Hello from the farthest reaches of rural broadband . . . it’s Tom again. So, who doesn’t like fresh bread? I certainly do, but our local shops have been out of flour, of all kinds, for a couple of months, and my bread baking has been sadly on the back burner. I’ve been eking out my last bag of gluten-free wholemeal flour, with limited success, to make paratha, but for what seems like a very long time that has been about it. Luckily, about a week ago, Kate finally scored some huge sacks of flour from a mill who normally supply commercial bakeries, so at last I could get back to my baking. With plenty of flour to use, and an undiminished appetite for fresh bread, I thought I’d share two of my go-to bread recipes with you today. The first is a super-simple wholemeal loaf, produced with the dried active bakers yeast that is great for speed and convenience. But, like the rest of the world it seems, I also really enjoy my sourdough, and enjoy experimenting with wild yeast / lactobacillus cultures. Today’s second recipe, for a crusty white sourdough loaf, takes a little more time, but I think it is definitely well worth it.
Easy Wholemeal Loaf
500g wholemeal bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
Dried active yeast 1 x 7g sachet
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
350ml tepid water (20-25C)
Mix together the bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the tepid water and mix thoroughly, bringing together until all the ingredients form a soft dough. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. Turn out onto a floured surface and use the heels of your hands to to flatten and stretch the dough, before folding over and repeating.
Continue to knead, working the dough firmly for 10 minutes. Continue to dust with more flour if the dough is sticky. After 10 minutes kneading the dough should feel soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the dough back to the bowl after lightly disputing with flour. Put a damp, clean tea towel over the bowl and leave somewhere warm for an hour or so, until the dough has doubled in size.
Scoop the dough out onto a floured surface and knock back, kneading for a couple of minutes. Generously dust a baking sheet, then gather the dough into a ball and pop it on top. Dust with flour then cover with the damp tea towel and return to a warm place for a second proving for an hour or so. Preheat the oven to 240c(220c fan) and place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven. When the dough has doubled in size again it is ready for baking. Transfer the dough to the oven and add 2 cups of water to the baking tray at the bottom to generate steam. Bake for 10 minutes at 240c (220c fan, before reducing the temperature to 220c(200c fan). Continue to bake for 20-30 minutes. It is ready once it is risen, golden brown and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Remove from the oven and cool on a drying rack for twenty minutes or so, before slicing and tucking in!
Crusty White Sourdough
5 tbsp plain, live yoghurt
200ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
450g strong, white bread flour
150ml tepid water (20-25c)
300g starter (as above)
500g strong, white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
250ml tepid water (20-25c)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat the milk in a saucepan over a gentle heat until it is 90c. Empty into your starter jar and leave to cool. The starter will expand considerably over the next week, so your jar needs to hold a litre or so, with some headroom. Once the milk has completely cooled (20-25c), whisk in the yoghurt, cover the top with a clean cloth and transfer somewhere warm. Leave overnight.
The following day you’ll have 250ml or so of thick yoghurt. Add 125g strong bread flour and mix thoroughly. Cover the top (don’t seal it or it might explode!). Transfer to a warm place (20-25c) and leave for 2 days.
Your starter might be starting to show signs of fermentation, with bubbles rising to the surface of the dough – but don’t worry if not much is happening yet. Add 200g strong bread flour and 140ml tepid water and a tablespoon of milk. Mix thoroughly, cover and return to the warm place.
Remove and discard half the starter. Add 150g strong bread flour and 150ml tepid water. Mix thoroughly, cover and return to the warm place.
You should now see definite signs of life. The starter should be risen and bubbly: it is now ready to use. My starter is always ready on day 6, even if it’s not at its most vigorous, you’ll still get excellent bread. But if you feel things definitely aren’t happening, give your starter another feed and an extra day by removing and discarding half its quantity, adding 150g strong bread flour and 150ml tepid water and mixing once again. Cover and transfer to the warm place and check tomorrow.
Keeping the starter going
If you are able to bake every day (lucky you!), just keep your starter in its warm place and feed using 150g starter, 150g strong bread flour and 150ml tepid water. This gives you 300g starter to use and 150g to maintain the culture. If you bake less frequently (like me) store the starter in the fridge. Feed every 4 – 5 days by removing from the fridge 2-3 hrs before feeding. Use equal parts (150g / ml) starter, flour and water to feed. I always feed the starter overnight, in the warm place, before using it for baking, to ensure it is highly active.
