Need Acrobat Reader for PDF documents?
Sourdough bread 2014
3 February 2014
The last batch of bread was baked on the 18th and 19th
December, and I'm now ready to bake again. The batch
lasted this long for the obvious reason that an awful lot
of Christmas, New Year and birthday cooking was happening.
I ate the last roll of the batch at lunchtime today, and I
have to say that I'm happy to see the back of it.
I'm assuming that the slightly disappointing rise and
distinctly disappointing flavour were both due to the use
of flour from Worsborough Mill, which is a museum run by
Barnsley Council. The flour is not labelled as strong, and
is described as 'suitable for breadmakers and general
baking'. I didn't take much notice of this when I found
the flour in the Welbeck Farm Shop, apparently replacing
their usual Tuxford Windmill strong white. I should have
done: on reflection I think the breadmakers referred to on
the bag are the mechanical ones rather than human ones
like me! The story is told towards the end of Sourdough bread 2013.
I have since bought some more Tuxford strong white from
the Arrow Farm Shop (which fortunately doesn't seem to
have jumped ship) and intend using up the last of the Maud
Foster flour in a blend with this.
The first bake of the New Year
4 February I'm halfway through today's bake,
waiting for the dough to prove before shaping the rolls,
so here's the story so far.
Sourdough batches C and D ( the evolution from A and B is
explained near the end of Sourdough
bread 2013) were last refreshed on the 18
December, in the midst of the pre-Christmas pandemonium,
and I must have forgotten to update the reminder on the
computer. I checked on the 13 January and realised that
the batches had been unattended for over three weeks -
almost doublee the interval I try to stick to. So I mixed
one teaspoon of each batch with 50 grams of water and 50
grams of Tuxford strong white flour. The delay had
obviously done no harm as fermentation took off
vigorously. Once fully active, the two batches were
returned to the fridge.
On the 2 February I repeated this refresh process with
batch C - a teaspoon of sourdough with 50 grams each of
water and flour - and the following day mixed the
resulting active culture with 150 grams each of water and
flour, giving me 400 grams of fresh sourdough. 300 grams
would be used for bread and the remaining 100 grams to
start the new stash. This was fed with 50 grams each of
water and flour this morning, between breadmaking
activities, and the new stash will go in the fridge later.
So here is a blow-by-blow account of what has been done
At 10:30 last night, on my way to bed, I mixed 300 grams
of sourdough from batch C with 300 each of water and the
flour blend I had made earlier. This turned out to consist
of the remaining 655 grams of Maud Foster stron white made
up to 700 grams with 45 of Tuxford strong white and 300
grams of Tuxford strong wholemeal. This was stirred to
make a lumpy batter (my sponge), covered with clingfilm
and left on the kitchen windowsill overnight. It was a
cilly night, so with the heating off the sponge was only
bubbling gently when I came downstairs.
At 8:30 this morning, after dog duty, I stirred in 300
grams each of water and the flour blend and covered the
bowl again, placing it in a warmer part of the kitchen.
Breakfast then intervened, and I didn't get back to the
bread until 9:40. I have concluded that the timings during
the preparation of the dough are very flexible - if
something causes a delay resulting in extended resting
time the effect may actually be beneficial, so making my
sourdough bread fits pretty well into the rest of the
day's jobs. I added 100 grams of flour blend, 150 ml of
extra-virgin olive oil and 18 grams of salt.
The salt issue had become a bit of a problem because I
had used rather a lot curing my
first two attempts at cold-smoked salmon. In fact,
for the second, I had needed to scavenge every scrap of
ordinary cooking salt to make up my last container of Aldi
sea salt to the required amount. I had found onte of those
jards with the stupid mills on top and assumed that I
could get today's salt from that. Wrong! I could have
twisted the damed thing all day without reaching my target
weight. The only thing left was a Kilner jar of sel gris de Guérande
which I knew has set like a brick some years ago. I hacked
at this with Patricia's Sabatier carving fork (remember
when every chef on TV was using these?) and manage to chip
off enough of the salt. This then went in the mortar and
was attacked with the pestle. Saved in the nick of time.
When this mixture had been stirred in - quite a long job
to get all that oil amalgamated - I added a further 100
grams of flour blend. At this point I had to switch from
stirring with the Spoonula to kneading with a scraper
(scraper-kneading is explained in the earlier sourdough
pages), with which I brought in the last 200 grams of the
blend. When the last traces of dry flour had disappeared,
I covered the bowl and gave the dough its first 10-minute
This was followed by a 20-turn scraper-knead, and the
10-minute rest and scraper-knead sequence was repeated
four more times, followed by a 60-minute rest.
At midday I weighed the dough at 2022 grams and cut it
first into three 674-gram pieces and each of those into
three 224-gram pieces. These were finally halved to
produce 18 pieces, which were rounded and placed on three
pieces of baking parchment - two on wooden peels and one
ready for baking on the circular enamel tray from our
Panasonic combination microwave oven, which is now my
oven-of-choice for bread and quite a few other things. At
12:25 the three batches were on top of the cooker and
covered with clingfilm to prove for at least two hours.
