How to Make a Sourdough Starter

A sourdough starter is the living heart of traditional baking. Making your own is challenging to start with, but once you get the hang of it, your sourdough will become your faithful kitchen companion. If you look after your starter – feeding it, watering it – it will reward you in turn.

 

INGREDIENTS

For the starter:
120g strong wholemeal flour
20g strong white bread flour 120ml water, at room temperature

For feeding over 10 days:
10 x 70g strong wholemeal flour
10 x 20g strong white bread flour
10 x 75ml water at room

 

METHOD

Mix the first day’s ingredients in a very clean small bowl with a scrupulously clean fork until you have a solid, stodgy batter. Pour the starter into a clean plastic container at least four times its volume and cover it loosely with a lid so it still lets in a little air. There are yeast cells all around and, hopefully, some of them will latch on to this mix. Put the starter in a cool room – but not in the fridge, a cupboard, or any other enclosed space. After one day, feed the starter for the first time. Weigh out 150g of the starter and discard the rest. Feed the remainder with the 70g of wholemeal flour, 20g of strong white flour and 75ml water. Put back in its container and cover it loosely. Leave it to rest for another day.

Repeat each day, for 10 days or ad infinitum – literally. Your sourdough could live for ever, unless you forget to feed it – in which case it will die. If you’re going away for a few days, you can move it into the fridge, where the cooler temperature will slow down the work of the yeast and allow it to survive for two days without you. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature before its next feed.

It will take between 7–10 days for your mixture to grow into a vigorous sourdough starter. As time passes, you should see that something is happening. It should bubble gently more and more with every passing day, and the smell should be fresh and yeasty, with a hint of alcohol. If the scent is unpleasant, with sour, vinegary notes, throw it away and start again – unfortunately, this is a sign that the wrong bacteria have colonised it.

After 10 days, if both you and your starter are happy, together you’re ready to make the loaf of your life – a loaf that is the cornerstone of every artisan bakery in France and beyond. Weigh out your 150g to keep feeding as a starter and, instead of discarding it, use the rest to bake sourdough bread.

French Dark Sourdough Recipe

Watch our baker, Roz, show you how to bake our French Dark Sourdough in a step-by-step video here.

INGREDIENTS (makes two 500g loaves)

440g strong wholemeal flour 50g strong white flour
21⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
350ml ice-cold water
150g sourdough starter – full recipe here
Whole tray of ice cubes

 

METHOD

Combine the flours in a stand mixer bowl with the salt. Add the ice-cold water and knead slowly with the dough hook for 10 minutes. Now add the starter and continue to knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for another 6 minutes. The dough should be fairly firm and still cool to the touch.

Take the dough out of the bowl, place it on a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead it with the heel of your hand for a few minutes.

Let the dough rest: return it to the mixer bowl, cover the bowl with damp, clean tea towel and let it rest at room temperature for 1 1⁄2 hours. Knock it back with your hand to let out all the air that will have built up inside, cover the bowl with the cloth and rest it again for another 1 1⁄2 hours before punching the air out of it again.

To shape your loaves, cut the dough in half on a floured surface. Shape each piece in turn, pressing it down with your fingers to form a rough, plump disc. Pull the edges into the centre of the disc, piece by piece, then turn the dough over. You should have created a tight, neat ball of dough with a tense surface. Repeat with the second portion of dough.

Rest the dough again. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper and dust it generously with flour. Carefully place the loaves onto this, spaced well apart to allow room for them to rise. Dust a little more flour and place a sheet of baking paper on top. Place the whole thing in a plastic bag roomy enough to cover them loosely. Inflate the bag so that it won’t come into contact with the dough.

Place on the warmest shelf in the fridge (usually at the top), and leave to rest for 8–10 hours, or overnight. Slow, cold fermentation is crucial to developing the full flavour and fragrance of a well-made loaf.

When fermented, remove from the fridge and place them – still wrapped – on the worktop, well away from any draughts. This next stage is all about gentle warmth and bringing the dough up to room temperature (around 20°C). Depending on how hot your kitchen is, this could take an hour, or more. Once it reaches room temperature the dough will become active and you should check in on it every 30 minutes to see how it’s doing until doubled in bulk. Poke the dough with your finger: it should feel like a slightly deflated balloon, but should spring back easily.

