Monday, 28 November 2011

A quest for a perfect Lemon Cupcake - part I

I’ve been thinking about making lemon cupcakes, and been looking for a recipe that is very lemony, but also very light, with a soft creamy finish. As you can guess, thats pretty much mission impossible, as most of the recipes I see are either too dry, too cake like or not lemony enough.
So, the two recipes I am considering at the moment are “Making Cupcakes with Lola” by Victoria Jossel & Romy Lewis and “The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook”. I want to try the recipes as they are, which means that, due to the copyright restrictions, I am not allowed to post the recipes, however, I think I can talk about generic comparisons, measures and formulas.

Amazingly, both recipes state that you will get a dozen of cupcakes from each recipe; however, the Hummingbird recipe uses nearly twice the volume of total ingredients as compared to Lola’s ingredients weight. I have only tried one of Lola’s recipes (see Cinnamon Twist Cupcakes blog), but I have found their recipe a bit too stingy on the ingredients, I only got 11 cupcakes instead of 12. I have tried a few of the Hummingbird recipes in the past and always got more that a dozen of cupcakes, more like 16 or so. Another thing about Hummingbird recipes, if that I find them way too sweet and the batter is always too runny, which means that I get lots of really fluffy and light cupcakes, but they don’t hold the shape that well and go dry very quickly. My previous attempt at Lola’s cupcake produced a very cake-like cupcake, a bit too dense for my liking, but did hold the shape very well, and still tasted well after three days - yes, cupcake do last THAT long in my household :)

So, lets get a bit closer to the recipes, and lets talk numbers*
Lola’s recipe is very buttery (James Martin would approve) - twice the amount of butter, compared to the Hummingbird bakery, about 66% compared to 33%
Lola’s recipe is WAY less sugary, nearly half Hummingbird amount, nearly 80% compared to 125%
Hummingbird recipe is very liquid-y - it uses the same amount of milk as flour, whether Lola uses less than 50%
Lola’s recipe is a little bit more egg-y, but not too much - 80% compared to 60%.
*All comparisons are based on “baker percentages”, weight of ingredient divided over the total flour in the recipe.

Both recipes use lemon butter cream (although Hummingbird book calls it lemon frosting), a mixture of icing sugar, butter, lemon and a splash of milk. Formulas (compared to weight of total icing sugar) in both books actually look pretty much the same, thirty something percent of butter and about ten percent of milk.

Lola’s recipe calls for lemon zest as well as lemon juice, whether Hummingbird only uses lemon zest. Personally I don’t see the point of using just zest, I mean, come on, if you are using a lemon, grating the zest off it, why would you use juice as well?

Completely irrelevant, but I a, going to mention it anyway - the picture of lemon cupcake (blue case liners, a nice rose piping and yellow lemon crystals) in Lola’s book look much nicer than the one in the Hummingbird book (one cases, softer looking palette knife icing and lemon zest decorations).

What I am going to do is to try half-measure of each recipe and see how they compare. I know there is more chance of getting things wrong when you reduce a recipe. But just this once I am going to stick to the recipes exactly just to see what they like and see if I can finally find my perfect lemon cupcake.

Enough talking, lets get down to the actual baking, Hummingbird cupcakes first. I am sticking to the recipe exactly, and man, is it hard!! I am so used to putting my own twist on all the recipes that I am itching to change something, but no no no, I am doing exactly what the book tells me. Well, half of the recipe didn’t make a lot of batter, and its really liquidy, much more liquidy than I would I have expected.
Stick to the recipe, girl, don’t fiddle!! I only got 3 cupcakes instead of the expected 6, highly unusual for a Hummingbird recipe. I’ve baked the cakes for 22 minutes until “sponge bounces back when touched” as described in the recipe.

The frosting was pretty straight forward, super sweet, but easy to make and very light. The thing is, I’ve ended up with enough icing for six cupcakes and only three cupcakes to ice. Oh well, I’d just have to see how much icing I can fit on these cakes. Last finishing touch – a bit of lemon zest grated on top, taa daa!! Looks pretty close to the picture in the book, I am pleased with the result, lets wait for the taste test.

