Sourdough Bread – how I make it

I have been making my own sourdough bread for almost 3 years now and it really makes ordinary bread seem quite inferior. This loaf below was the very first loaf I made:

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Over these past few years, I have had dozens of requests for my sourdough recipe, so here it is. There are plenty of sourdough recipes out there and confusing as to where to start as the world of sourdough can be a bit daunting, but why not take this time of isolation to do something that is a little time consuming and make your own delicious creations. The whole process takes about a day and a half but the actual hands on time is very limited.

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Making sourdough had always been on my to do list, but I didn’t know where to start, how to make a starter, would it work, would it not. This was all until one of my clients gave me some of her starter and I had no choice, I had to keep it alive, so I did. I fed it and I used it and I fed it some more and it is still going strong. Making your own starter will take about 1 week and here is a straight forward way to make your own starter with some helpful pics to guide you.

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Sourdough is a science. You will need a set of kitchen scales as you will find that all the recipes use grams of water, which is not commonly seen when cooking, but don’t be tempted to guess or use millilitres. The proportion of water to flour is important, especially when making and feeding your starter. It needs to be the same. The pictures below are of a starter that has just been fed (top two) and one that has been fed and allowed to become active over a few hours (bottom two). Note the bubbles in the active starter, this indicates that the starter is ready to be used.IMG_8583IMG_8584IMG_85825r90j

 

Feeding and storing your starter:

If you are baking loaves regularly, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily by adding equal parts flour and water. I usually add 15g of each. Once it is bubbling nicely it is ready to be used. Another way to test its readiness is to place a small spoonful into a glass of water and if it floats, you’re good to go.

You only need to keep about 1/4 cup of starter at any one time unless you are planning on making multiple loaves at once. Sourdough bakeries will keep litres on hand but this is not at all needed for the home baker. If you are storing your starter at room temperature and feeding regularly, you will need to discard some starter each time you feed it, unless you are baking a loaf. Discarding half will be adequate.

If you only bake one loaf per week, you can store your starter in the fridge in a glass jar. It will then need the time to warm back to room temperature and be fed before using it and then fed again before placing back into the fridge. You may find if you store the starter the fridge that after a few days a vinegary smelling liquid forms on top. This is normal, just pour this off and feed the starter again.

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Over the years I have made an array of loaves, including, wholegrain, wholemeal spelt, fig and walnut, fruit sourdough, olive sourdough, but my regular go to is a wholemeal loaf, detailed below.

Enjoy xx.

Pre-ferment/Levain

  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g water
  • 30g starter that has been recently fed and is active (bubbly)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to combine, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8+ hours. The picture below is what the levain should look like after 8 hours, smooth, sticky and starting to bubble.

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Bulk Ferment

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 200g white baker’s flour
  • 375g water
  • 15g salt
  1. Add all ingredients to the levain, which has been sitting for at least 8 hours and is now starting to bubble. Mix well, cover and leave to sit for 1 hour.
  2. After one hour, use a wet hand to loosen the dough from the bowl and grab the right side of the dough and fold it into the middle, then fold the left side into the middle, the top side into the middle and the bottom side into the middle. Lift the whole loaf and flip it over. Cover the bowl and leave to sit for another 2 hours. To see a video of how this fold it to be carried out, there is a video with the whole sourdough process on my instagram account @whatspruecooking.
  3. Over the next 2 hours, every 30 minutes, repeat the same fold.

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Shaping the dough

  1. After 2 hours, scoop the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Grab one side of the dough and fold it into the middle, work your way around the dough until you have formed a rough ball then flip the loaf over.
  2. With floured hands, cup the dough where it meets the bench and turn the loaf to form a nice ball shape. The dough may start to slightly stick to the bench here, this is ok as the aim is to create some surface tension, which is essential to shaping the dough.
  3. Place the bowl upside down over the shaped loaf and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare your brotformen (sourdough proving basket – see picture below) by sprinkling it with plenty of flour, getting into all the grooves. If you don’t have a brotformen, line a medium sized bowl with a tea towel and sprinkle and rub at least 1/4 cup of flour into it.IMG_00C2FDE24295-1
  5. To carry out the final shaping, flour your hands, scoop the dough and flip it back over. Repeat the same fold as in step 4 and 5, except when you are turning the loaf to form the ball make sure there is not too much flour where you are working as the formation of surface tension is essential for keeping the shape of the dough and sealing it.
  6. Once you have formed a nice tight ball, invert the dough into the prepared proving basket (ie. the side of the dough that was on the bench when you are forming the ball is now facing up).
  7. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6-8 hours.

Baking the dough

  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.
  2. Place a large crockpot, with a lid, that will fit your loaf in it into the oven and heat the oven to 240°C.
  3. Flip the dough out of the proving basket and onto a piece of baking paper. The top of the dough should be covered with flour from the proving basket. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough. This will allow the steam to escape and for the loaf to rise. Without scoring the dough, the loaf will blow out the side while baking. The score can be 2 lines down the centre of the loaf, a square or a criss cross pattern – there’s no wrong or right.
  4. Carefully remove the crockpot from the oven and take the lid off. Lift and lower the dough and baking paper into the pot and replace the lid. Return the pot to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. After 25-30 minutes, remove the lid from the crockpot and if the loaf has risen nicely then return to the oven, without the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the loaf has a nice golden brown colour. If the loaf has not yet risen, return the lid to the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes before removing the lid.
  6. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 1 hour before slice, if you can resist it. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Enjoy with a generous slather of butter!IMG_2819

Timeline for baking a loaf:

To bake a loaf on Saturday:

  • Thursday night – take your starter out of the fridge and feed it.
  • Friday morning – Make your pre-ferment or levain and leave to sit for 8+ hours.
  • Friday afternoon/evening – Do your bulk ferment, folding the loaf every 30-40 minutes for 3 hours.
  • Friday night – Place the loaf into a proving basket/tea towel lined bowl and allow to prove in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Saturday morning – remove the loaf from the fridge and allow 45 minutes for it to come to room temperature and bake the loaf.

