Sourdough Bread made easy

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Hi all,

We are living in strange times and as a result more of us are baking at home. Since I first posted my sourdough bread recipe my understanding has developed and I have made the process even simpler. Photos will be added to this post later – for now I wanted to put up a quick step by step guide to assist those using a sourdough starter for the first time. This process assumes you have a sourdough starter ready to use, and that it is stored in the fridge before feeding. If you don’t have a starter check out my earlier post. You will need:

80g sourdough starter (see step 1)

560g bread flour ( I tend to use 200g of wholemeal and 360 of white but you can vary this according to preference/ what you have available)

1tsp salt

1tbsp oil ( optional but makes the crust easier to cut)350ml water (you may prefer to use slightly less if using all white flour)

Method:

  1. Remove your starter from the fridge (I keep a very small amount), and add 40g each of flour and water ( I usually feed my starter rye flour but you can use bread flour). This means you will have an additional 80g to use in the recipe later. I do this either in the morning or around lunchtime then it is ready to use in the evening.
  2. Leave it at room temperature until the starter in your jar has approximately doubled in size. Placing an elastic band around the jar can help you tell when this is. Don’t worry about it exactly doubling – the important thing is that you can see it is rising and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how warm your home is – anywhere from 4-8 hours but don’t worry if you leave it longer.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in the order listed. Remember to only use the 80g of starter and put the rest back into the fridge for next time. I use the pizza dough programme on my bread machine to mix for me. You can use a dough hook on a food processor, knead it by hand , or the more traditional way of making sourdough is to stretch and fold the dough at intervals over several hours. I usually mix mine just before going to bed. If you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may want to refer to the Foodbod Master recipe at: https://foodbodsourdough.com/about-my-recipe/
  4. Leave to prove. This first proof is known as the ” bulk proof” and you want the dough to almost double in size. I leave mine on the kitchen counter overnight in a bowl covered with a pan lid but if it is warm this may be too long.
  5. Once the dough has approximately doubled you can shape it into a boule. Bake with Jack has some really useful videos on You Tube to show you how to shape the dough (links at end of post). I usually do this first thing in the morning. I don’t have a banneton so I put the shaped loaf straight into the casserole dish/dutch oven that I will bake it in. This also means you don’t need to transfer the dough again.
  6. I then transfer the dough, in the casserole dish, to the fridge for a ” cold retard” This slows down fermentation so you can leave it until a convenient time to bake. I usually bake my loaf mid afternoon ( because that’s when I finish work) but you can leave it to the next day.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and carefully slash the top with a knife or razor blade. This helps contro where the loaf expands.
  8. Then place the casserole, with the lid,straight into a cold oven turned to the hottest your oven goes (mine is 230 degrees C) for 25 mins, turn down to 200 for 15 mins, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20 mins. Keep an eye on it because ovens vary. Once ready it should sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
  9. Leave to cool fully ( ideally overnight) before cutting into the bread.

Tips:

If your house is warm and it is proofing too quickly you can reduce the amount of starter you use. Remember that the starter is made of equal amounts of flour and water so for each 10g less of starter you add you should add an extra 5g each of flour and water. Experiment with small increments to see what works for you.

You can add extras such as seeds and nuts to the recipe. I often add pulp remaining from making nut milk.

Other useful links:

Using my bread machine is convenient for me but if you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may prefer the Foodbod master recipe

I’ve also found Bake with Jack on You Tube really useful for technique.

The Facebook group Sourdough Bread Baking is a friendly forum for sharing your successes and failures and asking questions.

Let me know how you get on.

How to make hemp milk that doesn’t split

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This of you that have been following me on instagram will already know that I have been experimenting with different plant milks to find vegan substitutes for some of my milk consumption.

The most successful, and the most like regular milk so far was cashew milk but as I also just heard about the process of harvesting cashews, in which the pickers often suffer acid burns, this was never going to be a sustainable replacement for locally produced cows milk for me.

My favourite more sustainable, and more locally grown candidates have therefore been oat milk ( oats also readily available in card or paper and quite cheap) and hemp (so far I have bought this in plastic from local health food store but it grows in the UK and there are other suppliers online). Both of these are amazingly easy to make. Unfortunately both were very strange in hot drinks, sinking straight to the bottom of the cup. However I liked the taste of hemp milk in tea, after a few cups of getting used to the more nutty flavour.

Then came a game changing solution from someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group. I have been experimenting since and now have a homemade hemp milk I am happy to use in tea on a semi regular basis.

All you need is:

  • 1/2 a cup of hemp seeds
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 or 2 dates (or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum ( you can find this in the baking section of supermarkets or health food stores)
  • A blender
  • A sieve / muslin cloth/ jelly bag

Method:

  • Pop the hemp seeds, date, and water into the blender.

