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Sourdough bread 2013
7 January 2013
Another year, Christmas safely negotiated, post-Christmas fatigue dealt with and the last of the 24 6 November rolls eaten. Time to bake!
On our last visit to Bakewell I’d picked up a bag of flour from the Maud Foster Mill, near Boston in Lincolnshire. This was labelled ’strong, plain, organic, unbleached, untreated white flour’, but was almost dazzlingly white compared with Tuxford’s strong white. I decided to give this a try for a change.
I also decided to make a smaller sponge so as to give the dough a bit more starch to work on. So yesterday afternoon I took 50 grams of sourdough from batch A, which had been refreshed on the 28 December and blended this with 75 grams of warm water. I then stirred in 75 grams of the new flour to give me 200 grams of sourdough. This mixture was looking nice and bubbly, but not frothy, by 10:30pm. I blended it into 200 grams of cold water (to slow the overnight fermentation down), mixed in 200 grams of flour and left this sponge, covered with a damp cloth, on the kitchen windowsill.
Emmanuel’s white bread recipe uses 150 grams of sourdough, so I scaled it up to fit my 200 gram batch: 650 grams of flour, 400 grams of water and 11 grams of salt. I added the remaining 200 grams of water (warm) to the sponge and stirred to mix. At least, that was the plan: I actually added 252 grams because the display of the digital scale was in shadow! It was noticeable that the sourdough retained some of its texture rather than dispersing completely into the water. I weighed out the remaining 465 grams of flour and stirred in the 11 grams of salt, then stirred the mixture into the bowl in three or four batches using my trusty Spoonula and, towards the end, a Bertinet scraper.
I decided to stick to Emanuel’s low-energy kneading process as, even this long after Christmas, I didn’t feel much like doing a Bertinet bash!
So the mixed dough was rested for 15 minutes and then given three repeats of the 20-turn scraper-knead and 15 minuites rest routine, followed by a final 20 turns and an hour’s rest.
The dough was fairly firm, very elastic and pretty sticky, but I reckoned it would be manageable even with the extra 52 grams of water. It also rose very well during the hour’s rest, so I went ahead with shaping. With just enough weighing to keep the rolls fairly consistent, I rounded 12 balls and at 11:50am I set them to prove on two well-floured baking sheets. Initially I covered them with a damp cloth, but when they were inspected some had stuck to the cloth (I said the dough was sticky!). So I gave them a heavy dusting of flour and put a sheet of wide clingfilm loosely over them for the remainder of the proving, which made it much easier to keep an eye on them. After a total of one hour, I judged them to be ready for the oven.
Stepson Aidan had recently made some rolls baked at a lower temperature than I normally use, which had given them a less challenging crust. I decided to follow his lead, starting the bake at 230°C but reducing to 180°C after pouring in the steaming water and closing the door.
After 28 minutes I judged the rolls to be well baked. Shortly after they came out of the oven I had one for lunch. The crumb and crust were both very satisfactory and the flavour was excellent.
11 January 2013
Having eaten a few of the new batch of rolls, I can report that the crumb structure is perfect - a fairly close texture but with very thin walls between small bubbles. Even baked more gently than usual, the bread springs back completely when compressed. And because of the gentler bake the crust is much less challenging!
Yesterday I decided to warm some of the rolls in the oven - 3-4 minutes at 180°C - and the effect was dramatic: a really crisp but light crust and a soft, moist crumb. Despite the cost in electricity, I think this - rather than just defrosting in the microwave - will have to be my standard procedure from now on. Maybe I should swap the single-function microwave for a combi...
4 February 2013
Last week I made another double batch, using exactly the process described above but with equal parts of Tuxford strong white and wholemeal. The crumb is perfect but the crust is just a little thick. I think I?ll try missing out the hot start mext time and bake at 180°C from the beginning...
27 April 2013
My third batch since the last report has produced probably the nicest rolls I’ve made yet. At 9:30am on the 18 April I refreshed batch B with 100 grams of sourdough to 150 grams each of water and the Maud Foster Mill’s organic, untreated, unbleached strong white flour which I mentioned in the entry for the 7 January. This was very active by 10:45pm, though it was a much stiffer batter than that produced with Tuxford Windmill white, so the Foster flour obviously soaks up a lot more water. I took out 100 grams of the fresh sourdough to make another refresh batch for the fridge.