The rolls set to prove under clingfilm
The kitchen is quite cool today and I
don't have the benefit of a big hot stove. Not
surprisingly, the rolls had not risen very well by
The first batch before baking
However I decided to go ahead with the
bake and at 15:10 the first batch of rolls were heavily
dusted with flour blend and baked in the combi microwave
for 25 minutes at 220°C. Here they are on the way in. as
can be seen, they have increased in size, spreading
The second batch after baking and the first before
This picture shows clearly that the rolls
have risen vertically. This is something that never
seemed to happen for me in the conventional oven.
The first roll cut and eaten was very good
- smaller than those from previous batches, but light,
soft and open in texture. In fact it had some quite
large holes, so I might have been a bit ham-fisted with
my rounding! I'll be eating another one in the next
half-hour, so we'll see...
There was none of the unpleasant sourness
of the previous batch, so I think this must be
attributed to the flour from Worsborough Mill. Which
just goes to show: if you're going to produce great
flour, concentrate on milling instead of entertaining
- 1 kilogram strong flour - white, wholemeal or a
blend of the two
- 600 ml/grams water (weighing is more accurate)
- 300 grams fresh active sourdough
- 18 grams salt
- 150 ml olive oil (optional)
- The night before baking, add the 300 grams of
sourdough to 300 grams of water, mix and then stir
in 300 grams of whichever flour you are using and
stire to a rough batter. This is your sponge. Cover
with clingfilm or a damp tea-towel and leave to
ferment overnight in a cool place.
- The following morning, stir 300 grams water into
the sponge, followed by 300 grams of your flour.
Cover and place in a warmer area until new bubbles
start to appear.
- Stir in the salt (and olive oil if using) with 100
grams flour, mixing until all the flour (and oil)
have been amalgamated to form a loose, uniform dough
- quite a long job.
- Add further flour in 100-gram batches, stirring
each in until fully combined.
- When stirring with a spoon (I use a Nisbets
Spoonula) becomes too difficult switch to a plastic
scraper. Scraper-knead by scraping down the dough
furthest from you and folding it onto the part
nearest to you. Turn the bowl clockwise to recreate
the position before the fold and repeat until the
flour is combined. I find this, with the short
knead-rest cycles described in 7 and 8 below, far
less tiring than traditional kneading.
- The quantities given here usually produce a
workable dough without any further addition. The
dough will remain sticky on the surface, but should
be used as soon as it stands up without sagging for
a few minutes.
- Cover and rest the dough for ten minutes.
- Scraper-knead for 20 turns of the bowl.
- Repeat stages 7 and 8 four time and rest for one
hour. The dough is now ready for shaping into loaves
or rolls, covering and proving somewhere fairly
warm. My most recent batches have needed 2 hours to
2½ hours 30 minutes.
Shape and bake as you like in a hot oven - around
200-230°C. Cool on a wire rack. The bread will freeze
and defrost in the microwave really well.
11 March 2014
I baked again, following the same procedure as last
time but with a blend of Tuxford Windmill strong white
and wholemeal. Interestingly, after raving about the
Maud Foster flour (which was the bulk of what was used
last time) the bread came out with a better flavour
and a much nicer crust this time.
The starter was made on the 10 March, from Batch D
this time, mixing 100 grams with 150 each of water and
flour blend at 13:00. The sponge was made at bedtime,
adding 300 grams each of water and flour blend to 300
of the fresh sourdough, the remaining 100 grams being
saved for a new refresh.
At 06:40 on the 11 March the dough-mixing started. I
needed an extra 100 grams of flour blend this time,
presumably because of the different properties of the
Tuxford white flour. Apart from that - and the random
variations introduced by dog-walking before breakfast!
- the process was the same as last time. I baked the
first of the three batches at 220°C for 30 minutes and
- based on observation of the result - the second and
third for 26 minutes each.
My notebook records: 'Lovely crust - good crumb
with lots of big holes. Best yet with this recipe.'
I don't think I'll be bothering to hunt around for the
Maud Foster flour after all...
22 April 2014
The flour from Worsborough Mill (see top of this
page) produced a very disappointing bread, and it was
a real relief to get back to the Tuxford Windmill
product. The lesson? Use flour milled by a miller, not
by a museum! I emailed the Welbeck Farm Shop
about this on the 7 February:
I’ve been a regular customer of yours for over
seven years, and must have bought about a
hundredweight of Tuxford Windmill strong bread
flours in that time. So I was surprised to find, a
few weeks ago, that you were no longer selling the
Tuxford product and had introduced a flour from Worsborough
Mill, which is actually a museum in Barnsley.