When I am making my sourdough loaves, I will usually do the bulk ferment between 6-9pm. This has often resulted in me giving the loaves a couple of folds and then once the kids are in bed, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine or folding the washing and then 2 hours later realising I haven’t folded it again. In these instances, the bread has still worked and is still tasty but isn’t as amazing as one that has been given all the TLC a loaf of sourdough needs.

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Hot Cross Buns (Normal and Sourdough Recipes)

Note: Post has been edited to include the method for Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

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With only 2 weeks until Easter, I thought it was time to do some recipe development and come up with a delicious hot cross bun recipe.

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Hot cross buns are quintessentially Easter, along with the chocolate eggs, and I know that a lot of people dislike the fact that they are available from Christmas, but I think, if they sell, then make them. They are delicious and a great little snack to keep you going. I personally prefer the smaller ones as they can be enjoyed daily as part of a healthy balanced diet, whereas the big ones can be a bit ridiculous and often as many calories as a mars bar.

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The key to hot cross buns is the spice and I’ve found over the years that a lot of the recipes don’t have enough spice. I have included cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice in this recipe, but you could use whatever spices you like, such as ginger, star anise or cloves as well. This batch of hot cross buns makes 32 small buns, however, you could make them bigger and make about 20-24.

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I have also had a bit of a play around with flours and have ended up using a combination of wholemeal flour (for some added fibre), plain flour and bakers flour, which helps to make them a bit more light and fluffy due to the higher gluten content of bakers flour. Dried fruit is another key element to hot cross buns. I think that mixed peel is essential in hot cross buns, but a lot people dislike it. I have paired it with sultanas and currants, but once again, you can use whatever dried fruit you like or even make them into chocolate chip hot cross buns if you wish.

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The kids absolutely love hot cross buns, so making them myself is really a no brainer, and they freeze exceptionally well and ready with a 15 second zap in the microwave or toasted in the oven or toaster. The kids helped me roll the dough into balls and thought they were pretty clever. They also found the process of adding the cross to be quite entertaining.

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If you haven’t tried making hot cross buns before, give them a go for Easter this year. They are a bit time consuming, but pretty easy overall.

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Enjoy xx

Original Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bakers flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 30g mixed peel, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 1 tbs dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Crosses:

  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 4 tbs water

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

  1. Place lukewarm milk, 1 tbs of the brown sugar and the yeast into a small bowl, stir and set aside for 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.
  2. Place flour, spices, rind, salt, dried fruit and remaining sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached.
  3. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, add to the stand mixer and turn speed to medium to combine. Add butter and lightly beaten egg and mix until dough comes together. You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to press the dried fruit into the dough.
  4. Beat for about 5 minutes, or knead by hand for ~ 8 minutes.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, cover with cling wrap and place into a warm spot for 1.5 – 2 hours a or until the dough doubles in size.
  6. Knock the dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Divide the dough into 32 pieces for small buns or 20-24 pieces for larger buns. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place onto a baking tray about 1cm apart. Cover and place into warm spot for another 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare the mixture for the crosses by mixing the flour and water together into a smooth paste. Once the 30 minutes have passed, apply the crosses by putting the flour mixture into a zip lock bag. Cut the corner off the bag to make a piping bag. Carefully apply the crosses then place buns into oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on top.
  9. While the hot cross buns are cooking, prepare the glaze by mixing sugar, water and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  10. Once the hot cross buns are cooked, remove from the oven and brush glaze over the buns.
  11. Enjoy straight out of the oven or store in an airtight container or in the freezer.

 

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

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After many years of making the above hot cross buns, I have decided to utilise my sourdough baking skills and make some sourdough hot cross buns, and wow! They are good. If you have the time and the patience, I suggest trying these sourdough hot cross buns for something different.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup active sourdough starter
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

Crosses:

  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 4 tbs water

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

  1. Ensure that sourdough starter has been recently fed and is bubbling and active.
  2. Place milk, butter eggs and starter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook and beat for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the wholemeal flour and half of the plain flour, along with the sugar, spices, salt, dried fruit, mixed peel and zest and beat to combine. Add the remaining plain flour and beat on medium-low speed until the dough clears the side of the bowl. This should take around 10-15 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow it to sit, covered for 4-5 hours. Each hour of this time, uncover the dough and fold by taking one side of the dough and folding it over to the other, turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold again, repeat until all four sides have been folded over, then flip the ball of dough over and leave for another hour. Repeat this fold each hour. During this time the dough should start to soften and become more elastic.
  5. Place the dough into the refrigerator overnight.
  6. The following day, remove from the refrigerator and divide the dough into 18-24 pieces, depending on the size of the buns that you want and form into bun shapes and place on a baking tray, lined with baking paper and allow to prove for 2 hours at room temperature.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C and make mix the flour and water to a smooth paste for the crosses. Put the paste into a small ziplock bag with the corner cut off or a piping bag and pipe crosses onto the buns.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for ~20 minutes or until golden brown and they make a hollow sound when tapped.
  9. While the buns are cooking, place the ingredients for the glaze into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat, until sugar dissolves.
  10. Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven and brush on the glaze.
  11. Enjoy warm with a generous spread of butter.