So, now onto the Lola’s recipe. Again, sticking to the recipe, down to the T. Making half of the recipe again, halfing all of the ingredients. The batter looks very good, just as I would expect a cupcake batter to look like.

I did get six cupcakes out of it, so pretty happy with the measures. Baked the cupcakes for 24 minutes, “until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean” as described in the recipe.

Again, the butter cream is very simple to make, following the recipe. Unfortunately I ran out of icing sugar right at the end, so I had to use a bit less than the recipe called for – see I can’t stick to the recipe after all :)
Because of that I didn’t get as much icing as I should have and I don’t think it would have been enough to decorate the cakes with piping, so I just spooned it on top instead and smoothed it out with a palette knife.
The recipe calls for “yellow sugar crystals” to decorate the cupcakes with. I didn’t have anything as fancy as that, but I’ve mixed up some sugar and yellow colouring to make up crystal-like decorations.

Now, the most important thing – what do they taste like? Well, I must say, we have a divided household : Mrs Ranty Senior and I, we like the Lola cakes, and Mr Ranty and his dad like the Hummingbird ones better. The Hummingbird ones are lighter and fresher; whether Lola’s ones more cake-like and buttery. Both of them are very nice cakes, different in taste and flavour, but both very very nice.
One thing we all agreed on is that both cakes can take more lemon, as we all like the cakes to be a bit sharper, a bit more tangy, which I think could be achieved by adding some lemon juice into the batter.

Well, at the end of it, I don’t think I am any closer to finding a perfect lemon cupcake. What I might need to do next, it bake these cupcakes again – once as the recipes tell me, and once with my own changes, and to compare them side by side.
But it has been a fun exercise, I should do more of that this year, testing and trialling.

Now, I still have one of those cupcakes left, lets make a cuppa.

PS: sorry about the photos, Mr Ranty is busy, so I have to take photos with my iPhone, which come out all a bit rubbish

Friday, 11 November 2011

Orange WholeMeal

This is just a quick bread, but is looking to become one of my favourites. I didn't follow a recipe as such, and its not as exciting and imaginative as some of my previous loaves. I pretty much just looked around the kitchen and in the fridge and threw in everything I could see.
Only 20 minutes before Ms Ranty wakes up, so this is going to be a quick post.

Here is the basic recipe, feel free to tweak juice/water/cream ratios as well as white/wholemeal flour mix - let me know what you get

120 g starter
200 g water
90 g orange juice
20 g single cream
300 g white flour
200 g wholemeal flour
1.5 tsp salt

Pour starter, water, juice and cream in a mixing bowl and give it a good stir with a spoon, to make sure that the starter is well mixed in with all the other liquids.
Add the flours to the mixing bowl and mix the dough on speed 1 for 6 minutes - pressuming you are using a free standing mixer, like KitchenAid.
Cover the bowl and leave to rest (autolise) for 20 minutes. Add salt and mix for another 2 minutes on speed 2.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and leave to ferment for 3 to 4 hours in a warm place. I was a bit short on time, so I didn't do my usual stretch and fold this time, so I will definitely try this recipe again to see whether it can be improved even further with the use of stretch-and-fold technique.
Also I did the first and the second fermentations in a warm place, as I didn't get a chance to mix up the bread until 10 am and I wanted to bake it in the evening, to have some fresh bread for toast the next morning. Again, longer, colder fermentation might improve the taste and the texture even more - shall try that again.
Shape the dough into an oval loaf, place it into a heavily floured basket, cover with plastic and leave to ferment for about two hours, until the loaf has doubled in volume and you can see small bubbles forming on the face of the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, at 210C (fan oven) for 40 minutes, rotating the loaf half way through to ensure even baking.