I bought a bag for my next batch of sourdough
bread, which I’ve been making every couple of
weeks since doing the Wild Yeast Baking course at
the School of Artisan Food in March 2011. I have
to say that the resulting bread was deeply
disappointing. It didn’t rise anywhere near as
well as bread made with Tuxford flour and had a
most unpleasant sour taste – sour as in stale
rather than what I expect from sourdough.
I have just made another batch, using a blend of
strong white flours from Tuxford and the Maud
Foster Windmill in Boston. No sour taste, better
rise and altogether a better bread. So the problem
has to be down to the Worsborough Mill
Please reinstate the Tuxford range or, if you’ve
fallen out with them, become a retailer for
the Maud Foster Windmill’s strong white organic
untreated flour, which is the only flour I’ve
found that makes bread even better than I get with
Tuxford flour. Even better, sell both.
I was disappointed not to get a reply.
However, last Saturday I had a chat with the owner of
Tuxford Windmill at Retford Farmer's Market, who told
me that his orders from Welbeck had tailed off but
that he would be having a meeting with them soon. I
hope this gets sorted out. I wanted to send him a copy
of the email tabove, but the contact link on the
Tuxford website wasn't working!
29 April. Quick-acting yeast? Mass-market flours?
However (again!)... I needed some bread for the
Easter weekend and in desperation I bought some
Allinson's Very Strong White Bread Flour, and for
speed I used a sachet of Aldi quick-acting yeast from
a packet left behind by stepson Aidan. I made
Bertinet's olive dough - plain white with a good slug
of extra virgin olive oil kneaded in using Emmanuel's
superb scraper-kneading process.
The result was a smooth, highly elastic dough with a
great rise, from which I made eight 30-gram doughballs
for the grandsons and - with the addition of lots more
oil and a sprinkle of coarse Cornish sea salt - a very
I'm going to try this flour for my next batch of
standard sourdough rolls, so I've just bought two bags
of white and one of sourdough from the Co-op. Maybe my
love affair with artisan mills is over!
Meanwhile yet again, I made another focaccia
last Sunday and Patricia and I were equally impressed
with the result. The technique needs some refining,
but the bread is very good. The loaf was cut into
portions and frozen, and we'll be having some for
I'll try the same bread but using sourdough next
2 May 2014
Checking back, my current sourdough recipe uses 1kg
of flour blend with 300g of sourdough (contributing a
further 150g of flour) with 150ml of olive oil. That's
130ml of oil per kilo of flour. Bertinet's olive dough
uses only 100g of oil per kilo, and without weighing
some oil I'd guess that that's not much different from
my 130ml. So my sourdough recipe has a similar oil
content to his olive dough, if not higher.
I refreshed my two batches of sourdough this morning,
so as soon as I have an active starter I'll try a
Yesterday I started my first sourdough focaccia.
Before bed I mixed 300 grams each of fresh sourdough,
water and Allinson's Very Strong White Bread Flour to
form a sponge.
By 07:00 today the sponge was highly active. Rather
misguidedly, I added 200ml of extra virgin olive oil
and stirred it in. Misguided because it took an awful
lot of stirring to mix it in! Next time I'll mix oil
and flour together before adding to the sponge.
When the mixture was fully combined, I added 300
grams each of water and flour plus 18 grams of fine
sea salt. I left this to rest while I walked the dog
and fed him and us.
At 09:20 I added and stirred in three successive lots
of 100 grams of flour, bringing the total to 900
grams. At this point I switched from spoonula to
scraper, adding and kneading in three lots of 50 grams
of flour, bringing the total to 1050 grams and
producing a softish, rather sticky but very elastic
dough This was rounded and rested for 10 minutes,
followed by a 20-turn knead.
This cycle was repeated three times more, followed by
a final rest of 60 minutes. (Actually I cheated
slightly, because I discovered a packet containing not
very much semolina in the cupboard. I tipped this in
after the fourth 10-minute rest, and it took an extra
20 turns of kneading to get it dispersed in the
The final weight of dough was 2186 grams, which was
split into three equal pieces of roughly 730 grams
each. These were shaped, using plenty of oil, into
rectangular focaccias on lipped baking sheets. They
were covered lightly with clingfilm and left to prove
on top of thje cooker with the oven set at 230°C.
After two hours, the well-risen loaves were brushed
with more oil - very gently because they were quite
fragile - and dimpled with my fingers, pressing right
down to the metal. They were sprinkled with coarse
Cornish sea salt and baked for 25 minutes.
The cut focaccias had a lovely open texture with lots
of big bubbles and a lovely creamy colour from the
oil. I'd cut the previous one into fingers for
freezing, but this time I cut the focaccias into
oblongs that would fit in the toaster. Good move -
they came out very crisp but moist inside. Cut through
horizontally with the bread knife, the slices made
perfect lunch portions.
Patricia announced that this was the first sourdough
bread I'd made that didn't taste sour! She ate her
share with real relish.
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
This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors
Site Management System, and has been developed and
maintained there ever since.