Wednesday 13 January 2021

95% wholemeal sourdough

I have to call this a 95% wholemeal loaf because I used a white wheat starter but it could easily be made 100% wholemeal by using a rye starter or a wholemeal wheat starter. Some adjustment may, as ever, needed to be made to the quantity of water. As always, the wetter the better.

I prefer my bread a little softer than a traditional crusty white Sourdough so I often add a lump of hard fat - butter usually or, as in this recipe, a hard vegan alternative such as Naturli. Hard fat seems to help keep the rise, while oil will soften the texture but the rise may be lessened. 

Wholemeal can have a slightly bitter taste, too, so I also like to add a sweetener to take the edge of that. Here I've used maple syrup but you could use honey, barley malt extract or brown sugar.


I started the pre-ferment the previous night

100g white wheat starter (100% hydration)

100g wholemeal flour

100g water

Leave covered at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, add:

450g strong organic wholemeal flour

270g water

30g hard fat (vegan block or butter)

20g maple syrup or honey

10g salt

Mix and leave to stand for 30-40 mins

Give the dough a short initial knead, it really needs no more than a minute. Then place in an oiled bowl and cover.

Prove at room temperature for about four hours. Do Stretches and Folds periodically.

I always find it hard to judge when the dough has doubled in size, and much depends on how active your starter is, but by the end of four hours you should feel the dough has grown considerably.

Handle it carefully as you cut it into two pieces and prepare for tin.

I used a long loaf tin but you could use two small tins.

Final prove approximately two hours

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 9/475°F/245°C

Bake under foil for 20 minutes.

I bake under foil to maintain moisture in the early baking period, then remove the foil to allow the crust to caramelise and crisp.

Remove foil and bake for a further 25 minutes.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Bread - getting started...

My "old" school friend, Sean, has been asking about getting started in home baking and I thought maybe other people might find this brief introduction useful too.  Sean asks:

...And when baking at home, do you knead the dough by hand? Because in my book, "The Larousse Book of Bread" by Éric Kayser, kneading by hand appears to take awhile.

He also advises using a Liquid Starter and Fresh Baker's Yeast.
All this fascinates me but scares me at the same time, because I love cooking as one of my favourite past times, but baking bread is definitely more of a science.....and I was crap at that at SGS*, lol!

(*Shaftesbury Grammar School)

Hi Sean


I do all my kneading by hand but kneading is one of those areas about which there is a bit of twaddle talked and written. Dan Lepard in his book The Handmade Loaf recommends minimal kneading but stretching the dough.  Really kneading is done to develop the gluten so that small gas pockets fill up in the dough to raise the bread.  This will happen to some extent anyway through the fermentation process so he suggests returning to the dough every ten to fifteen minutes and just stretching it after the initial mix.  This is quite a useful technique if you are in a busy kitchen with lots of things going on at the same time – which is how he used to work as a restaurant chef.

I personally enjoy the kneading, finding it a bit meditative. I'll knead for five minutes or so and stretch the dough after an hour or so.

I prefer to use fresh yeast too – I get much better results with it.   I get mine for our shop from a local bakery suppliers – 1kg lumps – you have to be a bit careful what you get because lots of commercial yeast have horrible additives and processing agents already in them that don't have to be declared on ingredients lists – frightening really!  That's why so many artisan bakers will go for sourdough fermentation – just flour and water fermenting together.

(Note: in the UK fresh organic yeast is available by mail order from Shipton Mill.  Fresh yeast can be frozen in useful-sized quantities but tends to lose a little potency on defrosting and also tends to turn liquid - which in itself isn't a problem but can be messy if it's in a bag - so if you freeze it put it in a pot to defrost!)

As for liquid starters – there are as many different starter styles (poolish, biga etc) as there are bakers it seems to me.   The basic tenet for bread making is “the wetter the better”. Wetter dough is harder to handle but makes a better bread.

The best advice I can give though is to just have a go... a lot... and don't worry about it – it's only a bit of flour and water so if it goes wrong it's not going to kill anyone!   It is easy to get put off by the science of it but don't be – you don't need to know it to get started. The science becomes more interesting and accessible as you go along and you try to find out why things have gone wrong!

I don't know the Larousse book but, from a brief squint at it, it looks quite a serious one – sourdough starters means more advanced techniques and less predictable results – it may be that you need to allow yourself to be a beginner for a while and could do with a book that takes you right back to basics. I recommend the Dorling Kindersley “Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno or Andrew Whiteley's “Bread Matters” but even that gets a bit caught up in itself. Richard Bertinet has two books out both great as starter books “Dough” and “Crust”.

