Simple pleasures

All Rise


I’ve been using different types of flour recently, trying more wholegrains as well as looking for interesting flavours and texture. There’s more to life than wheat, and anyway, I’m not convinced it’s that good for you. I haven’t ruled it out though, it just has to be worth it, such as with silky and elastic homemade papardelle or deilcate ravioli. As Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

I believe that homemade is best, especially when it comes to bread. Or at the very least, bread made traditionally and slowly by a proper baker. It takes a little more time, effort and planning, but it’s worth it and you can always freeze extra for toasting. This loaf uses khorasan flour, an ancient Egyptian grain that is soft, nutty and delicious.

My sourdough starter is one year old this month, I’m very proud of that. I’ve kept it alive for longer than some animals. Like all pets though, it does have to be fed, and sometimes cleaned up after. I keep mine in the fridge in a state of suspended animation, feeding it once a week when I make a loaf. There are plenty of starter ‘recipes’ out there, but basically do this:
Get a large glass kilner jar, fill it 3/4 full with an equal amount of flour and water. Start with a mix of wheat and rye if you like. Stir it well and leave open on the kitchen bench for a couple of days. Throw away half of it and replace with more flour and water. Leave for another day. Repeat this for five to seven days and you should have a nice bubbly and tangy starter. Now you can close the lid properly. Look after it and it should last indefinetely.

To make great sourdough, I would recommend buying a bannetone and using a lidded cast iron casserole dish (also known as a Dutch Oven). It bakes and steams the dough with it’s own moisture so you get a beautiful crust. If you don’t have one, just use a baking tray and put a bowl of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven to create steam. You will notice the difference if you just take a little time and see bread-making as an act in itself. This recipe works equally with wheat flour or other types, you may just need to add a little more or less water.

240g sourdough starter
300g khorasan flour (kamut)
30g rye flour
60g strong white wheat flour
8g salt
Approximately 255ml water. If your dough is too stiff add a little more. Bread making is also about using your senses. These will improve with practice.
Extra flour for dusting

I use my Kenwood Chef to do all the kneading for me, but you may have tension and anger you want to work out by hand. Either way, the dough needs like us all, to be kneaded. I usually do it for about 12-15 minutes.
Add the starter to the bowl and pour in the flour and salt then mix well. Slowly add the water and gently incorporate it until well mixed. Knead on the bench for about 15 minutes then put back in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for four hours.
Take the dough out of the bowl, knead for a minute or two and shape into a ballthen dust very well with flour.
If you’re using a banneton, make sure it is well dusted inside with flour. If you like, you can sprinkle some rye grains or other seeds into it so they come out on top of your loaf. Put the dough in, cover it and leave to rise again for another eight hours. I usually leave mine overnight, but be careful to not leave it too long otherwise it will overprove, have too much air in it and collapse.
Heat your oven as hot as you can with the pan inside. Remove the dough from the banneton, dust with a little more flour and put in the pan, covering with the lid. Bake for about 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium hot and take the lid off. Bake for another 20 or so minutes then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
If you’re baking this on an oven tray, make sure the ice is in the oven and keep an eye on the loaf so it doesn’t burn. It should sound hollow when you tap it. Again, use youre senses.Serve with unsalted butter, thinly sliced (you can use salted butter if your partner threatens you and sees that as an open act of hostility). Or, as we sometimes do, toast it and top with avocado, chilli, lime juice, tomato, spring onion and coriander. Amazing.

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