Sourdough update (number 5)

Sharing my sourdough starter, I went to look at the recipes posted here to share as well and realised that my method has mutated/evolved over the months: Largely due the conversations had with my brother in-law, provider of my starter, who is a very enthusiastic and scientific sourdough baker.

smaller soudough

So here is my adapted method (minimal level of work) for making sourdough in a cool kitchen, see the ‘asides’ if you have an Aga or Rayburn.

I take about 60g of the starter I keep in the fridge, add it to 150ml luke warm water (ml=g for water anyway, so I sit the bowl on the scales to “measure” the water) stir and add    150g strong white flour. Cover with a tea towel or cling film, leave at room temp at least overnight, I often leave it over 24 hours and sometimes next to the cooling wood burner overnight, it should look a bit frothy on the top.

You will need to feed the starter before you put it back in the fridge for next time – the next day or several weeks – if leaving for weeks it’s a good idea to feed a teaspoon or two of flour in between uses, if any grey liquid forms on top tip it away. How ‘wet’ you keep this mixture is up to you, but it does need to be wet enough to behave like a liquid and form a level surface. Give it about the weight you removed of flour and water, mix, you can put it straight back in the fridge or leave it at room temperature for a little while to give it a chance to wake up a bit, if you’re going to use it the next day again, leave it out, if you are baking weekly, straight back in the fridge

To the starter I left out overnight, I add another 200ml luke warm water, 5g/ 1 tsp salt and 400g of flour

Usually I use about 200g strong white, and 100g each of rye and wholemeal, all white will give you a lighter feel, the rye helps with the classic firm/rubbery feel of a sourdough.

Mix it a bit with a spoon just to get all the flour ‘wet’. Now here’s where my method alters every time! I reckon you need to mix it about 4 times in the first couple of hours, but that can stretch to 4 or shrink back to 1 hour if you’re in a bit of a rush…  Every now and then bring the edges into the middle of the bowl, you don’t need to knead it as such, the dough will start to feel smooth and will feel more elastic. I prove in a 2lb loaf tin lined with silicone baking paper and sprinkled with flour, this doesn’t stick too badly most of the time. For the final shaping I tend to make a sort of swiss roll as I’m shaping it, (I think this helps with big bubbles throughout, but I’m not sure!)

Proving, now is where the timing is important, you need enough time for it to double in size (or thereabouts) in the proving. In a cold kitchen that can take 6 hours, though any heat will decrease the time, an airing cupboard (or an oven below 40 degrees). I have been known to put the bread in the oven at 11pm because it took so long! But if you leave it overnight it may over prove, when this happens it can ‘collapse’ in the oven, so if you find you dough escaping the proving ‘basket’ then scrape it all back into a bowl ‘knock it back’ (knead it a bit) and start the prove over again, it shouldn’t take long as the yeasts are all active. (If this happens a couple of times you could end up with no more food left for the yeasts to eat and then it would not rise, but it hasn’t happened to me yet!) You can bake it before it doubles in size so it doesn’t happen again.

Heat the oven to 220-240 degrees celsius, (gas 9), put in it a large Le Creuset (or similar cast iron pan) with the lid on. Mine is oval hence using the loaf tin to prove, if yours is round use something round to prove in- maybe a small mixing bowl lined. You are going to use this as a ‘Dutch Oven’, to keep the steam in and create a better crust to the bread. Tip the dough into the pan, tricky to get in the middle of the pan and not to burn your fingers, you can’t easily shift the dough once it has hit the hot surface of the pan, use a wet sharp knife to cut some deep slits into the dough. Put the lid on and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on, and then a further 10 with the lid off and oven down to 200 degrees. Tip out onto a cooling rack, listen to the crackling of the crust, and eat!

Even more Brother in-law’s tips:

Use fine cornmeal for the dusting of the dough in the proving basket for a more ‘authentic’ look,

Mist the dough with water before putting the lid on the Le Crueset

Wrap the bread in a tea towel as soon as it comes out of the oven,

The wetter/more sloppy your dough is, the more big bubbles you will get,

Using a ‘proper’ proving basket you get those lovely spirals on the crust,

It’s not worth trying to get steam into the oven if you have a fan oven, but if not (I’m imagining for an Aga type oven), you could use a pan of water in the bottom of the oven rather than use the Dutch Oven idea,

ENJOY, and any ideas or questions please do share with me.



