No Time for Sourdough?

Daunted about having to make a sourdough starter?  Sourdough isn’t hard, but it requires a lot of waiting and feeding!  Try this simple sourdough recipe (adapted from one by Peter Sidwell) – it’s a cheat’s version, but gives an almost authentic taste and texture for those of us with too little time to wait!  The recipe is not unlike an Italian “biga” or French “poolish” and gives enough starter for two loaves.  You can keep any remaining starter in the fridge (I keep mine in a kilner jar) for up to 5 days.  Bring back to room temperature at least 40 minutes before using or put in an oven at 40 degrees C for 15 mins.

10g fresh yeast (or 1 teasp. dried yeast)
300g strong white flour
2 tablesp. balsamic vinegar
300 ml water
1 teaspoon sugar17144358205_7d9eaf42ab_z

250g sour starter
120 ml water
150g strong white flour
100g rye flour
10g fresh yeast or 1 teasp dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix the sour starter ingredients in a bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave for at least 12 hours to prove at room temperature (I tend to do this overnight).

For the sourdough, put 250g of the starter in a bowl to a stand mixer with a dough hook, or the jug of a Thermomix processor.  Add the two flours, salt, sugar, and the yeast diluted in the the water.  Mix together at slow speed for about 20 seconds till it starts to come together and then increase to speed 1-2 for the mixer. Mix for 6 minutes.  For the Thermomix, mix at speed 3 for 10-12 seconds until it comes together and then continue on the dough setting for 6 minutes.

Remove the dough and shape into a round.  Place in an oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel or cling film for about an hour for it to prove until doubled in size.  Remove the dough and shape or place in a proving basket for another 40 minutes.  Slash the top and place in a hot oven (220 degrees C) for approximately 30 minutes and nicely browned.

French Vanilla Doughnuts

Made a batch of these this morning, posted on Facebook, and have had a request for the recipe, so here it is:

French Vanilla Doughnuts

225 g strong bread flour
1 teasp. salt
1 x 7g packet fast action yeast
25 g caster sugar
25g softened butter
1 whole egg
80 ml water
vegetable oil for frying
vanilla sugar for dusting

Put all of the ingredients (except oil and sugar) into a Thermomix and mix for 10 seconds at speed 3, then scrape down and knead on “wheat” setting for 5 mins (alternatively, put in a mixer with a dough hook and knead at slow speed for 5 mins).  Leave to rise for up to an hour (until doubled in size).

Knock the dough back and shape into little balls, approximately 15g each (should make between 24 – 30).  Place these on a non stick tray and cover with a cloth and leave to prove for approximately 40 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil to 180 degrees C and gently drop the doughnuts in (approximately 6 – 8 at a time).  Once browned they will automatically flip over – if not, turn so that the other side becomes a deep golden brown too.  Once nicely brown and puffed up, drain and coat in the vanilla sugar.

Great warm or cold with a nice strong coffee!

Cheese & Pancetta Bread

Ingredients 400g Strong White Bread Flour
100g Rye Bread Flour
10g salt
15g fresh yeast or
7g fast action dried yeast
20 ml olive oil
300 ml cool water
150g pancetta lardons, fried & cooled
200g cheese – cheddar, comte, gruyere or other hard cheese – cut into 1 cm cubes

IMG_16541.  Using a Kenwood Chef with a dough hook or a Thermomix (on the dough setting) put the flours into the bowl, add the salt and stir to disperse.  Add the olive oil, fresh or dried yeast (if using fresh, I like to mix mine in with a little water first) and the lardons, including the residue fat left in the pan.  Process in the Kenwood for 6-7 minutes, initially on Speed 1 for a minute and then increasing to Speed 2.  For the Thermomix, mix on Speed 3 for 10 seconds until the dough starts to come together and then, using the dough setting, process for 6 minutes.

2.  If using a Thermomix, transfer to a bowl and leave to prove for approximately an hour, covered with cling film, otherwise leave in the Kenwood bowl.