Preheat the oven to its highest setting, then place a baking stone or baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up. Place a small baking tin on the oven floor to act as a water vessel and let this heat up as well.

Uncover the loaves and let them breathe while the oven is heating. When ready to bake, take a razor-sharp knife, angle it at 45° to the dough and score four long incisions around 1cm deep in a square on the top of the loaf. As well as helping to create a beautiful loaf, these cuts serve a useful purpose: they allow the bread to expand evenly as it bakes.

To bake the bread, carefully pull the oven rack with the hot baking sheet or stone halfway out of the oven. Working as quickly as you can, gently slide the loaves onto the hot surface, spaced apart but close to the centre, and push the rack back into the oven. Tip all the ice cubes into the tin at the bottom of the oven and close the oven as swiftly as possible. The cloud of steam that develops inside the oven stops the crust from seizing up as the dough hits the heat, allowing the bread to expand and develop. It will also help to give you a crisp, shiny crust. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 200°C/gas mark 6 for a further 30 minutes.

When the bread is fully baked, turn off the oven, open the oven door slightly and leave the bread in the oven for a further 5 minutes to let off some steam – quite literally. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. This cooling down period is a crucial part of the baking process, and can’t be rushed, no matter how impatient you are to taste your bread. Leave the bread for at least an hour before you slice it and dig in.

 

Cold Brew With Orange Recipe

GAIL’s House Blend coffee can be enjoyed in so many different ways. We love how it tastes on its own or with milk. Thinking ahead towards warmer weather, we wanted to share a tasty cold brew recipe to make at home. Oranges brighten the rich chocolate notes of GAIL’s House Blend for a refreshing summer brew.

Ingredients:

500ml Water (bottled or filtered is best)
30g coarsely ground GAIL’s House Blend (or another coffee of your choice)
2 oranges
A jar or bottle with a wide neck

Directions:

  1. Rinse and scrub the oranges under a warm tap to remove any wax. Dry.
  2. As if it were an apple, use a vegetable peeler remove all of the peel (not the pith) from 1 orange. Reserve the other for later.
  3. Place the peel and ground coffee in your jar and pour the water over.
  4. Stir once to make sure all of the ingredients are wet.
  5. Refrigerate and let sit for 12-16 hours.
  6. Strain and serve with lots of ice. Garnish with a strip of fresh orange peel.

 

 

Buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat pancakes with caramelised apples
and salted honey butter

If you’ve never tried buckwheat pancakes, weekend brunch is the ideal time. Buckwheat flour has a nuttier, more distinctive flavour than regular wheat flour and these French-style crêpes (typical in Brittany) are perfectly complemented by golden caramelised apples and salty-sweet honey butter. This recipe is a doddle to whip up, but you’ll need to make the batter the night before to allow the buckwheat to soften and the flavours to develop. Oh, and also, there’s no sugar in this recipe as all the sweetness comes from the fruit and honey.

Photo 09-05-2013 13 52 20

Feeds 4

for the pancakes:
100g wholegrain organic buckwheat flour
¼ tsp fine sea salt
300ml whole milk
1 egg
50g unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil or clarified butter, for frying

for the caramelised apples:
3 medium Bramley or Granny Smith apples (tart varieties work best)
30g unsalted butter

for the salted honey butter:
80g honey
40g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
½ tsp flaked sea salt

for serving:
4 generous tbsp crème fraiche

Step 1:
Start by making the pancake batter. Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Add this to the flour and whisk until it’s lovely and smooth. Next, whisk in the melted butter. Transfer to a jug, cover with cling film and rest in the fridge overnight.

Step 2:
To make the caramelised apples, remove the cores and pips (no need to peel them) and slice each apple into 8 wedges. Heat the butter in a frying pan and when foaming, tip in the apple wedges. Cook until golden brown and caramelised, turning each wedge over once. Set aside and cover with foil to keep warm.