Then I mixed the 420 grams of Tuxford wholemeal I happened to have left with 580 grams of the Foster flour to make 1kg and mixed a sponge using the remaining 300 grams of the fresh sourdough and 300 grams each of water and the flour blend. By 7:25 the next morning the sponge was very active, so I added 300 grams of water, stirring to blend the mix thoroughly. Then I mixed 16 grams of fine sea salt into the flour blend and began adding it to the diluted sponge a little at a time. When I’d mixed in 600 grams I decided that the sticky dough was firm enough, so I had 100 grams of flour left over compared with previous Tuxford-based doughs.
I’ve decided that Emmanuel’s scraper-kneading process, done in the bowl, makes excellent dough with far less work that either conventional kneading or the Bertinet bash. So I gave the new dough 20 turns in the bowl followed by 10 minutes rest, repeating this four times. After the fifth and final 20 turns, I rested the dough for an hour.
Miraculously, the dough weighed almost exactly 1800 grams, which was very handy because I’d decided to make 18 rolls rather than 24! I cut and weighed 18, all accurate to a couple of grams, rounded them into balls and put six on each of three heavily floured baking sheets. These were placed on top of the stove with the oven turned right up to 230°C. The rolls were dredged quite heavily with some of the leftover flour blend (using my trusty nylon tea-strainer as a dredger) and covered loosely with clingfilm. I checked them several times after the first hour, and at two hours exactly decided they were ready for the oven.
The first two went into the very hot oven, with half a litlre of water poured into the tray on the oven floor. The over was turned down to 190°C and the timer set to 25 minutes, after which the rolls were perfectly cooked. I marked the rolls on the remaining tray with a light slash and put them in (with more water) without pre-heating back to maximum. Again, 25 minutes was fine.
All the rolls came out looking and smelling great, with a very attractive crust due to the heavy dredging and steam.
When I had cooled them enough to cut one I found the crumb to be perfect: light and moist, very springy and fairly open-textured.
I ate one of the first batch with my dinner, at which point I decided that I’d hit the jackpot. When I tried one of the slashed rolls the following day, I concluded that the ones from the first two trays were marginally lighter and more open, so it looks as if the high-temperature start is the way to go.
As I’ve run out of wholemeal flour, I’m going to make a batch of white rolls using exactly the same method next time.
18 May 2013
As planned, I made a whire batch today, using the Maud Foster Mill flour and batch A, which had been left un-refrshed for a month before the last ’feed’ but showed no signs of ill-effects. So much for all the folklore about having to take your sourdough on holiday with you!
At 1pm yesterday I did a normal refresh (100g sourdough to 150g each of water and flour). At 10:20pm, with this bubbling merrily, I mixed 300g each of the resulting sourdough, water and flour to make a sponge, saving the remining 100g for a refresh using ordinary plain flour.
At 10am today I stirred 300g of water into the sponge, followed by three lots of 200g of flour. By the end of the third I needed to switch from the Spoonula to a scraper, and once the dough was formed decided another 50g of flour was needed. When this was fully incorporated I had a firm but sticky dough.
Four repetitions of 20 turns of scraper kneading in the bowl followed by ten minutes’ rest were followed by a final 20 turns and a one-hour rest. Because of other domestic pressures, the dough got a further 30 minutes and was well risen by the end. It weighed 1840g, so I cut and rounded 18 portions of just over 100g each, rounded them and placed them on heavily floured baking sheets, dusting them heavily with flour before placing them on top of the stove, with the oven already at 230°C.
After two hours’ proving, the rolls had risen to more than double their initial size. They were placed in the oven, which was immediated turned down to 190°C. 500ml of water was poured into the roasting tin in the bottom of the oven and rolls were and baked for 25 minutes.
They came out looking good, and the first one cut was
perfect: a thin, crisp crust and a light, moist, open,
After a long break in recording my baking, here I am back
with the new version of
the website and quite a lot to report.
Batches of rolls using various flour blends but the same
basic recipe were baked on the 13 June, the 7 July, the 6
August, the 30 August and the 27 September. The last bag
of rolls in the freezer is about to run out, so it's
time to bake again.
The favourite flour blend is now 70:30 white to
wholemeal, using Maud Foster Mill flours (though I'm not
sure I didn't prefer the mix I did using Tuxford wholemeal
with Maud Foster white).
After eating a roll from the last batch unbuttered with
soup, I was rather concerned about the flavour of the
bread, and started wondering whether my standard refresh
process was leaving too many old, dead organisms in the
dough. So this week I decided to create a fresh culture.
On the 17 October I mixed just a teaspoonful from each of
batches A and B together (hoping to trap the best bugs
from both) and then with 50 grams of water and 50 of Maud
Foster strong white flour. After three days the mix was
fairly active and smelled nice and fresh, so I have just
mixed it with 150 grams each of water and the same flour.
