More open source bread

Over half term, we visited family in southern Germany, and as it was close, we took the girls to a ski resort in Austria to learn a bit of skiing. One day on the way to our accommodation, we stopped at the MPreis supermarket in Haldensee, Austria, and at the bakery there I bought a loaf of bread – a seeded wholemeal sourdough loaf baked in a square tin as is very typical for German or Austrian bread. This turned out to be so nice that my daughters declared this to be their favourite bread, even winning against the previous favourite, my own Armadillo Bread. Of course, I couldn’t give in that easily to a super market bakery in rural Austria, so I tried to come up with my own version of a similar bread

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So, here we go with the recipe – whether I succeeded in capturing the top spot will be decided today after school…

400g rye sourdough starter
150g wholemeal rye flour
150g shredded rye kernels
500g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g sunflower seeds
20g salt
565g water
Some wholemeal bread flour for dusting

Loads of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for coating

Add the sourdough starter, the flours and the rye kernels to a bowl, add the water and start mixing. This dough is initially very wet and sticky, so might be worthwhile working in a bowl. After a while, add the salt and the sunflower seeds, and keep working the dough. Once it’s been worked to be a proper dough, roll into a ball on a work surface dusted with wholemeal flour, put in the bowl and rest fot 1h covered with a cloth.

After 1h, put back on the dusted work surface again and work into a ball again. The rye kernels will have started to soften and make the dough less wet and sticky by now. Rest for another hour.

After that, work into a ball again, then split into two even parts (about 900g-920g each). Form into short and fat logs. Roll these in a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds to cover thickly all around (the amount of seeds sticking to the bread is amazing, you probably need several hundred grams of seeds). Place in two rectangular bread tins that  have been slightly greased.

Then the bread needs to prove for about 12-14h in a cool, draught free place (I use the under-stair storage). Then bake in an oven preheated to 250ºC for 5 minutes, before reducing the temperature to 220ºC and baking for another 35 minutes. The seeds on the top should be clearly browned, but not burned.

Then remove from the oven and tip out of the tins onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completly before eating, even if the smell is very tempting.

Quick African vegetable curry

This is a tasty dinner for a school night, using African peanut curry sauce from Bim’s Kitchen as a base, cutting down cooking time by an hour or so. It still takes a little bit of time, but not much effort. Serves two very hungry people or 3-4 at a stretch.

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Half an onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 fresh green chili, chopped (optional, for chili addicts like me)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped in 1cm dice
2 courgettes, chopped into pieces
3 large mushrooms, chopped into pieces
1 glass of African Peanut Curry Sauce
4 eggs

Heat a bit of oil in a large pan, add the onions, garlic and chili and fry for a minute or so, without browning them. Add the chopped vegetables, and sauté for 10 minutes on a high heat, covered while stirring regularly. Add a pinch of salt at this stage. Add the curry sauce and a bit of water, cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Crack open the eggs and gently slide then into the sauce. Cover and poach in the curry for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, serve with rice.
Actually, any West African side dish like fufu, TZ or banku would go nicely with it, but if you go through the effort of making those, you might as well cook groundnut soup from scratch…

Wholemeal Rye Bread

I went to Scandi Kitchen the other day to buy fresh yeast for my bread baking – they are one of the few places in central London where you can just walk in and get fresh yeast any day. Walking past the shelf with flours and baking ingredients, my gaze fell onto a pack of shredded rye kernels – another ingredient I have been looking out for, as it is a key ingredient for the heavy, moist rye wholemeal bread so typical of German and north eastern European cuisine.

So, here is my version of this continental staple:

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400g Sourdough Starter
150g shredded rye kernels, soaked overnight and strained
100g sunflower seeds
600g wholemeal rye flour
20g salt
500g water

Measure the starter into a large bowl, then add rye kernels, sunflower seeds, flour and the water. Mix thoroughly and when it starts to come together, work the dough for about 10 minutes (preferably in a bowl, it’s a rather sticky and messy), then add the salt and work for another 10 minutes. You might want to do this in a kneading machine or kitchen mixer if you have one handy. Scrape it out of the ball onto a work surface dusted with more wholemeal rye flour (no white flour shall come near this bread). Form into some kind of ball, adding a bit more flour to the surface if required. This can be a bit tricky, as the dough is really moist and sticky. Put back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and rest for 1h. Roll into a ball again on the dusted work surface. Rest for another hour.