The loaf turned out quite light, with a lovely crumb and very pretty - which is important :)

We demolished the loaf before Mr Ranty had a chance to take nice photos, so just basic ones from my iPhone

Friday, 2 September 2011

Blueberry Pie

I was walking past my local fruit man on Friday afternoon as just as I was passing him, he started shouting “two for a pound, three for a pound”, and I found myself drawn to his table – I do love a bargain. Three boxes of blueberries of £1 – how can I walk past that??!! And boxes of blueberries only mean one thing – a good old fashioned blueberry pie, mmmmm

I found a number of recipes for a blueberry pie, but none of them really described what I had in mind, so I’ve decided to combine them all together and came up with my own one :

Blueberry Pie

250g flour
110g cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon

550g blueberries
100g sugar
2 Tbsp cornflour
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon

1 egg, whisked with a fork

Place flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a food processor. Add butter, cut into 1 cm cubes. Pulse everything together, until everything resembles fine crumbs.
Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, pulse the mixer a bit more. Add 1 Tbsp of iced water, and pulse again, until the dough starts coming together a bit. Depending on your flour and butter, you might have to add a bit more water or lemon juice, but it shouldn’t take more than 4 Tbsp all together.
Take the pastry / crumbly mess out of the processor and pour it out on a table top. Mush everything together into something resembling a ball, wrap into gladwrap and place in the fridge for an hour. Don’t be tempted to knead the pastry together, otherwise the pastry will be rubbery and won’t come together.

Meanwhile prepare the filling – combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and set it aside.

After an hour take the pastry out of the fridge, cut about a third of it off, wrap it in gladwrap and place it back in the fridge. The rest of the pastry, roll it out of a table top, big enough to fit a pie dish. I cover my kitchen top with a piece of gladwrap before I start on the pastry to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the top and it doesn’t take too much flour. Butter you pie dish and cover it with pastry. Place all of the filling in the case and set aside.
Roll the rest of the pastry, cut it into strips, about 1 ½ cm wide and cover the top of the pie to create a cross-cross, basket-like effect. Press the top “lace” layer onto the pie case to make sure that it sticks together and brush the whole pie with egg glaze.

Bake the pie in a pre-heated oven for 50 minutes at 170C, turn the oven down to 150C and bake for further 15 minutes.

I only have one photo on the pie, as half of the pie was gone after an hour or so, so it must have been good - even the cat seems to like it :)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Vodka Cranberry Bread

About a year ago we got some New Zealand 42 below vodka and we managed to drink about two thirds of it. I don’t know why we left the rest of it - a very unusual situation in our household! Anyway, I was baking a lot of sweet goodies around that time, using real vanilla pods and we decided to experiment with adding used vanilla pods to the remaining vodka to see what that’s going to do to the flavour. A year later I discovered the bottle at the back of the drinks cabinet and it is just like a very concentrated, very alcoholic vanilla essence. I don't suggest you start prepping a year before making this bread, so you can just use vanilla vodka or regular vodka and a teaspoon of vanilla. However, if you do use vanilla in your baking, I definitely recommend you use real vanilla pod and make the full use of them by storing used vanilla pods in either vodka or sugar to make vanilla flavoured vodka or vanilla sugar.

Vodka Cranberry Bread

100g white starter (100% hydration)
170g water
100g milk
20g vanilla vodka
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt
100g dried cranberries
50g unsalted butter, softened
60g brown sugar

You might think its an odd combination, but I can’t drink cocktails at the moment, so I’ve decided I might as well make cocktail-themed bread. Sea breeze works well as a cocktail, why wouldn’t it work as a bread?

Place starter, water, milk, vodka and flours into a mixing bowl of a free standing mixer and mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes. Leave to autolise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. Add salt, brown sugar and dried cranberries and mix for a minute on speed 2. With the mixer still running, add butter bit by bit, to make sure that each bit of butter is well incorporated before adding more in. Total mixing time on speed 2 should not exceed 3 minutes, to prevent dough from over-mixing.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half, every thirty minutes, covering between each stretch and fold. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and leave it to prove at room temperature for 4 hours to 6 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

Again, it was getting late and I didn’t wait for the dough to completely double in size, and shaped it as it was – in an oval shape, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

In the morning take the shaped dough out of the fridge and leave it to warm up at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until it doubles in volume in the banneton.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C, about an hour before you want to bake. Slash the loaf.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating it half way through to ensure even baking, until the loaf is nice and brown colour.