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  • Blend for several minutes until it looks milk like.

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  • Strain through a sieve. If you prefer to remove all the black specks of hemp seed you will need to pass it through something finer such as a muslin cloth or jelly bag – I usually just use a sieve but see from the photos I took earlier that I used a jelly bag the first time.
  • Put back into the blender and add the xantham gum, then blend  again immediately.  My  original version of this recipe suggested using 1 level tsp but based on comments I have updated the post to suggest starting with a smaller amount  as it may be that different brands of xanthan vary – try 1/4 tsp to begin with and increase to taste.
  • Decant into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge ready for use.

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  • Don’t forget to scrape the sieved out hemp seeds out of the sieve/jelly bag and store those for another use – I have so far used them in cereal bars, granola or added to the next loaf of bread/pizza.
No it's not frogspawn - it's hemp pulp
No it’s not frogspawn – it’s hemp pulp

And that’s it – it should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. And I would love to hear any other plant milk making tips.

Update to add that it also tastes good with 1tbsp of chia seeds added at the beginning – you can leave those to soak for a bit first as they absorb liquid and swell up.

If you enjoyed reading don’t forget to like the post or leave me a comment. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where I post more frequently.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam

 

 

Rhubarb is one of the few plants that reliably turns up a bumper crop in our garden every year. It grows so well in its spot next to the compost bin that we always have way more than we know what do with, even more so since my dad split it into 4 plants a couple of years ago.  Preserving it in a jam is a great way of keeping some for later in the year (although I must admit to starting eating this straight away).   Although best made with early rhubarb you can also use larger stalks just fine.  Our rhubarb plant has been passed down through the generations so I have no idea what variety it is – it originally came from a plant in my great grandfather’s garden and as a child it came with us when we moved house.  When I first got my own place we split the plant so I could plant my own and it has since moved again with me, and a plant has been returned to dad for his allotment.

The apples and the lemon rind and juice in this recipe help it to set – if you were to leave them both out you may need to use jam sugar, which contains added pectin. If you are organised enough to have planned ahead I am sure you could use frozen diced apples which would allow you to use foraged crab apples or homegrown if you are lucky enough to have an apple tree.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 1kg rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed, then sliced into approx 1cm chunks
  • 3 eating apples or a large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 1kg preserving sugar ( or jam sugar for added pectin)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 25g unsalted butter

Equipment needed:

  • Large bowl
  • Either a preserving pan or a heavy based large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Grater or lemon zester
  • Sterilised jars – you can reuse old jam jars. This recipe will probably make about 4-6  jars depending on the size but have a couple more ready just in case.
  • Jam or sugar thermometer (optional) or put several saucers in the fridge or freezer (to use later to test the jam setting point).

How to sterilise the jars:

Wash your jars thoroughly in soapy water or a dishwasher and dry in an oven at 140 degrees C for at least 10 mins – then keep them warm until ready to use.  Scald the clean lids in boiling water.  You can alternatively use a sterilising solution according to the pack instructions and warm the jars after rinsing thoroughly.

 Method:

  1. Place the sliced rhubarb into a large bowl with the sugar.
  2. Use the lemon zester or grater to grate the lemon rind into the bowl. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice.
  3. Give it all a stir. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth such as a tea towel and leave for a few hours, stirring occasionally.  You should see some juices start to come out of the rhubarb (if not you can leave it longer – some recipes say to leave overnight but I find a few hours works fine).
  4. Meanwhile wash and sterilise your jars as above.
  5. Empty your bowl of rhubarb and sugar with all the juices into your pan. Add the chopped apple and ginger (if using).
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil slowly so that the rhubarb and apple have time to soften.
  7. Then bring the mix to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches setting point ( see below), stirring frequently to prevent sticking (and because personally I prefer the rhubarb broken up rather than in big chunks in the final jam). I found this took about 25 mins but this may vary.
  8. Once your jam has reached setting point remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool down a little. You may find it has formed a skin on cooling in which case give it a quick stir before spooning carefully into your warmed jars.  Place the lids on while still warm.

 

How to test for setting point:

Using a jam thermometer – setting point should be achieved at around 104 -105 degrees C.  However you may find it difficult to test accurately if you are making a relatively small amount of jam in a large pan – I have never managed it and prefer the saucer method.    When you think the jam is approaching setting point (it will start to thicken a little), get a cold saucer from your fridge/freezer and carefully drop a little of the jam onto it.  Give it a moment to cool and then press with your finger – if ready it should wrinkle a little. If not cook for another few minutes and test again.