Step 3:
Next up is the salted honey butter. Warm the honey over a low heat for 2 minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the softened butter, a piece at a time, to create a glossy emulsion. Sprinkle in the salt and keep warm until ready to serve. If it cools and starts to solidify, just gently reheat until liquid again.

Step 4:
To cook the pancakes, heat a heavy-based frying or sauté pan over a medium heat. Add a little oil or clarified butter, tilting the pan so the base is evenly coated. Give the batter a stir if necessary and then pour in just enough to coat the base of the pan – you want the pancakes to be paper-thin. Cook for 2 minutes until golden, then flip the pancake with a spatula and cook for another 2 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a warm plate and continue with the remaining batter. You should end up with a pile of 16 pancakes.

Step 5:
Lastly, to serve, take each pancake and fold it in half twice to form a triangle. Serve 4 pancakes per person, overlapping them in the centre of each plate. Arrange six or so apple wedges on top, add a scoop of crème fraîche and finish with a generous drizzle of warm honey sauce. Now, all that’s left is to tuck in and enjoy your hard work.

 

 

Spring Cooking with our Bakers

Shakshuka

We think this breakfast makes the perfect start to a weekend. It’s simple to make and the shared nature of this dippy dish gets the whole household involved.

shakshuka

Feeds 4

50ml olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked, hot or sweet paprika to taste
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp caraway seeds
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
8 eggs
50g feta, crumbled
A handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 whole loaf of good white sourdough

Step one

Start by preheating your oven to 200C then grab a large, oven-proof frying pan and warm it up over a medium heat. Toast the caraway seeds until they’re all lovely and fragrant then add the olive oil and let it warm through, frying the toasted seeds for another minute or two.

Step two

Next up, add the onion and pepper. When it’s all soft and jammy – 10 to 15 minutes – stir in your chilli flakes, cumin and paprika and cook for another couple of minutes. Tip in the chopped fresh tomatoes, give it a good stir and cook for five more minutes before adding the tinned ones. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then cook for two minutes more.

Step three

It’s best to turn down the heat at this point and let it simmer for around 15-20 minutes for the sauce to thicken. When it’s a rich, dark red, turn off the heat let it cool down a bit.

Step four

Next, take a wooden spoon and hollow out eight little wells in the surface of your sauce to crack the eggs into. Taking care not to break the yolk, use a fork to gently bury the egg whites under the sauce but leave the yolks on show.

Step five

Crumble the feta everywhere but the egg yolks, drizzle with olive oil then place in the oven. After five minutes, the yolks should be just set. If you like them completely hard, give it another five minutes before sprinkling with coriander and drizzling with a touch more olive oil.

And that’s it. All that’s left is to rally the troops and tuck in with a fresh loaf of crusty white sourdough. Enjoy.

Roy’s spelt & seed loaf recipe

spelt_three_seed0630

This gorgeous South African recipe sits somewhere in between a bread and a savoury cake – which isn’t a bad place to be. The spelt flour (an ancient variety of wheat) and the seeds (full of good fats) make it particularly nutritious, and together they create a complex, nutty flavour that’s underpinned by treacle’s natural and savoury note.

You’ll find this makes more of a batter than a dough: that’s how it’s meant to be, so don’t panic if your mixture looks runny.

Dry ingredients:
55g white spelt flour
55g stoneground wholemeal spelt flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
40g rolled oats
4 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp sesame seeds
4 tsp linseeds
1 tbs pumpkin seeds
1 tbs sunflower seeds
2 tsp nigella seeds

Wet ingredients
180ml butter milk
20ml rapeseed oil
4tsp poppy 50 g treacle

For the topping:
A handful of mixed seeds
A pinch of flaked sea salt

 

Preheat your oven to 155C. Grease a 1lb loaf tin and line with baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until completely combined. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and gently combine the two with a wooden spoon until no dry patches of flour remain. Don’t over-mix.

Pour the batter into the tin (it will level out as it cooks, so don’t worry about smoothing the top). Sprinkle over the topping of salt and seeds and bake for an hour, or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.

 

 

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