This is a beauty of a bread – cranberry and vanilla flavour really make through during the baking, and the vanilla flavour got even stronger a couple of days in.

I might experiment a bit more, adding a bit more vanilla vodka, to see how much it can take without being too over-powering. I had it for my morning with just butter, it doesn’t need anything else, balance of sugar and fruits is just perfect.

Malty Poppy Seed Bread

I had every intension to bake a Multigrain Bread, following Nancy Silverton’s recipe. Got a gook out, read all the ingredients, drafted a timeline to suit my weekend and the recipe and …. ended up baking two completely different loaves – all made up recipes too. What is it they say about best laid plans?

When I did ask Mr Ranty what I should bake, he mentioned a sandwich he buys from EAT that uses some of brown malty bread with poppy seeds in it. That sounded like an interesting idea, so I decided to give that a go. Bake bread to match something I’ve never seen and never tasted – if that’s not a challenge, I don’t know what is

Malty Poppy Seed Bread

118g white starter (100% hydration)
25g barley malt
25g molasses
90g milk
200g water
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp poppy seeds

Place starter, water and milk in a free-standing mixer. Add barley malt and molasses into the mixing bowl – you can probably just chuck all the ingredients together, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to poor sugary syrups directly on top of the starter, but I figured mixed with water it should be all right.
Add flours and mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes, leave to autolise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. Add salt and poppy seeds and mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half, every thirty minutes, covering between each stretch and fold. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and leave it to prove at room temperature for 4 hours to 6 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

I was a bit lazy and didn't wait for it to double, and it was getting rather late, so I shaped it as it was - it a round shape, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

In the morning take the shaped dough out of the fridge and leave it to warm up at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until it doubles in volume in the banneton.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C, about an hour before you want to bake. Slash the loaf.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating it half way through to ensure even baking, until the loaf is nice and brown colour.

I am very pleased with the flavour of the loaf, especially as the molasses flavour developed a bit more and became richer but less stronger a couple of days later.

I might use just a little bit less molasses next time and leave it to prove a bit longer before shaping, but in general, I am very very happy with this recipe.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Mexican Corn Bread

An impromptu bake – Mr Ranty was cooking up a storm , Elvis chilli (his phone miss-spelling Evil chilli) and I thought some Corn Bread would go nicely with it.
I’ve checked a couple of books I have and I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me, so I’ve decided to just try throw a few things together and hope for the best.
I also didn’t think of it until afternoon, around 3 pm, so I had to use some commercial yeast in the dough – something that I try to avoid as such as I can.

Mexican Corn Bread
100g white starter (100% hydration)
150g double cream
205g water
230g corn flour or very fine corn meal
230g white flour
¾ - 1 tsp dry yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 small jar of sweet corn (drained) - I use Green Giant, they are my favourite
1 ½ tsp salt

For topping :
1 small chilli, sliced (optional)
Cheddar cheese, grated

Place starter, cream, water, flour, yeast and sugar in a free-standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix on speed one for 6 minutes, leave to autolise (rest) covered with a tea towel for 20 minutes, add salt and corn and mix for another 2 minutes but on a faster setting - speed two.
The dough will be very wet and yellow, with lots of corn shining through. You have no idea how much self-control it took for me to put that whole jar into the dough - I love LOVE corn!! Mr Ranty has to hide it from me whenever he is making anything with tinned corn, I can eat it all day long!!

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for about 3 hours. It wouldn't have doubled, but you should definitely see some increase in volume. Pour the dough out on an oiled surface and try folding it a little bit just to distribute corn evenly throughout.

Line a square baking tin with baking parchment and plonk the dough into in, smooth the dough out with your fingers, spread it out to cover the whole tin. Cover the tin with plastic and place it in a warm place for another 1.5 - 2 hours, until the dough starts looking quite puffy.

