Last year’s bread quest
At the start of last year I set myself two bread related goals:
- To make better sourdough loaves. My sourdough bread was already pretty good and much loved by all. But I was convinced that I could make a better, tastier loaf…whatever that might be.
- To make baguettes that are more like the fantastic baguettes I had in France. Yes, I knew all about the importance of ovens, and yeasts and things like that, but I was determined to try and get as close as I could.
So how did I go? Partial success I would have to say. My report card would say that I started off well but quickly lost focus (and interest) and the results suffered.
I ordered new books and fell in love with Jeffery Hammelman’s book Bread. He is a bee keeper too – no wonder I relate to his style so well! I bought myself new couche cloths and other bready stuff and started my quest with great enthusiasm. The first loaf I tried from “Bread” changed a lot for me. I understood more about why I sometimes got less rise in the oven (too much kneading – who would have guessed that one?!), how folding during bulk ferment helps compensate for less kneading. And much more. So much to learn…I was a little overwhelmed. I made that recipe a few more times and then decided that I loved it and it became my standard go-to recipe. I stopped there. It was easy, fast (yes, a fast sourdough loaf that had all the loveliness of a slowly fermented loaf!) and fool proof.
My baguettes got a lot better. I tinkered a little…and then I stopped. Again, I have kept making the same thing over and over again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but interesting to look back on it and see how I went with my quest. I still have the desire to work on both those goals this year, but I plan to tackle it in a different way.
I am going to shift myself out of my complacent bread baking mode. Last year I only made my standard white with a tiny bit of rye loaf, baguettes and when we had guests for dinner I would make an olive and rosemary variation and occasionally a fruit bread. That’s it. No experimenting.
So this year, I am going to make a derivative bread or a completely different loaf every week. I will still make my standard loaf for sandwiches etc, but there will also be another interesting loaf to force me to experiment with some other recipes.
With that goal in mind, I made a Walnut, Cherry and Sultana loaf…and oh my, it is delicious. It might get added to the standard repertoire too! I started off with Hammelman’s Walnut and Rasin Ciabatta recipe but didn’t have some of the ingredients…and ran out of time to follow the method as well. So it is probably an insult to him to refer to his recipe…but that is where it started. It has no sweetner, added fat or egg – as I usually add when I make hot cross buns or fruit loaves. But the taste of this bread is so lovely, it does not suffer from not having those additions at all. The dried fruit adds enough sweetness.
Walnut, Cherry and Sultana Bread
450g Bakers flour
115g Mature starter
310g Water (I would increase this to 340g next time to get a wetter dough)
2 tsp Salt
45g Dried Cherries
Mix all ingredients apart from fruit and nuts together in a bowl and knead for a couple of minutes. Rest for 5-10 minutes (longer if you have the time!). Add in the fruit and nuts and knead for a further few minutes. I left the walnut halves whole and it felt like there was a lot of fruit and nuts…but it eventually mixed in just fine.
I intended to allow it to bulk prove at room temperature for a couple of hours, with a couple of folds, before putting it in the fridge, but I had to go out. So after half an hour on the bench, it went into the fridge. When I got back home a few hours later that night, I gave it a quick fold and popped it back in the fridge. This morning I took the bowl out and allowed it to sit at room temperature for an hour. I then tipped it out of the bowl and lightly pressed it out into a rough rectangle on a couche cloth. After 4 hours (and it was a hot day here) I baked it. Started with the oven at 240C for the first three minutes and then lowered the temperature to 200C for the rest of the baking time.