I haven't had time to do much baking recently. A few months ago I started a new job in Birmingham and by the time I get home, have tea and wash up, it's either too late or I'm too tired to make anything fancy.
I have been making a 'no-knead' ciabatta style bread a lot since it's easy to make, only taking a few minutes to set up, then I can leave it to prove overnight.
The recipe is:
- approx ¾ cup of sourdough starter
- 3½ cups of flour
- 1½ cups of liquid (milk, water or a mixture or juice and water)
- a heaped teaspoon of salt
I use 3 plain flour, ½ of a heavy rye flour, any more rye and the texture comes out more like a regular bread (crumb-like) and less ciabatta-like (stretchy, full of holes).
Everything goes in the food mixer and the dough hook is used to mix it all together for 10 minutes or so. The dough will be very wet and if any rye flour was used, it might also be quite sticky. If I mix the dough in the morning, I then transfer it to a oiled bowl to prove for a few hours.
If the dough is very soft, it might need to be baked in a lined tin, otherwise it can go on a baking tray. In either case, I dust the tin with cornmeal. After transferring the dough to the tin I leave it to prove a bit more (sometimes overnight in the fridge).
Start baking at gas mark 7, then after 10 minutes turn the oven down to about gas mark 4-5 then bake for a further 30-45 minutes, depending on the shape of the loaf.
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I had planned to make a loaf of sourdough bread this week so I had my starter out in the kitchen and had been feeding it regularly (the starter usually lives in the fridge and I feed it a couple of times a week). I ended up with more starter than I needed so I thought I would have a go at making some Sourdough pancakes.
First thing this morning I stirred some milk, some more flour and a teaspoon of sugar into the starter and left it for a few hours. By lunchtime it was bubbling well again. I beat two eggs and added an teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda then stirred that into the starter, adding a bit more milk to get a pourable batter.
I poured a ladle of the batter into a small frying pan and cooked it on one side until the top was bubbling nicely. I then lifted the pancake out and put it face down into a second, larger, pan while I started the next pancake in the first pan. The second pan was big enough to hold two pancakes so they could be finished off and folded over with the cheesy filling.
At the weekend I made some rocket pesto, using ground mixed seeds, grated cheese and soft cheese. There was some left over which had been sitting in the fridge for a few days so I thought I'd see how it would go baked into a bread.
I made a standard loaf using a mixture of 50:50 bread flour and wholemeal flour and mixed the pesto in after all the other ingredients had been added. The dough had a slightly green appearance but the final baked loaf looked more normal, with some green herby flecks in. The actual bread was quite nice with a slightly cheesy taste.
I still have several tubs of mashed banana in the freezer, from when I bought a bag of over-ripe and/or bruised bananas for 8p a couple of months ago. The sourdough baking booklet has a recipe for banana bread which is made using a sourdough batter with added baking soda for extra rising. I decided to use half the amount of sugar they suggested because I was adding dried fruit instead of chopped nuts and I didn't want the bread to be too sweet.
The resulting loaf was good, very similar to the River Cottage recipe I used previously.
My second attempt at making a loaf from the sourdough baking booklet was a Molasses and Rye loaf. I used treacle instead of molasses (which is a fair enough swap). I didn't have enough rye flour so I used a mixture of that and wholewheat.
The end result was a good loaf which smelled slightly of treacle but didn't taste sweet or treacly.
The cookies were made because it was my turn on the Cake Day rota in work. The recipe was called Thumbprint Cookies. I filled them with either jam, lemon curd or marmalade. They seemed to go down well and there weren't any left for me to bring home.
This is the start of my second go at cooking something new every week for a year. A lot of the recipes this year will come from the various books I received for Christmas and this first one is no exception. This was the first recipe in a booklet on Sourdough baking and I selected it because it looked reasonably straightforward.
The only slight issue was that the booklet was published in the USA and all measurements were in cups and tea- or tablespoons. I neglected to calculate how much 6 cups of flour would be and ended up with nearly 2kg of dough which was a bit difficult to knead. I ended up splitting the dough in two and made a large loaf with one half and a smaller loaf and some breadsticks with the other half.
The main difference between this loaf and others I've made is that the dough is mixed then left to stand for around 20 minutes before kneading, and that halfway through the rising I actually remembered to knock it back and let it rise again.
The texture of this loaf is the closest to a bought loaf of any of my sourdough attempts. I think the booklet has proved its worth already but I'll be trying more recipes from it in the near future. Although I will be checking the quantities to make sure I don't end up with ridiculous amounts of bread.
The breadsticks were made using the same basic recipe as my sourdough pizza. I made twice as much pizza dough and split the mixture in two. One half was further divided in two and left to rise for tonight's pizza. The other half had an extra tablespoon of olive oil and some mixed seeds kneaded in. I left the breadstick dough for a couple of hours to start to rise before I made the breadsticks themselves.
To make the breadsticks, I broke off small portions of the dough, rolled them out and cut them into strips. I rolled the strips individually, based on the instructions given here.
Some of the breadsticks were left plain, others were flavoured with smoked sea salt, smoked paprika, and finally salt and pepper. I cooked them for about 20 minutes at gas mark 4. The actual timing seems quite important since some came out quite a bit darker than others.
It's been several weeks since I last had a go at making bread, apart from our regular saturday night pizza. I decided to try a sourdough ciabatta recipe so I got my sourdough starter out of the fridge on wednesday and started feeding it twice a day to build it up ready to use, alternating white flour and wholemeal flour.
The recipe came from sourdoughhome.com but I reduced the quantities to make just one loaf.
