I’ve cracked it – everyday bread – “everyday” meaning healthy enough for every day (even for someone too inactive to be spendthrift with carbohydrates), and “everyday” meaning easy enough to bother making even on a workday (when all I am looking forward to when I get home is a hot bath and a glass of wine).
Why bother? I’ve had a crush on sourdough for a while now, ever since Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial converted me. I like a grainy, textured, hearty bread, and after a few goes I had a bread I was so addicted to I couldn’t go back to the supermarket. But I couldn’t get it to fit in around a workday.
Which is why I’m so happy. Finally I have found a low effort routine for making it work on days when I have to leave the house by 8 am and don’t get home till after 5 pm.
This is a heavy, grainy bread, nutty and chewy, and wholegrain enough to be healthy all on its own. It takes just 15 minutes to make, but that 15 minutes is spread over 24 hours. The trick is just getting into a rythum. I have been making a loaf every second or third day.
(If you don’t have sourdough starter, start asking around. Since you have to divide and feed it regularly, anyone who has some is very likely to be willing to give you some. Somewhere within six degrees of separation, there’s likely to be sourdough. Since I’ve got into it, it’s amazing how many sourdough addicts I’ve met.)
8 pm – Feed the Starter and Make a Sponge
Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge. I keep mine in a jar with the lid loosely on it, so I have to tighten the lid before shaking the jar and pouring half of it (a cupful) into a bowl.
Mix 1½ cups of water and 1½ cups of bakers flour (I use a stick blender, and Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour, which I can buy in 5 kg bags at the supermarket). Pour half of it back into the starter jar to top it back up. Add the other half to the starter in the bowl, along with a teaspoon of treacle.
Put the starter back in the fridge with the lid on loosely. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave out on the kitchen bench.
6.30 am – Cook Some Whole Grain
I put the coffee pot on, and while waiting for it, put ¼ cup (2 handfuls) of whole wheat grains on to boil in 1½ cups of water with a good teaspoon of salt. Boil for 5 minutes, then add ¼ cup of whole millet. Boil for another 5 minutes, then add ¼ cup of steel cut oats and turn the stove off.
7.00 am – Make a Dough
The grain will have cooled and absorbed all the water, and the sourdough in the bowl will be frothy. Mix them with ½ cup bran, 1 cup rye flour, and 1 cup bakers flour. Sometimes I also add some barley flakes, pepitas, sunflower seeds or linseeds.
Flour the bench liberally and tip the mix onto it. Knead very briefly (2 or 3 minutes), adding as much flour as necessary to get a soft dough that is not too sticky.
Put a good swig of olive oil in a clean bowl and put the dough ball in it, swirling it around to coat. Cover with the clean cloth again and leave on the bench for the day.
5.30 pm – Knock Down the Dough
The dough will have easily doubled in bulk. Tip it onto the bench and knead very very briefly, just to knock it down and make it into a loaf shape. Put it in an oiled baking tin. Sprinkle the top very liberally with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds. Slash the top with a sharp knife to give it room to rise. Cover with the clean cloth again.
7.30 pm – Bake
The bread has risen again to double its size. If I leave it too much longer, it starts to deflate again. Put it on the second shelf (that is, not right at the top) of a cold oven and turn the oven on to medium. (Sorry, I can’t be more precise – my oven is antique – but I think it is forgiving).
8. 10 pm – Begin checking.
Take it out when the crust is nice and brown and it sounds hollow when knocked. Mine takes about 50 minutes from a cold oven to cooked.
I know there’s lots of fantastic sourdough bakers out there – I’d love to hear what you think. Have I missed some tricks?