Well what a year…

So 2016, for me like most in the world, has been a pretty awful year for most things in Politics, work (lack of it) and in my personal life too. Hence the complete lack of interest in my blog. I haven’t spent much time sitting on the bench (last post) but it still looks lovely. I have a new set of “bugs” to add to the sour dough, that I nurture everyday and that nurture me, Kefir. I’ll post about that soon.

2017 though… Lets hope it will be a much better year!

I have lots of plans for the new year, and a new part-time teaching post, which will help with the bank account. I am determined to be positive and get things done.

Happy New Year to ALL, let’s all hope that 2017 is not as bad as it could be…

Christmas presents No.3

So we don’t do presents for adults, (see last Jan post) but TOWPCOE’s sister forgot that and went completely mad, in a very nice way of course!
I carried the present home, well I nearly did, half way I did a very unusual thing and accepted a lift from the ‘village’ the 1/4 mile or so home…
Christmas present No.2 was a massive (10lb) chicken which turned up courtesy of a friend in town on the 23rd Dec with no warning. It made a great meal when our second guest turned up on Christmas eve and will be lovely when we defrost what was left.
Anyway Christmas morning came and we were thinking about smoked salmon canapes and which alcohol to start on, when we remembered the present…SL701503
Spanish Jamon (and the stand).
A great addition to the meat consumption over the festivities, we’ve had a little every day, it’s still going and hopefully will for some time, especially now we know to keep the fat to place over the cut part of the meat, it is sitting wrapped in a tea towel on the counter. YUM YUM.


I’m back!

Well… What can I say, been busy will that work?! Or just lost the oomph to write anything over the summer. No, it can’t just be that! I reckon it’s the fabulous summer we’ve had, I’ve only just come inside… Well almost.

I’ve been so busy in the garden, visiting and having visitors that there has been no time to sit in front of the computer and chat, (oh yes and got a new one of those too).

I have been thinking about blogging, seeing my sisters weekly, if not more frequent posts reminds me, and have been planning the many gardening pages I want to write. I have been trying to work out the best format for garden posts and am coming to the conclusion that each vegetable needs it’s own section with photos of the processes and when to do stuff. However being in the Welsh hills our season is a little behind a majority of the population of Britain, so I’ll have to write the whole year for each veg or it’ll be too late for lots of people.

Watch this space.SL701293 For now…

I picked some lovely apples yesterday from the trees I massacred in 2011, 24 big almost unblemished apples (I’d had a few earlier very sharp and used a couple of wind falls in the chutney I made last week). In 2011 they produced buckets and buckets of small apples with black blotches all over them, I did peel a lot and slice them into rings drying them on wooden spoons by the wood burner but the trees had got well out of hand. I had been dreading the thought of pruning them so hadn’t in 8 years, one was growing half way across the poly tunnel, not ideal! Last year we got nothing, I hadn’t expected anything and the weather probably didn’t help much. But I was really pleased this year, they just kept on getting bigger. The pears haven’t done as well from the pruning, maybe next year will be better. I picked 7 pears from one of the 3 trees and 2 from another, the wasps got a few earlier in the season.

We got a lot of water growth both years, I cut this years off in early September, most to the bottom, (after seeing advice to do so at Erddig a lovely House to visit near Chirk), I left a few with a couple of leaf buds, last years growth I cut off in early Jan so let’s see which works better!

There is only one really blotchy apple, at the back on the left, I haven’t managed to work out quite what is causing the blotching. It could be a number of things or several all together! Calcium or magnesium deficiency, or something to do with the air flow around the trees, some sort of fungal infection. Either way cutting them back really hard seems to have helped. I must remember to feed them, lime and a mulch of homemade compost over the winter might be a good idea and some wood ash in the spring. The problem with mulching around my trees recently is that I have found that this bunch of hens really love to root through it, moving it well away from the tree in the process, and probably eating all the good bugs and certainly all the worms! I’ll have to think of a way of stopping them.

I went against the grain a bit this summer and spent almost £100 on some moveable fencing to protect the outside veg beds from the marauding monsters, an excellent purchase see future post!