Ever since I attended the bread class at the E5 Bakehouse last year, I’ve been hooked on making sourdough. I’d not had a lot of luck with it beforehand, but learning in that environment and being taken step by step through the process really helped me get a feel for where I’d been going wrong, and since then I’ve not looked back. Most weeks now I make sourdough loaves, and my little tub of commercial yeast is getting somewhat neglected in the fridge.
My regular ‘done-it-so-many-times-it’s-second-nature’ recipe is based on the Pain Naturel from Weekend Bakery. It’s simple but effective, it fits in my schedule and always looks brilliant. But more recently I’ve fancied adding a bit more complexity to the loaves and have tried various other recipes. Here are my favourite two.
Dan Lepard’s Mill Loaf
This loaf is originally from Dan’s The Handmade Loaf but has been republished over at the Bakery Bits blog. It uses 60% strong white flour, 30% wholemeal and 10% rye, and produces a loaf with a great crust and a nice nutty taste to it. The recipe suggests an oval loaf, but I prefer making round ones that fit in my Le Creuset, as that allows me to trap the steam in and create a far better oven spring.
This is a really nice loaf and definitely had that extra something I was looking for. I have no doubt it will become a regular!
Vanessa Kimbell’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule
I really love oats, and often chuck a handful in regular bread to add that subtle nuttiness and add extra texture to the crumb. But I’d not tried oats in sourdough before, so was eager to try this recipe by Vanessa Kimbell.
The recipe is very simple and requires little work – just a bit of forward planning on the timings. I only keep a small amount of starter alive at any one time to minimise waste, so I have to start a recipe like this a day or so ahead in order to get the right amount of starter. So I refreshed my starter on Friday night, made the levain Monday morning, mixed the bread that evening and baked Tuesday morning.
This was the first time I’ve baked with ’00’ flour and I was a little unsure how it would turn out. Actually, that’s not strictly true – I’ve used ’00’ for pizza bases, but never in a whole loaf. I was pleasantly surprised. The crust is beautiful and the crumb really soft. The taste of oats is delicate, but really nice, and I’d quite like to experiment with increasing the amount of oats in the levain, if I can do so without making it too hard to handle due to the lower gluten content.
Since the recipe yielded two loaves, I experimented by proving one seam side down in the banneton and allowing it to open up naturally in the oven, and the other seam side down with a circle slashed into it before baking. I’m not entirely sure which I prefer, but may lean towards the natural one. I like the rustic, random effect of allowing heat and gluten to take the matter out of my hands.
So these are two great recipes that I’ve enjoyed recently. Now I’d really like to try to work out a combination of the two, adding some oats into a white, wholemeal and rye sourdough. Further reading, planning and experimenting awaits…