Once it is fully active, this should contain plenty of
newborn bugs and far fewer old, dead ones. We'll see...
The current recipe
Here is an account of the 26 September batch...
700 grams of strong white and 300 grams of wholemeal (both Maud Foster) were mixed to give a kilo of flour blend.
Batch A was used to produce a sponge: 300 grams
sourdough, 300 grams water and 300 grams flour blend. The
remaining 100 grams of sourdough was refreshed normally
for return to the fridge The sponge was left overnight.
In the morning I added 300 grams each of flour blend and water to the sponge, then small additions of flour blend: 200 grams, 100 grams and 100 grams with 16 grams of fine sea salt and 100ml of olive oil.
The mix was scraper-kneaded with three further small
additions of flour: 50, 25 and 25 grams, which used the
When the dough was fully mixed it was rested for ten
minutes. Then the cycle of a 20-turn scraper knead and a
ten-minute rest was repeated six times, with a final 20
turns and a 60-minute rest at the end.
The dough weighed in at 2024 grams, which was divided
into three equal rounds by weight, each of which was
further divided into three which were finally halved by
eye to produce 18 rolls.
The rolls were arranged in sixes on heavily floured
baking sheets, dusted heavily with flour, covered loosely
with clingfilm and proved on top of the stove with
the oven on for two hours. They were then put in the oven
set at 230°C with 500ml of water added to the tray
underneath for steam. The thermostat setting was reduced
to 200°C as soon as the door was closed. After a 27-minute
bake the rolls were cooled on wire racks and frozen, with
one kept out for dinner!
21 October 2013
This morning the sourdough mixture described above was
looking - and smelling - really good. There was no murky
liquid on top, the colour was creamy and the smell was
fresh, clean and sour. I took out two teaspoons and mixed
this with 150 grams each of water and flour to make a
300-gram starter for the next batch of bread. The
remainder was put in a container and put in the fridge as
batch C. I suspect this will get split into two to replace
batches A and B, which I think have suffered from carrying
over too much dead matter.
Tonight, if the starter is ready, I will make a sponge as
in 'The current recipe' above.
At 10:45pm I checked the starter and was pleasantly
surprised to find that it had remained quite stiff and had
roughly doubled in size (usually at this stage my
refreshes were quite liquid). It smelled really fresh and
clean, with hints of cream cheese and yogurt. It looked as
if re-starting from very small quantities of old sourdough
was a good idea! I'll go down to one teaspoon next time...
I made up a kilo of 70:30 flour blend and then created a
sponge by stirring the starter into 300 grams of cold
water and then roughly mixing in 300 grams of the flour
22 October 2013
At 7:45 this morning I found a very active sponge. I
stirred in 300 grams of water and then 300 grams of flour
blend, pouring over 100ml of extra virgin olive oil and
sprinkling on 16 grams of fine sea salt. This was stirred
together and left for 15 minutes. Then 200 grams of flour
blend were stirred in, followed by 100 grams and finally
the remainder of the kilo in the bowl.
At this point I had to switch from the Spoonula to a
scraper, stopping as soon as the last visible traces of
dry flour had disappeared. The dough was left to rest for
It was pretty sticky, so I mixed 100 grams of flour blend
for dusting and maybe a final 25 gram addition to the
dough as with the previous batch. However, at the end of
the rest, although the dough was still sticky enough to
make scraper-kneading a bit laborious, so I decided to
stick with the 'wetter the better' philosophy - a slight
variation from the last batch.
Five repeats of a 20-turn scaper knead and a 10-minute
rest were followed by a final 20-turn knead and a 1-hour
rest. At the end of this, the dough was rounded on a bed
of flour and cut into thirds, which were then cut into
thirds again. Finally the pieces were halved and shaped to
give 18 rolls. 12 were arranged on rectangular baking
sheets for the oven and the remaining six were arranged on
the metal tray from our new Panasonic combination
microwave oven, all heavily floured. The three trays of
rolls were then thickly dusted with flour and proved under
loose clingfilm on top of the cooker as the oven
After 90 minutes, they were ready to bake - which suggests that the new 'fresher' sourdough was working more actively than the other batches - and were given 30 minutes cooking with the oven set to its maximum of 230°C and the combi to its top temperature of 220°C.
As can be seen, the combi batch were more 'toasted', a
consequence of Panasonic's 'convection' program using a
combination of fan oven and grill.
We ate two of the combi-baked rolls for lunch, and agreed
that this was by far the best-tasting bread I had produced
since doing the course at Welbeck. There was still a
definite sourness, but more delicate and subtle.
I think batches A and B may be destined for the
20 November 2013
Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.
This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.