In a large bowl mix together the starter, bread flour, sugar and salt. Add the tepid water and mix thoroughly, bringing together to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and use the heels of your hands to flatten and stretch the dough, before folding over and repeating. Continue to knead, working the dough firmly for 10 minutes. The dough will be stickier than the easy loaf recipe, but just continue to dust with more flour if it feels too sticky to work. After 10 minutes work, the dough should feel soft and springy to the touch.
Lightly grease a large bowl with the olive oil, then transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Place another damp, clean tea towel over the bowl and leave somewhere warm for 3 hours. The dough will increase in volume, but not double in size like you would expect with a conventional baker’s yeast loaf.
Scoop the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knock it back, kneading for a couple of minutes. Divide into two and gather into equal sized balls. Line two bowls or baskets with clean tea towels and very generously dust with flour. Pop the dough balls into the lined bowls (seam side up) and leave for an hour in a warm place. Transfer to the fridge, cover loosely and leave overnight before continuing as below. (If you are in a rush, and would like to bake on the same day, leave for another 2 hours in a warm place)
Remove the dough from the fridge and leave for 1-1 1/2 hrs to come back up to temperature. Preheat the oven to 240c (220c fan) and place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven. Invert the bowl containing the dough onto a well-dusted baking sheet. Remove the tea towel and slash the loaves 3 times with a sharp knife. Transfer the loaves to the pre-heated oven and add 2 cups of water to the baking tray at the bottom of the oven to generate steam. Bake for 10 minutes at 240c (220c fan), before reducing the temperature to 220c (200c fan). Continue to bake for 20-30 minutes. The bread is ready once it is risen, golden brown and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Remove from the oven and cool on a drying rack for twenty minutes or so, before slicing and tucking in!
I do not understand why you add so much flour and water each day and then throw half of it away. This seems very wasteful of resources particularly when flour is in limited supply. I’ve been adding 50g of flour and water daily, more if I think I’ll need to bake sooner, only making enough for my loaves with some remaining to continue for next time. It seems to work fine. I also found that the starter worked well without needing milk or yogurt.
We’ve tried using the discard for crumpets, Sally – so there’s no waste https://kddandco.com/2020/05/17/rainy-sunday-crumpets/
I’ve used your crumpet recipe. They were very nice, a little too salty but I’ll rectify that next time.
Thanks so much, Tom for sharing your recipes and methods with us. Your baking looks divine! One day, when I have time, I will try your directions. I have saved the link to this blog post so I can refer to it when I’m on vacation! :)
Tom, your bread rivals any that I have seen from the best bakeries here in the San Francisco Bay Area… big wow!
I have resurrected a twenty year old bread machine and am having fun producing different loaves – so satisfying!
Love it! Thanks, Tom! I love making bread, but I usually do a no-knead crusty bread in a Dutch oven kind of thing. I might have to try one of these!
I’ve had a few unsuccessful attempts at sourdough breadmaking in the past. Recently I had another go and was excited to find that I could do it! Posts like yours are so encouraging and I found that looking at different techniques to find what suited me was key to success. Thankyou for sharing and for your beautiful photography.
I too have been trying to make gluten free bread but the recipes have needed to have moisture added, like applesauce or berry type fruit.
Looking forward to your gluten free recipe. Am also dairy free but in baking bread not really a problem so far.
Oh lovely! What a great result! It must be a baking day! I started my bread this morning, but my recipe has 20 hours rising time, so only tomorrow I will know the result, but usually, I can trust this recipe!
I am Celiac, have been all my life but diagnosed for almost 30 years. I get by with a flour substitute mix of 2/3 brown rice flour, 1/3 starch (potato or tapioca) and a tsp of xanthum gum per cup if baking but 11/2 tsp if just making pancakes. It works really well for muffins, cookies, pancakes, etc. I have been trying bread but it is so easy to buy a good brand called Promise, I just buy it and make everything else. In Canada we can claim the difference in cost of GF food on our income tax. I have also tried making sourdough using sorghum flour. (Rice didn’t work). It worked well for the starter but I have to admit I am mot crazy about the taste of sorghum. Lol.