I don't know what level you're at, Sean, but I suggest you start with a really basic bread recipe:

  • Strong White flour (preferably organic, stoneground) 550g
  • Water 350g
  • Salt 10g
  • Fresh Yeast 10g or Dried yeast 5g
  • Oil 15 ml

If you're using dried yeast mix it with a little of the water and a couple of spoonfuls of the flour first and let it get active – some recommend a spoonful of sugar to help.

  1. Mix all the ingredients together to get a shaggy mass of dough.  If it's a bit sticky let it sit for fifteen minutes - you'll find it easier to handle.  If it is sticky try to avoid adding more flour to the dough as this will toughen it up.  If you are desperate dust your hands with flour and shake off the excess.
  2. Knead it for 5 to ten minutes
  3. Let it prove in a warm ( not too warm) place for an hour
  4. Turn it out and knead for a minute or two
  5. Let it prove again for an hour
  6. Turn it out again and shape it by flattening it out into a rough circle then fold in the sides and roll into a swiss roll shape
  7. Pop it into a lightly greased or non-stick 2lb tin and prove for another half an hour or so while the oven preheats to 220C
  8. When the dough is crowning the top of the tin pop it into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
  9. Spray the oven as you do so with about twenty squirts of water from a mister spray.
  10. I spray again after about 10 minutes and turn the heat down to about 200C or even lower 190C and continue to bake. It depends on your oven.
  11. Best way to test for done-ness is with a probe thermometer – the internal temperature should be 95C.   The bread should sound hollow when tapped but this is no guarantee on its own, and the shoulders of the loaf should be firm to the touch (ie you should be able to pick it up!)
  12. When it's cool - eat it.
  13. Make another one.

Once you've made a few you should become more familiar with how the dough will feel – try a few variations – use butter instead of oil – use half in half milk and water...

Report back to me!

Sunday 20 September 2015

Griddle Scones

It's my day off and I just fancied doing a little breakfast baking so I made some of these in about five minutes flat ... well, ok about five minutes mixing and then a half an hour actually cooking them - but it felt a quick and eminently do-able process for Sunday brunch.  Esmé and I enjoyed with with peanut butter, jam, honey, cheese and The Archers Omnibus!  (tbh Esmé wasn't that bothered about The Archers she was busy on her phone...doh!)

  • 8oz Plain White flour
  • 1tsp bicarb
  • 2 tsp cream of Tartar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 lg knob of butter* (approx 40g)
  • ¼ pt milk*
You could of course easily use margarine and soya milk or something made from nuts if you felt a bit vegan-y
  1. preheat a greased griddle or heavy bottomed frying pan on a medium heat
  2. sift flour bicarb, cream of tartar and salt together
  3. rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  4. stir in the sugar
  5. mix in the milk to form a soft but not sticky dough
  6. roll out to ½ cm thick
  7. cut out with a round cutter or cut into triangles
  8. cook in batches:
  9. place rounds onto the griddle of frying pan and cook for about 5 minutes
  10. turn over and cook for another few minutes until golden and cooked through.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Oatmeal and Millet Loaf

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog and you all must be starving by now!


I made this bread recently and have to consider it one of the nicest I have ever made so I thought I’d share it with you.  It is a half in half loaf with added ingredients and you could adapt it by simply changing those ingredients eg substitute sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds for either of the additions.


  • 275g Strong White Flour
  • 250g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 50g Millet grain
  • 30g Pinhead (Coarse) Oatmeal
  • 10g (1.5 tsp) salt
  • 1 dsp Honey (or malt extract)
  • 2 dsp oil, sunflower or olive
  • 300g water
  • 10g fresh yeast (or substitute 5g dried yeast – follow the substitution directions on the pack)


Allow four hours as a minimum for this loaf - there are only a few minutes of actual mixing and handling and 40 minutes or so baking - the rest is all just waiting for the dough to prove so get yourself a good book and have a cup of tea or two or dig the garden...