If using chilli (you can use fresh one or pickled or not at all), slice them up thinly and scatter them across the top of the dough. Grate cheese directly onto the dough, just enough to cover the top, don't over-do it, so it doesn't get too heavy while it bakes.

Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 210C, turn the temperature down to 190C and bake for another 10 minutes. Rotate the loaf around and bake for further 15 minutes at the same temperature 190C.
Take the bread out of the oven and cool for about half an hour or so, the bread is delicious while its still warm, great for dipping into Mr Ranty's chilli.
It is also good the next day with lashings of butter on top. The texture is wonderfully soft and very crumply, not too sweet and not too spicy.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lets get it Started

As I’ve recently started giving away my starter (free to a good home), I thought I’d do a non-baking post, but one about the actual starter – how to care for and love it.
When I first started, gosh, it must be about four years ago now, I remember being very confused about what to do with it, how to feed it, how much to use, etc.
So, here is a dump of everything I can think of, things you might want to know when you first get into sourdough baking.

Acquiring a starter
Beg, steal or borrow starter from someone you know or your local bakery or friends. There are lots of places online you can buy starters from too, and they come with full instructions on how to activate it. I say “activate”, as normally you would receive starter in a form of powder, and you would need to convert it into a proper liquid starter. Failing all that, you can start your own starter, again lots of links on google that will tell you how to do that – it will take about a week or so to do it from scratch, but you’ll get a real sense of achievement from doing it (or is it just me? :)
One thing I would say, choose a simple flour and water starter instructions, there are lots of juice / milk / fruit / even yeast (!!) starter instructions out there – I’ve always stuck to water and flour ones and they work really well for me. I had one orange juice starter disaster right at the beginning of my bread obsession – never again, but, hey, it might work for you.

Whats your Animal?
So, lets say you have a jar of precious little animal that you call our own – your very own starter. My “animal” is called Marjorie – don’t ask. Again, when I first started, I used to keep three starters – “Marjorie the Whitty” (100% white, my own starter made from scratch), “Brenda Brown” (100% rye, daughter of Steve – converted from white into rye) and “Boris the Russian” (125% white, bought Russian starter).
“Brenda” died quite early on, and as I later learnt, there isn’t really a point in keeping rye starter, it isn’t very stable and doesn’t keep well for long periods. I tried creating “Brenda II”, taking a bit of white starter and feeding it wholemeal flour – that worked much better, the starter was much more stable and keeps well in the fridge.
“Boris the Russian” turned into “Boris the Stinker” – somehow I got an infection in my starter, it went all funny green-goo colour and got a really REALLY bad smell. Unfortunately that was the end of it, I had to throw it all out and get rid of the jar - it was that bad!!
So, “Marjorie” is still alive and kicking and so is “Brenda II”. Actually I completely forgot, up till now, that I used to name them, I guess its just one of those things that you do when you are a new baker (or is it just me again?)

Getting to know you
If you got given some starter, here are a couple of things you might want to ask about it:
– what hydration is it at
– what flour does it take
– what water does it take
– how does it behave
– does it like flowers or chocolates
okay, I’ve made the last one up, but the rest of them are actually valid questions.

Hydration : what water : flour ration is it being fed? Is it by weight or volume? Most common hydrations are :
100% - starter being fed equal parts of water and flour, by weight, say 30g of water + 30g of flour
125% - starter being fed equal parts of water and flour, by volume, say 37.5g of water + 30g of flour
50% - starter being fed one part of water and two parts of flour, by weight, say 30g of water + 60g of flour

I keep all my starters at 100%, just cause its easier for me that way, and when I see a recipe with a different hydration, I just adjust water / flour volumes accordingly.

