Baked in the Sticks

Mar 18, 2013 by

Living in the sticks as I do, you need to be able to bake your own bread.  Unless of course you don’t mind what’s on offer from the local shops.  The nearest “bakery” and I use that term loosely is 17 miles away. Apart from this there are a couple of supermarkets selling the usual sliced stuff and Cuisine de France dough (and I’m not referring to par-bake.)

Luckily we in Ireland have access to bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk and some quite decent stone ground flours.  It’s possible to make a loaf of delicious soda bread in a few minutes.  Adding seeds gives it a bit more bite and interest but it is also possible to add cheese, roasted peppers, olives, garlic or herbs. You can find my basic recipe here.

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough now for ages and to be honest almost threw my hat at it.  I have made my own starters with varying degrees of success but looking back I wasn’t very diligent about feeding them. Then I met Peter from Arun Bakery and he gave me some of theirs. I was renovating my kitchen at the time and had no heating in it and the starter went into a coma I think.  I was guilty of the same ill-treatment – not remembering to feed it.  I tried a few loaves.  Put it this way – they would have made wonderful door stoppers.  Even the hens refused them.  Then I noticed after the heating had been on for a while the starter was beginning to do a jig.  So I decided to give it one last chance.

I admit to cheating slightly in that I add a few grains of dried yeast as I am not renowned for my patience and was getting a bit sick of the door stoppers. It reads like a bit of a palaver to make it but honestly once you get into the swing of it, it’s not at all.

Day 1
Put 100g of your starter into a bowl.
Add 50g each of rye flour and strong white (I use Dove’s Farm organic)
Add 100g water.
Cover with a piece of cling film and leave in a warm draft free place until the next day. This is what’s called your sponge.

Add 50g flour and 50g water into your starter jar and cover for use next time.  I used to store mine in the fridge but now I just leave it on the counter top beside the mixer. Possibly in summer, it may be as well to store it in a fridge or some where cool.

My starter

Day 2
Using the dough hook on your mixer pour your “sourdough sponge” into the bowl.
Add 350g of more strong white flour or a mix of flours (sometimes I add more rye or even a wholemeal spelt).
1 heaped teaspoon of Fleur de Sel or a coarse sea salt
Add about one third of a 7g pack of dried yeast. 
Fill a measuring jug with 200ml luke warm water

Turn on mixer to it’s lowest setting and slowly add in your water. When the mix comes together and cleans the bowl is a good rule of thumb for how much to add.  All flours take different quantities of water and I have used anything from 150-200 ml.  It’s better to over-hydrate than under I find.  And it’s easier to add more flour if you need to.

Knead at this setting for ten minutes.  Then turn it up to 4 (on a Kitchen Aid).  I have to stand and hold mine as it jumps like a demented dervish all over my worktop if I don’t.  Leave it at this for a couple of minutes and then turn it back down to 1.

When you can pull a piece of the dough and it feels silky and not tough it’s ready.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and form into a ball.  Place it back into a floured bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel.  Leave it for at least 3 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Then turn it out and gently reform into a ball.  Do not be rough and knock out all the lovely bubbles in it.

I place mine on a circular pizza tray covered with a floured piece of baking parchment.  Then I put an upturned mixing bowl over it and leave until it has again almost doubled in size.  This can take anything from an hour but may take longer depending on the temperature of the room.  Before baking you can rub some water over it gently and sprinkle on some poppy seeds or any other seeds you wish to use.

Second proving

To bake
I have a steam function on my oven and I set it to 40 deg C and steam 2. I bake at this for 10-15 minutes.  I imagine if you turn your oven to it’s lowest setting and place a pan of boiling water in the bottom of it you can pretty much replicate this.

Then turn up your oven to 220 deg (steam 3) on mine so top up your pan of water with boiling water.  Leave it at this for a further 10 minutes.

Then turn your oven down to 180/200 deg (no steam/remove your pan) and bake at this for approximately a further 20 minutes or until your loaf is risen, golden and when tapped on the base sounds hollow.

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Note: You need to feed your starter after every time you remove some to make a loaf.  I find if I don’t make bread at least a couple of times a week I need to feed it at least once a week but preferably more.  You can tell after a while if it looks hungry…..

You can find out how to make your own starter here  

I now make my bread using just the starter alone. It no longer needs the addition of any yeast and I can tell you the flavour is only amazing.

Crumb structure

Tags: Irish Food  Irish Bread  Irish soda bread  Irish sourdough

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