  1. Weigh the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well
  2. Add the wet ingredients malt extract, yeast, oil and then water (if using dried yeast you can mix it with a little of the water first)
  3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined
  4. Work or knead the dough for five to ten minutes then place back in the oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a damp cloth or cling-film. 
  5. Leave the dough for an hour or so until it has started to rise[1].  Release the gas from the dough by gently kneading for a minute or two and then return to the bowl for another hour or so[2].
  6. Tip the dough onto your work surface and shape the dough for its final prove.       For a tin loaf the easiest way to shape the dough is to flatten it gently to a oval disc approximately 2 centimetres thick.  Then fold in the side edges to create a rough oblong shape the of roughly the same width as your tin.  Roll this into a swiss roll shape           and pop it, seam side down, into your tin (oiled if it’s not non-stick)
  7. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for it’s final prove. 
  8. Turn your oven on to Gas Mark 8 ( 200°C, 425°F)
  9. When the bread dough has filled the tin and is nicely domed, slash it [3] and put it into the
    oven.  (In the main picture at the top of this post I had also sprinkled the loaf with oats.  Do that now, too, if you fancy it - just a handful of porridge oats.)
  10. Using a water spray mist the oven as you put the loaf in with about twenty squirty sprays of water.[4]
  11. Bake for 10 minutes at this temperature then open the door and give it another spray.  Reduce the temperature
    to Gas Mark 6 (175°C, 380°F) and continue to bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
  12. Take the loaf out of the oven and tip it out of its tin.  Try tapping the bottom to see if it sounds hollow but the most reliable method for checking doneness is to take its temperature with a probe thermometer.  Dough cooks at around 93°C so if the internal temperature is 95°C or above it will be done.  If you're not quite sure return the loaf to the oven, but not in its tin, for another 5 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting. [5]

This bread is great if you enjoy a nice chewy texture in your loaf but find granary a little too much... the oatmeal offers a nice bitey resistance while the millet gives a little crunch.

[1] Bread recipes often say leave the dough until it has “doubled in size” but I find that is often a very hard one to judge when the ball of dough is sat in the bottom of a large bowl.  Basically you need to see some growth in the dough ball which shows that the yeast is active and working.  As it expands the gluten stretches and creates the aerated texture of the bread

[2] Degassing the dough, sometimes called ‘knocking back’, allows the gluten strands within the dough to relax again and creates a closer, more even texture in the finished bread.

[3] Slashing the loaf across the top with a sharp knife allows the dough to expand in a more controlled way in the oven.  See also below...

[4] Spraying the oven is a useful technique to help the dough rise in the oven and then set a good crust.  Professional bakeries often have steam injected into the ovens as the baking starts, this prevents the crust from forming too soon and allows the bread to grow in the heat of the oven.  This growth in the oven is called oven spring.  When the growing has stopped the dough is allowed to dry out.  The moisture has mixed with the flour on the top of the baking bread and gelatinised and this now dries to a shiny glaze.

[5] It's hard to resist the tempting smell of newly baked bread but while the bread is hot the gluten is still very indigestible and you may well suffer if you cut it too early.  Also cutting the bread while it's hot will result in the crumb becoming gummed around the knife ... so just have a bit of self control and go out for a walk until it's cooled down!

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Kombucha and the art of bread making

Here's a thing...

At the shop, (Beanies) we were recently sent some samples of Kombucha - a lightly effervescent drink made from fermented sweetened tea.  It came in different flavours so I picked a ginger one and unscrewed the cap only to have the contents of the bottle explode all over me and the desk.  (Keep it chilled is the advice - this one was at a warm room temperature!)  After I'd cleaned up and enjoyed the beery flavour of the ginger tea I got to reading the bottle and thinking a bit about it.

Kombucha is made from a live ferment known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts) and this one seemed particularly lively.  I just wondered whether it would be possible to use the kombucha to start a sourdough culture.  I know this isn't always possible - some fermented products simply don't have the right mix  or varieties of yeasts and bacteria.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say...

So I took a bottle of the original unflavoured kombucha home and used 150ml added to 150gms of strong white flour.  (The photographs are my second attempt where I've used strong wholemeal simply because I've run out of white - I tend to use organic white flour for sourdough starters as they prove more stable: wholemeal starters have a tendency to separate and go mouldy if a careful eye is not kept on them - keep them in the fridge.)

150g wholemeal flour
150g kombucha
So, basically...

150g kombucha
150g flour

Mix together in a plastic tub - cover lightly with a lid or cloth and put aside for 24 hours at room temperature.

By then end of the overnight fermentation the starter was sufficiently bubbly for me to feel confident to move straight to mixing a starter dough.

I added
100g white flour
and a little more water to create a slightly stiffer dough than the original mix.

This I again left overnight, covered and the following day was very happy with the fermentation.

So for the final loaf I added
400g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt - (I don't use a lot of salt (you might prefer more) partly for health reasons and partly because sourdough bread has good flavour anyway.  Salt does have an effect on both the texture and shelf life of the finished bread though so I do use some.)
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil - but you could use Olive or sunflower
More water  - (I must admit I didn't weigh the water I used to create the final dough - fool! - but the final dough ball weighed about 1200g so I must have added about another 150 - 200g.  It was a reasonably firm dough.  Don't let it get too wet but obviously the old mantra stands - The Wetter the Better!