Flour : use bread flour, strong bread flour, specialised flour, whatever, DO NOT use self-raising flour or cake flour. Extra additives in self-raising flour and bleached cake flour will interfere with the natural yeast in your sourdough starter and won’t work as well as bread flour. I use Italian flour for most of my breads – I buy it in bulk from Shipton Mill, in 25kg bags, but they do 1kg and 2.5 kg bags too. Again, when I first started, I used to buy all sorts of different flours from them, whether now I stick to Italian for my day to day loaves, French for baguettes, Canadian for bagels, rye (white and dark) for any rye breads and wholemeal for brown breads. Try baking with a few different flours, see which one you like the best.
Another thing to note, that different flours will have different absorption levels, such as wholemeal is more “thirsty” than white flour, but not anywhere near as much as rye flour. A 100% starter made from white flour look quite different to a 100% starter made from wholemeal flour – wholemeal would be much darker in colour (naturally) and much thicker than the white one.

Water : this is hardly worth mentioning, as most of people use regular tap water, however, in some countries / places water from the tap is quite hard or high in chlorine, and you might want to use bottled water.

Behaviour : its all about how quickly it reaches its peak after its been fed, it can vary anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the type of starter, the type of flour, temperature in your house, etc, etc…. The first time you are working with a starter, it’s worth marking / recording how quickly rises every hour or so just to give you an idea of what you are dealing with. You can use the starter any time within 24 hours past it’s peaked, it will have a small impact on the proofing time, but nothing too major – anyway, play with it to see what suits you best.

Feed me
Any starter that hasn’t been fed / refreshed for 3 days is considered to be “storage” starter, and I normally keep my storage starter in the fridge, only take it out when I am planning to bake.

Okay, so say you have your starter, either active and bubbling after you’ve created your own or bought one or it is quiet and sleeping, if you got if from someone else. What do you do with it? Take a tablespoon worth of starter, place it into a ceramic or glass bowl (not metal). The rest of the starter can go into the fridge – this will become your storage starter.

Add 30g of flour and 30g of water to the bowl with your tablespoon of starter.

Mix everything well, to make sure that flour and water well mixed up with the starter.

Cover loosely with plastic (I use shower caps for it) and leave for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. Repeat “refresh” or “feeding” again – add another 30g of flour and 30g of water to the mixture, mix well and cover loosely with plastic again. Do this 2 to 3 days in the row, “feeding” starter with equal parts of flour and water every 8 to 12 hours.

In the first day (or even two) you probably won’t see much activity, all you going to see is a bowl full of goo, with not many bubbles and not much smell.
However, by day three you should definitely see some action – expect the mixture to be quite light and bubble and it should start smelling quite sweet and fruity – I know it sounds weird, but just trust me on this one.

Carry on feeding it until the starter looks very active and very healthy

Here is a suggested feeding schedule – I normally go with twice a day schedule, cause it suits me better.

Schedule 1
Day 1
Storage non-active starter = 10g
8am feed 1 = 30g flour + 30g water
4pm feed 2 = 30g flour + 30g water
12pm feed 3 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 1 = 190g
Day 2
8am feed 4 = 30g flour + 30g water
4pm feed 5 = 30g flour + 30g water
12pm feed 6 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 2 = 370g

Schedule 2
Day 1
Storage non-active starter = 10g
8am feed 1 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 2 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 1 = 130g
Day 2
8am feed 3 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 4 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 2 = 250g
Day 3
8am feed 5 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 6 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 3 = 370g

370g of starter is plenty to do one or even two loaves of bread, but you don’t have to use all of it. If you have any left, you can either add it to your storage starter in the fridge or take whatever is left and carry on feeding it for the next few days to bake again in a few days, depends how quickly you go through your bread.

During the activation process, feedings and in-between, keep your starter at room temperature, loosely covered.
Now what
Righto, you have your starter, it’s alive and kicking, what can you do with it now? If you follow a recipe from a book or online, you will have all the instructions you need as to when start your bread and when it is likely to be ready.