Split the dough into two equal halves, and form two balls. Then roll them into short and fat logs that fit into baking tins. Put them in greased tins and leave to prove for 12h-14h in a cool, but not draughty place. I use the storage under the stairs for this.

Preheat oven to 250C. Bake in the tins for about 5min, then reduce the heat to 220C and bake for another 30min. Turn out of the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

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This bread goes really well with a stronger cheese, smoked fish or gravad lax, or if you like meat, with smoked ham. And maybe some pickled gherkins.

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Open source bread 4: Off-white sourdough loaf

This is another recipe based on my all-rye sourdough starter, a rather recent addition to my repertoire of breads. I have to admit I have been reading the chapter of pure sourdough breads in Richard Bertinet‘s Crust and was a bit scared of trying it myself, but at some point last year I took the plunge and gave his recipe a go. The first try only looked a bit like a car crash, and after a while of experimenting and adapting the recipe to my starter and way of working, those sourdough loaves started to turn out quite nicely (and they are really tasty and keep for a few days in the bread bin).

I called it an off-white sourdough as while it’s main ingredient is white bread flour, the rye starter gives it a beige-brown colour and a  very distinctive taste that is clearly not white bread.

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400g starter
850g strong white bread flour
580g water
20g salt

Mix everything but the salt and work it for about 20 minutes, adding the
salt after about 10 minutes.
Form into a ball on a flour-dusted surface, put in a bowl, cover with a
towel and leave to rest for 1h
Then put it back onto the flour-dusted surface, fold it to a ball again,
back to the bowl and rest for another hour.
Then back on the flour dusted surface, form into a ball, cut in half (I
use scales to get them equal), form into two balls, and put in flour
dusted proving baskets (or two bowls lined with floured tea towels),
seam side down, cover with a towel. Leave in a cool place to rest for
14-18h.
Preheat the oven to 250C. Carefully put the loaves from the baskets onto
a baking tray, ideally covered in a silicone sheet or baking paper (seam
side down) – they are quite soft and fragile at this stage, don’t
manhandle them or the finished bread will look like it had a car accident.
Cut criss-cross over the top with a sharp blade.
Mist the oven, bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 220C, and
bake for another 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool completly on a wire rack.

This bread keeps a few days and freezes well. Perfect lightly toasted
with a poached egg.

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Open Source Bread 3: Armadillo Bread

It’s been a while since I posted here, but I’ve been talking about bread recipes recently, so I thought I could continue this series…
This one is the staple I have been baking every other week for the last few years, and it’s the main bread that we tend to eat all the time. It is a true hybrid, 60% wheat and 40% rye, a lot of wholemeal and a bit of white flour, half yeast and half sourdough.

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Ingredients for 2 loaves:
400g Rye sourdough starter
200g Wholemeal rye flour
400g Wholemeal strong wheat flour
200g Strong white bread flour
10g Fresh yeast
20g Salt
475g Water
150-250g Mixed seeds (any of sunflower, pumpkin, linseed etc. I change the mix every time)

Mix all the ingredients except the seeds in a bowl, and then work to a smooth dough. Towards the end, work in the seeds. Form a tight ball on a floured work surface, put back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest foot about 8h (I usually do that overnight). Then work into a ball again, split in half and work every half into a ball again and leave to prove in a proving basket for 1.5h. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250°C.
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After proving, carefully transfer the loaves from the baskets onto a baking tray, and slice them across about every inch. This will allow them to expand to a more oblong shape and will give them the stripy pattern that gave them their name. Quickly mist the oven, then put in the loaves on the bottom shelf. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 220°C and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.