I mixed this final dough at around 8.00am.  Kneaded for 5 mins and then left it to stand, covered, until about 12.30pm by which time it was just starting to fall back ready to be degassed and shaped.  (If I'd been around during the proof I would have stretched it a couple of times, but I wasn't so I couldn't.)

Anyway dough weighed to 900g, (leaving 300g for a quick pizza for lunch) then shaped and tinned up for a final proof of about an hour.  Into the hot oven (Gas Mark 7 - my oven is quite fierce) for half an hour, turning the gas down to Mark 4 after twenty minutes...

Final result...

My conclusion is that - yes!  Kombucha can be used to raise bread very effectively!  As a shortcut to a sourdough starter I think it's great.  Of course once you've got your live kombucha you can keep it alive too... but I don't quite know how t do that yet... time for a little research, methinks.

I'd be fascinated to hear whether anyone else has similar experiences.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Rich Stem Ginger Cake

I've said before I'm not a great baker of cakes - so mine have to be technically undemanding. This one is!

The recipe calls for Stem ginger which can be purchased in most supermarkets and often comes in glass jars in a rich gingery syrup. The ginger is usually cut into round balls. With a sharp knife these can be diced into small cubes. This recipe is suitable for vegans and makes two 1lb loaf cakes.  You could of course substitute gluten-free flour and make it, er, gluten-free too:

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes


2 medium dessert apples
100ml sunflower oil
90 ml Water, warm
185g Dark Muscovado sugar
8 lumps of stem ginger
15g ground ginger

350g self raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder (this usually has wheat flour in it, so if you're making the cakes for gluten free people find some gluten free baking powder too! ... there's one made by Barkat 
which we stock at Beanies.)

1 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)
Grease and line two 1lb loaf tins.
(Alternatively, you can use an 8" round tin greased and lined with baking parchment - the cooking time will need adjusting accordingly.)

1. Peel and core the apples then grate them into a large bowl.
2. Add the water, sugar and oil and stir thoroughly, making sure that all the sugar is dissolved.  Finely chop the stem ginger and stir it in.
3. In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
4. Combine the apple and ginger mixture with the dry ingredients, folding in the flour. Take care not to beat the mixture as this will cause the gluten in the flour to become tough.
5. Pour the mixture into the two loaf tins (or one large one) and gently level out the top with wet fingers or the back of a spoon.
6. Place in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown and risen and a cocktail stick comes out clean!
7. Cool for a few minutes in the tins and then remove them and place on a wire rack to cool.

This cake will keep well for a few days if well wrapped - that's why you make two! Enjoy one straight away and the other a few days later - or if you're feeling generous give the second away to a friend.  You can freeze it too.  Keep it wrapped in its parchment and then wrap it in aluminium foil and pop it into the freezer.  Unwrap it and defrost it thoroughly before eating!

Friday 4 April 2014

Simple Roast Vegetable Quiche

How to make a delicious quiche AND pass on a few skills to a daughter!

Courgettes Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6 (200C).......

Cut up some vegetables into coin size chunks. You can use whatever you have available but these are what we used and are a traditional mixture.
- 1 med Onion
- 1 med aubergine
- 1 Red pepper
- 1 courgette
- 6 - 8 medium to large mushrooms, quartered

- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed

Place in roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt flakes and 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs.
Place in oven for 20 - 25 minutes
Remove from oven and peel garlic, crush or chop and return to veg mixture.

While veg is roasting make the pastry...

(1oz flour = 30g = ½ level tablespoon)
- 6oz (180g) flour
- 3oz (90g) butter
- pinch of salt

Rub butter into flour and salt until it resembles breadcrumbs
Add enough cold water to bring together into a dough - don't over-knead!

Rest pastry in fridge for 15 mins.
Roll out pastry and line quiche tin.
Turn the oven down a little to Gas Mark 5 (180C)
Bake the pastry blind for 15 minutes until it looks nicely dry.

(Tip: blind baking is best done by lining the pastry case with baking parchment and tipping baking beans into the middle - this prevents air bubbles in the pastry from lifting the bottom. Alternatively you can prick the bottom all over with a fork.)

Brush with beaten egg to seal any cracks in the pastry and return to the oven for 5 mins.

While blind baking the pastry case you can make the egg mixture:........

Beat 2 large eggs with ½ pint of milk and 3oz (90g) cream or cream cheese then season to taste adding salt, pepper, mustard, cheese...

Fill pastry case with veg
Pour on egg mixture
Top with grated cheese
Bake for 35 mins till golden brown.

Serve with some steamed broccoli or a green salad and some salad potatoes...