Rather than discarding half your starter, you can heat it in a lightly oiled frying pan on low heat for a sourdough crumpet for afternoon tea. Waste not, want not!
1 cup sourdough starter + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp sugar = about 4 crumpets cooked in a wide mouth canning jar lid (well buttered) IF using wholemeal flour. If using white flour, it makes about 7 crumpets. (add the other ingredients to the sourdough and immediately pour in to the heated molds – it starts to bubble wildly once you mix in the baking soda) I’ve become lazy and now feed my sourdough enough to take out only 1/2 cup of starter every day and bake it in a waffle iron (so basically, no clean-up except the bowl, measuring cup and mixing spoon). Super crispy with lots of pockets for butter and honey. Or sometimes I split it for a really crispy egg sandwich. (it is almost lunchtime here and my head is in food already!)
I loved the bread info today! It is perfect timing. (short story) My son bought me a smoker-grill for Christmas. It has sat in a box in the living room for months. The snow finally retreated from the back deck this week, and as a treat for Mother’s Day, he came over, set it up and smoked some chicken for dinner. It really is as much ‘oven’ as grill, and while he was cooking I was wondering if I could try cooking a loaf of bread in it – yesterday was the first day the trees had leaves, but it also hit a record high of 80 degrees and is quickly too hot to bake in the house). So was planning to start the levain this evening so I can try baking bread tomorrow. I shall use your recipe, which is exciting as well!! Thank you for sharing!
GOOD for you! Been baking with sourdough for 30 years and am lucky enough to have about 60lbs of Organic great flour plus all the other grains that I grind myself, rye, Spelt, white wheat (soft and hard) and it is what is keeping my sane and my neighbors happy!! Plus jam of course :) SO glad you got flour!!
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I’ve been trying to grow a starter for the last week, and, though it started bubbling and growing and smelt good, it has stopped. I think our old cottage is too cold (especially over this past weekend). This morning, after feeding, I put it on a sunny window sill, and it’s looking much better. Thanks for your recipes. Looking forward to baking a real sourdough bread.
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THANK YOU! Your bread looks amazing! You’ve inspired me to make my own starter and bake some myself. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and instructions. Happy Baking!
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In answer to a previous post I said mI had being experimenting had with sour dough as I couldn’t get a decent yeast. The bread is getting better and better.
My son in law is coliac, several members of my family including me ar dairy intolerant and one is allergic to eggs so I try to cater as much as I can for all in one dish. Despite success with most things particularly chocolate cakes. I have real problems with making a decent gluten free loaf. I see you use gluten free flour. Any recipes.
Oh, for sure I like bread too! And now I have the smell and taste of fresh bread in my nose and mouth :)
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
I’d love a slice of that wholemeal one right now with some damson jam and a cuppa, please.
Thank you Tom for these fine recipies–I made lots of bread with the lovely Canadian flour when we lived there–I used a Yukon recipe for sour dough that used pasta water instead of yogurt for the starter!! The smell is fabulous!!
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For about 12 years, I baked all the bread my family ate. I always say I have adult children because I baked bread and took out all parental frustrations on the dough. But I’ve never forgotten that wonderful moment in the kneading when the dough turns into satin. Absolutely a high spot every time!
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Beautiful recipes – and lovely photos.
Wow, look yum. Any suggestions for gluten free versions? Would love to taste decent bread again.
I’ve experimented a bit with gluten free loaves, Rita – once I can get hold of some more gluten free flour, I’ll post a recipe!
So happy to see your flour bearing fruit! We are a sourdough family and it has been a real blessing when yeast has been in short supply. My lovely husband is my bread master and I seldom get involved. We also enjoyed your article on brewing. Have you tried yoghurt making?
Ahhh! finding flour is a new type of quest for bread bakers. Some friends and I have been baking Sourdough from Wild Yeast. Good luck to you on your search. My daughter uses regular yeast and mills her own flour from wheat berries. I haven’t had luck with Sourdough Whole Wheat bread. I bake two loaves and give one away. My neighbors love me.
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yes, your neighbours must really love you Betty!