If you are looking for generic guidance on how long the whole process takes, you can use my schedule as an example :
1 day bread
Mix all ingredients – ½ hour to an hour, including autolise (rest time between mixing all the ingredients and adding salt)
Fold and stretch – 1 ½ hours, 3 stretches, every half an hour
Bulk fermentation – 4 to 6 hours, depending on the type of dough, weather, etc.
Shape – 10 minutes
Second fermentation – 3 to 5 hours, again, depending on a number of factors
Bake – 40 minutes
Cool – overnight
Next morning
Ready to eat

2 days bread
Late afternoon / Early evening of Day 1
Mix all ingredients – ½ hour to an hour, including autolise (rest time between mixing all the ingredients and adding salt)
Fold and stretch – 1 ½ hours, 3 stretches, every half an hour
Evening of Day 1
Bulk fermentation – 3 to 4 hours, as long as you can really
Before you go to bed of Day 1
Shape – 10 minutes
Place the dough in the fridge overnight (6 to 12 hours)
Morning of Day 2
Take the dough out of the fridge and leave to warm up to room temperature – 1 to 2 hours
Afternoon of Day 2
Bake – 40 minutes
Cool – 4 to 8 hours
Evening of Day 2
Ready to eat

Rye breads need to be wrapped in plastic and left to develop for another 24 hours before you can slice them up, otherwise they will be wet and gummy inside.
Never ever be tempted to slice into a still-warm loaf of sourdough bread, the flavour will not be the same. I mean, it will still taste nice and everything, but you won’t get that rich, slightly tangy flavour that a fully developed and cooled sourdough has.

That’s all I can think of right this moment, but that should give you enough to get you going – good luck and happy baking.

Shout if you have any questions.

I've had a couple of requests for a basic sourdough recipe, so here it is:
150g active 100% hydration white starter (as activated above)
280g water
500g white flour
1 ½ tsp salt


150g active 100% hydration white starter (as activated above)
290g water
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt

Mix everything but the salt together on speed 1 in a free standing mixer for 6 minutes, leave to rest covered (autolise) for 20 minutes, add salt and mix for further 2 minutes on speed 2 this time. Place in an oiled bowl and leave to prove at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours, until it doubles in volume. Knock the dough back, shape, cover again and leave to prove again for another 3 to 4 hours, until it nearly doubles again.
Slash the loaf and bake for 40 minutes in a hot oven, at 200C, rotating the loaf once, half way through the baking.
Thats about it

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

WholeWheat and Chocolate Cherry

I didn’t think I’ll be baking again until the weekend, but what do you know – all the seeded bread is gone and only a tiny bit of challah remaining. Time to get baking again, not that I am complaining or anything :)

With all the rioting going on in London I’ve decided to work from home, just to be on a safe side. Which means that I have a bit more time in the morning to do the mixing, can do shaping late in the afternoon, and will have some bread ready by tonight – 1 day sourdough, sounds like my kind of project.

I normally prefer to retard my sourdoughs in the fridge for 8-12 hours, especially if I am making a more rustic bread, but with some recipes you can have it all done and dusted in a day, starting first thing in the morning and baking it last thing at night. Just to be on a safe side, I am going to add a bit of sugar of the recipes to speed up the whole process, I don’t feel like staying up until wee hours in the morning just to finish baking (I have done that before, I am that mental or sad, depends how you look at it :)

This is another take on a wholewheat honey bread – bread I’ve discovered in US delies and I’d love to be able to re-create. I haven’t came up with a recipe I am completely happy with just yet, so I’ll carry on trying.

Honey WholeWheat – Take I
185g white starter (100% hydration)
140g milk
150g water
155g wholemeal flour
345g white flour
30g honey (I am using Rowse - liquid honey)
1 ½ tsp salt

Combine everything, but the salt, in a free-standing mixer, mix for 6 minutes on speed 1. Cover with a towel and leave for 20 minutes to autolise, add salt and mix on speed 2 for another 2 minutes.
If you count honey as one of the liquids, it makes the bread 69% hydration (water in the starter + milk + water + honey) or 65% hydration if you leave the honey out of the calculation. I would say its probable the later – this dough can definitely be mixed by hand, it had a nice smooth feel to it, cleaned out sides of the mixing bowl with no problem, all wrapped up around the dough hook.
Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic and leave it at the room temperature for an hour and a half. Do 3 stretch and folds during that time, either directly in the bowl or on a counter. Cover the dough with plastic again and leave it to ferment for four to five hours, until almost doubles in volume.
Transfer the dough onto a clean (unfloured) surface and shape into a boule – my shaping is still a bit shaky, so I won’t do any videos / instructions just yet (something to come in the future), just do your usual shaping or follow any boule shaping videos on the Net.
Cover the shaped boule with plastic and leave at the room temperature for another 3 to 4 hours, until it nearly doubles in volume again.