3.  Oil a 20cm springform cake tin.  Divide the dough into three and roll out one third to a circle to cover the base of the tin.  Scatter over half the cheese.  Roll out a similar disc of dough and lay on top.  Add the rest of the cheese.  Roll out the final circle of dough and place on top.  Dust with flour, or if liked sprinkle some extra grated cheese on top.  Leave to prove for about an hour covered lightly with a tea towel.

4.  Meanwhile, heat the over to 220 degrees C and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Leave the loaf in the tin for approximately 10 minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Italian Breadsticks

I am serving these delightful breadsticks at the start of the “Sicilian Night Supper Club“, together with a Limoncello Cocktail.  They are very easy to make and extremely tasty!  The recipes uses my Basic Bread recipe, omitting the sugar.



Part baked breadsticks

1 Batch Basic Bread Dough

100g Black Olives, stoned and chopped

80g Grated Parmesan

1-2 teasp Oregano

Semolina and extra flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 220 deg C

– Follow the recipe for the Basic Bread dough (to stage 6).

– Once the dough has risen to twice it’s size, remove from the bowl and place on to a surface that has been dusted with flour and semolina.  Shape the dough into a rough, flat rectangle, using your fingertips to flatten and spread out the dough.

– Sprinkle on the olives, Parmesan and oregano.  Then fold one third of the dough to the centre and press down with your fingertips, then fold the opposite side over the top (as if you were folding an A4 letter into an envelope).  Press down with the palms of your hands to work the mixture into the dough.  Turn the dough around so that the long side is towards you and start to cut approximately 1 cm slices.  For each slice, start to twist and pull to get a length of around 36cm (14 inches) and place each stick on a baking tray that has been lined with greaseproof paper.

– When you have completed all the sticks (makes approximately 16 (I used two trays of 8) place a tea towel over them and leave to prove for another 30 – 40 minutes (depends on the temperature of your kitchen).

– Then place in the oven and bake for 12 – 15 minutes.

Cook Ahead

If you want to make these ahead – part bake for approximately 10 – 12 minutes until they are just starting to take on a bit of colour then take out of the oven and cool.  Place in a freezer until needed.

TO SERVE: Defrost and place in hot oven for approximately 5 minutes.  Leave to cool before serving.

Basic White Bread Recipe (from which you can make a variety of other breads)

Ingredients 500g Strong White Bread Flour 1 1/4 teasp salt (disperse in the flour) 1 1/2 teasp sugar 2 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil 15g fresh yeast or 7g sachet of fast action yeast 300 ml luke warm water Method:
1.  Mix a little of the warm water with the yeast, so that it dissolves (leave about 5 mins).
Using a Kenwood Chef:
2.  Put the flour and salt in the mixing bowl and sprinkle on the sugar.  Then add the olive oil.
3.  When the yeast has dissolved in the water, add this to the bowl, together with the rest of the water.
4.  Put the dough hook in place, and lower into the mix.
5.  On minimum speed, start to incorporate the liquid into the flour.
6.  Increase speed to 1 – 2 and knead for approximately 6 – 7 minutes.  When you lift the dough hook up, the dough should be quite stretchy.  Get as much off the dough hook as you can.  Lift the dough out of the bowl and place into a clean, oiled bowl after shaping into a rough ball.  Cover with cling film and leave to rise of approximately an hour.  The dough should have risen to almost the top of the mixing bowl.
Using a Thermomix:
2.  Put the flour and salt in the mixing jug and sprinkle on the sugar.  Then add the olive oil.
3.  When the yeast has dissolved in the water, add this to the jug, together with the rest of the water.
4.  Lock the lid into place with the MC off and incorporate the liquid into the flour for 10 – 12 seconds, speed 3.
5.  Then set the timer to 6 minutes, and set to the “wheat” setting.
6.  Unlock the lid and lift the jug out.  Release the blades from the base and tip the contents of the jug into an oiled mixing bowl.  The blades will drop in too, but then all you need to do is scrape the dough off the blades with your fingers.  (I use blue catering gloves to save on messy fingers!)  Alternatively, replace the blades in the jug and whizz briefly at high speed and the remaining dough will release from the blades and stick to the sides of the jug. You can then scrape these bits back into the bowl.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise of approximately an hour until doubled in size. After the dough has risen sufficiently, drop it out of the bowl on to a floured surface.  Knock back a little and shape into a rough circle.
Fold the dough inwards to form a rough, rectangular shape and drop into an oiled loaf tin.  Alternatively, shape in to a rough oval (like a bloomer shape) and leave to rise for about another 40 minutes.  The dough should have risen to slightly above the edge of the tin, or in the case of the free form loaf, until it has increased in size by about another third.  For the bloomer, slash diagonally a couple of times before placing in the oven.
Place into a preheated oven at 225 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 190 degrees centigrade for another 15 minutes.  Remove the loaf from the oven and drop out of the tin (it should come out easily if it has been oiled).  Put the loaf back in the oven for another 5 minutes at an increased temperature of 200 – 225 degrees centigrade, to crisp up the sides.  For the freeform loaf, bake at 200 degrees C for 25 – 30 minutes. Leave to cool before eating.
From this basic recipe, you can also make marmite and cheese rolls, Italian focaccia, roasted tomato, garlic and thyme bread, and you can also use the dough as a pizza base. To learn more about making bread:

Bread – The Sad Story

It is a reflection on living standards in much of the Western hemisphere that we should have to go to a speciality store or farmers’ market to buy bread that is honest, well made and unadulterated.Countries with a traditional high regard for their food forbid their flour to be tampered with.  This is certainly true of France and largely why the French enjoy such good breads; there is also a relative absence of large baking combines in France so the independent village baker reigns supreme, and just as well since French bread stales within hours of baking.

Guiness Bread baked by Rita

Elsewhere, the story is rather different.  ‘Scientific’ advances during the last century have changed bread making; notably, in the UK this was due to the development in 1961 of “the Chorleywood Bread Process”.  The chemically assisted, fast-rising, sliced white loaf is widely marketed and stimulates a continuing controversy.  The essential complaint is that the dough for this product is mixed, risen and baked within one hour.  The gradual stretching of gluten and maturing of the dough’s flavour doesn’t happen; the first is achieved by extremely fast, brutal rough beating, the second is forgotten or approximated with additives.  The end product (to the scientist who created it) smells right, slices like a dream, does not crumble when spread with butter and keeps well.  Then there’s the texture ….. so slight, it scrunches to paste with the slightest application of pressure, even when toasted. Living without decent bread is hardly life at all!

Extracted from ‘Bread’ by Andrew Whitely

FURTHER READING: Chorleywood: The Bread that Changed Britain The Shocking Truth About Bread

Bread: Do You Know What You’re Eating?

Did you know that an amino acid used as an additive in bread is sometimes manufactured from human hair?  The substance is called L-Cysteine or E920.

Britain’s leading organic baker, Andrew Whitely, warns of what he calls of “baking’s big secret” – the use of enzymes.  Andrew describes the use of these enzymes as secret because they do not appear on the label. Industrial bakers use a loophole to classify them as “processing aids”. These enzymes are one reason modern bread stays so light and soft for so long. Under the UK’s food labelling rules they don’t need to appear on the label because they are broken down in the manufacturing process and therefore they are not considered to be present in the final product. Andrew describes this as: “a deception that allows the food industry to manipulate what we eat without telling us.”

Andrew’s got a whole list of enzymes he’s concerned about but a particularly worrying one is phospholipase. That’s because phospholipase was originally derived from pigs’ pancreas.

And if you were thinking that by buying an organic loaf you might escape these “aids”, think again. Food enzymes are allowed in organic products so long as they are not derived from GM or GM methods have not been used at any stage in their manufacture.

The only way to be sure your bread is pure and unadulterated and only contains the core ingredients needed to make a decent loaf of bread (flour, yeast, salt & water) – is to make it yourself!

Rita’s Basic White Bread Recipe