I mixed the dough as soon as I got up this morning then left it to rise during the day. I only had 200g of starter so I ended up using all of it. I stirred flour and water back into the starter tub, and hoped that the small amounts of starter left in the corners of the tub would be enough for it to re-grow.
I added around 100ml of water, 20ml of milk, 10ml of olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt to the starter, then slowly mixed in 200g of bread flour. The dough was very sticky so instead of kneading by hand (which is what I normally do) I used the dough hooks on our food mixer to mix and stretch the dough.
I put the dough in an oiled silicone loaf tin to prove. It was quite a cold day so I ended up leaving it for about 6 hours. I baked it on our pizza stone at gas mark 7 for about 20 minutes. I started it off in the loaf tin then turned it out halfway through and put it back on the stone to continue baking (since the silicone loaf tin insulates the contents a bit so the top cooks while the insides stay a bit raw).
I think this might be the best texture of any of my sourdough breads so far. It rose quite well and had some decent air holes inside. Definitely a recipe to try again.
My search for new uses for sourdough starter continues and my latest attempt is crumpets. I like crumpets but they are one of those things which we rarely buy. This recipe is based on one from the Sourdough Companion website but I halved the quantities.
I started by weighing out 100g of plain flour and added ½ a cup of my sourdough starter. I added approximately 130ml of water, about 25g of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. All this was whisked together and left for a few hours to start to bubble.
I poured the batter into a mould in a frying pan (on a low heat) and cooked each crumpet for a few minutes, trying to turn them over just before the bubble started to collapse.
It took about 10 minutes to cook each crumpet, so it certainly doesn't count as fast food. The mixture made about 10 thin crumpets.
We served them with a variety of toppings, including locally produced honey (pictured above) and peanut butter. The flavour was good but the texture was a little soft inside. It was an interesting experiment but I'll probably just buy crumpets the next time I want some.
When I was younger, a muffin was a small bread roll which was usually split and toasted and eaten as a savoury food. These days when you mention a Muffin, the first thing people thing of is the overgrown cupcake, and the old-fashioned muffins of my childhood is now called an English Muffin.
A couple of weeks ago I was given a link to this recipe and yesterday I finally found time to make some. I followed the recipe as closely as possible, making the first part of the dough on friday evening and adding the salt, honey and baking soda on saturday morning, along with some extra flour to give it more of a doughy texture.
The muffins were left to rise for about an hour before being baked on a pizza stone at gas mark 7 for about 10 minutes. Since the muffins are best when they have a flat top and bottom, I found out that the best way to cook them was to start them off flat side up (in other words, turning them upside down when transferring them from the tray to the stone), then turning them over again after a couple of minutes, before the top starts to bulge.
The first muffins were eaten while still warm, as an egg sandwich for brunch. The toasted buttered muffins shown above were eaten for lunch today.
I thought I was also have a go at making a sourdough pizza base, instead of my normal method which used bread yeast. The dough was made with ½ a cup of sourdough starter, 1½ cups of plain flour, a couple of tablespoons of yellow cornmeal, 2 teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil (to make a change from our usual olive oil). I left the dough to rise for about 5 or 6 hours.
The pizza here was topped with red pesto, red chillies, chicken, grated cheese and mozarella. The base was nice and soft but it's not clear whether that was due to it being sourdough based or whether it would have been a nice soft bready base anyway.
I first tried making sourdough a couple of weeks ago but the results weren't completely successful. It tasted ok but the starter didn't rise very well and the resulting bread was quite dense. Shortly afterwards, the starter had begun to smell a bit vinegary so I decided to throw it away and start again.
I took inspiration from a couple of sources, including River Cottage and the Baker Brothers TV series. The starter consisted of half white bread flour, half spelt flour mixed with an equal weight of water. I dropped a grape into the mixture to provide the wild yeast. I fed the starter with flour and water every day (a tablespoon of each).
After a couple of days the starter was bubbling away nicely so I removed the grape and carried on feeding it, alternating using spelt flour and white flour. After a week, it was ready to use.
The recipe I followed had 300ml of starter, 500g of flour, 200ml of water and a generous pinch of salt. I used slightly less water since last time, the mixture was very sloppy. I left the dough overnight to rise, and cooked it this morning for just under half an hour at gas mark 8.
The resulting bread was much better than my last attempt. It was still fairly dense but had a better texture. I will try to remember to keep feeding the starter and over the next few weeks I'll try some different variations, including a sourdough muffin recipe which I read recently.
A couple of days ago I had a go at making Heston's cheese sauce. The big difference between his recipe and a traditional one is that you don't start with a roux. The sauce base was white wine and chicken stock, instead of milk. The wine was reduced then the stock was added and heated. The cheese was finely grated then mixed with cornflour before being stirred into the wine/stock mixture.
The end result was a very smooth sauce but the stock flavour was a bit too strong. I will experiment further but next time I might use milk and wine or milk and stock.
My next new recipe was a sourdough bread. This was based on the recipe from the Fabulous Baker Brothers TV series. I made the starter last week using spelt flour, and fed it each day with a bit more flour and water.
I made the dough yesterday and left it to 'prove' overnight before baking it this morning on the pizza stone at gas mark 8. For a first attempt I am reasonably happy with the results. Since the starter was fairly young, the 'sourdough' flavour was quite light but it was a good loaf. I have just realised that this is probably the first loaf of bread I have made completely on my own.
Next time I might make the dough a bit stiffer since I think this one was a bit wet and sticky. The bread had a big hollow bit in the middle, like a giant pitta bread, so we sliced it in half horizontally and made a fried egg sandwich for our breakfast.