Slash the top of the loaf (I did my slashes very shallow, as I think I’ve left it just a tad bit too long) and bake in a pre-headed oven at 210C for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for another 20 minutes.

It came out looking a lovely golden colour, not as dark as I would have expected. I guess the sugars haven’t had enough time to develop and break down, but that’s what you get from a one-day bread. Not much of an oven spring either, which I am a bit disappointed with, but its feeling quite light, can’t wait to cut it to see what it looks like inside.

Well, this one is a bit of an odd-ball one for me. I wanted a sweet type of bread for my morning toast, and was getting a bit bored with making my spicy loaf (not bored with eating it, mind you, just bored with making the same recipe over and over again). A quick rummage through spice draws revealed lots of currants and sultanas, dates, prunes and chocolate – first two can stay where they are for now, as I’ve baked a lot of currant / sultana bread recently, now – what can I can I can from the other three? Dates? Might be quite dry, not sure, might leave that for now. Prunes and chocolate sounds quite good, I think I saw a recipe for it in one of my books. But before I had a chance to do anything, I’ve lost prunes to Baba, as she grabbed them out of my hands – they are “good for her” and she is going to eat them “as they are”, well, that kind of kills my plans, doesn’t it? Not to worry, I found a small pack of sour cherries that I bought from WholeFoods a while ago, I could always use them instead, and they look too dried up and wrinkly (my, it must have been quite a while ago that I bought them) for Baba to be interested in them.

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Bread

150g white starter (100% hydration)
290g water
410g white flour
90g white rye flour
5 Tbsp sugar
30g dried sour cherries
100g milk chocolate (I used milk Valrhona chocolate), chopped
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp salt

Place starter, water, flours, sugar and dried cherries in a free-standing mixer and mix on speed 1 for six minutes. Cover with a towel and leave for 20 minutes to autolise.
I am not re-hydrating cherries, that’s why I’ve decided to add them together with the liquids to give them a chance to “perk up” a bit.
Add salt and chocolate and mix for 2 minutes on speed 2, with the mixer still running, add soft butter, in small pieces, making sure that each piece of butter is fully mixed in, before adding another piece. Do not mix for more that 4 minutes in total, post-autolise, to avoid over-mixing.
Oil a bowl with sunflower or olive oil and transfer the dough into it – don’t worry if the colour looks a bit uneven – I had streaks of chocolate dough mixed together with pure white dough, I figure stretch and fold would take care of it. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave at room temperature for an hour and a half, doing stretch and fold every half and hour. After last stretch and fold cover the dough with plastic again and leave it to ferment for four hours – it won’t double in volume, all the chocolate and cherries weighing it down, but it will increase in size quite a bit.
Shape the dough – I went for an oval shape this time around – the dough was a bit sticky, so I used a little bit of rye flour to stop it from sticking to the counter. Flour the banneton quite heavily to make sure that it doesn’t stick during the final proofing, sprinkle with a little bit of rye flour on top and cover with plastic (a bit of flour on top is to stop it sticking to the plastic on top). Leave at room temperature for three to four hours, slash and bake in a hot oven. I slashed quite deep, as it was looking a bit under-proofed, and baked it for 20 minutes at 210C, rotated over and baked for another 20 minutes at 190C.

My, my, did it spring in the oven or what?!! I turned down the temperature after first 20 minutes, as 210C was getting too hot for all the chocolate and cherries, and I didn’t want it to burn.

The bread came out looking gorgeous, dark brown with wide slashes and beautiful aroma.