can tip dough onto oiled surface, tidy it into a mound and place an upturned bowl over it.  Leave for 30 to 60 minutes (depending what I’m watching) then knead as long as you can/want with oiled hands.

Also, at 5 above when I tip out, I do a baker’s fold - Paul will explain - cover with bowl upside down and leave for ten minutes, carry on with shaping etc.

We want bread for sandwiches so most of the time I make a tin loaf.  In that case the dough is shaped in an oiled and floured tin, which goes into the hot oven.  That makes it easy.

To shape in a basket, put the dough in with the fold on top in order to tip out onto a floured hot baking tray and into the oven.

You can change the timings to suit yourself; make the sponge one evening, in the morning turn into dough, cover, leave on the side all day, shape later and bake.

The process for sourdough is starter; sponge; dough; baked bread.  Once I refreshed a starter around 4pm, made sponge around 6pm and into a dough about 9pm and baked the following morning.  The experts wouldn’t approve but it made edible bread.

Unfortunately you can’t rush the final prove.

I use basic sunflower oil for lining bowl, tins and kneading. For the dough mix I tend to use a better olive oil.

A no knead method works - after the dough stage, roughly tidy it up to put in a tin and leave overnight, covered in the fridge.  Following morning, heat oven and when up to temperature put tin in the oven.

Recently I was away for three weeks and my fridge starter refreshed as normal.

Any bread left over is sliced and put in the freezer though sourdough keeps better than yeast breads, I think.

Above all, enjoy yourselves.  Dennis 

Here's one of my forays into sourdough.

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