This last week (16th-22nd April) has been National Bread Week and so this was the perfect opportunity for me to get baking, use my recently resurrected sourdough starter and make some lovely bread! I have had a busy week but finally managed to create a loaf of bread just in time for the end of National Bread Week. Making bread is something that is very satisfactory when you have finished and if you haven’t tried baking a loaf of bread from scratch yet then I recommend you do so (and if you are a bread machine fan then have a go at making it yourself, you will be even more pleased with what you make)! It is amazing how you can create something from practically nothing. I started to make sourdough bread quite recently and ‘making’ the yeast from scratch for this bread just adds to the proud “look what I have made” moment! It also makes a pretty tasty bread too.
I created my sourdough starter last year using the the River Cottage instructions. This uses just flour and water and the starter is fed regularly for the 7-10 days until it has a yeasty smell, then it can be used to make a loaf. I have seen recipes for starters that use pineapple juice in them and in Paul Hollywood’s book ‘How To Bake‘ his instructions involve a grated apple. My flour and water starter works just fine and is nice and bubbly but I might make one using pineapple or apple soon and compare the two starters to see which is best. Once your starter is ready then it needs very little care. If I am using mine then it stays at room temperature and gets fed but if I am not using it then it just lives in the fridge. I kept it in the fridge for a couple of months while I was away, when I got back I took it out and after a few feeds it was yeasty, bubbly and ready to use. It is so simple, I still find it fascinating that I can make an actual loaf of bread from this jar of fermenting sloppy flour and water.
Previously when I have made sourdough I used the widely used method, also described on River Cottage of using some of the starter to create a ‘sponge’ and then using this as the basis for the dough. Paul Hollywood on the other hand seems to skip the sponge step and uses a larger amount of starter to make his sourdough. I thought I would give this method a go. His recipe in ‘How to Bake‘ uses 500g sourdough starter to make 2 loaves. I didn’t have this much starter and needed to keep some so made 1 loaf with 250g starter, I may need to create a bigger starter if I want to keep using this method! I also added some cranberries and pistachios to my loaf.
To make this Cranberry and Pistachio Sourdough you will need:
375g strong white bread flour
250g sourdough starter
180ml tepid water
olive oil for kneading
small handful of dried cranberries
small handful of unsalted pistachios
Put the flour, starter and salt into a mixing bowl with the water. Mix together using your hands and add more water if you need it. Once you have formed a dough tip it out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes to form a soft, smooth dough. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowel, cover with cling film or a tead towel and leave to rise for 5 hours (Mr Hollywood suggests a temperature of 22-24C if you can be that accurate!). Avoid the temptation to sit and watch your dough, it won’t rise that quickly, sourdough is slow!
After 5 hours tip the dough out a floured work surface and knead in the cranberries and pistachios until evenly dispersed. Shape the dough into whatever shape you want it, leave it to rise on a floured cloth/greaseproof paper/prooving basket and cover with a tea towel. This time you need to leave it for 10-13 hours, I left mine overnight so it was ready to bake in the morning.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200C on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cut a pattern or lines in the top of the dough if you wish. To create a crusty outside put a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create steam when you put the bread in. Bake the loaf for 30-40 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!
While I am pleased with the taste and appearance of my sourdough using both methods, I still haven’t achieved the rise I want. I know this might come with practice and I wonder if a proving basket might help (on my list of things to get) but if anyone has any words of wisdom on sourdough then please do share them with me!
Happy National Bread Week!