Updated: May 12
Many people have recently come to me for advice on bread making. The lockdown has brought out the dormant baker in many and I am glad to see this forgotten skill being rediscovered. Before I dispense any advice I would love to explain why and how I started baking.
About 18 months ago I was unloading the weekly shop from all the bags for life. Out came another packet of bread and got put on the bench, another loaf wrapped in plastic. As a family we always tried to eat healthily, very little processed food and organic if we could. I looked at that Hovis Superseeded loaf with a critical eye. Was it really a healthy choice? Did I feel ok about it being wrapped in plastic. I looked closely at the ingredients…
Wheat Flour (with added Calcium, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Seed Mix (13%) (Contains: Toasted Brown Linseed, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Millet Seeds, Golden Linseed, Poppy Seeds), Yeast, Wheat Protein, Salt, Soya Flour, Caramelised Sugar, Malted Barley Flour, Barley Flour, Preservative: E282, Emulsifier: E472e, Barley Fibre, Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid.
What exactly is emulsifier? Why preservative? I realised I didn’t know what really was in the bread we consumed so much of every day? Sugar? Really?
I started to google. How hard could it be? I started with a couple of loaves using dried yeast. It didn’t feel right, I wanted total control. I didn’t want to use anything that wasn’t natural. Did you know that before the 70’s dried yeast didn’t exist?
I googled again. How to make your own starter. Flour, water and time. That’s it. 3 ingredients.
And so my love affair with total bread control began.
To make a loaf of bread the simple truth is you need 4 ingredients: Flour, water, salt and time.
Nothing else. NOTHING else.
So I began. The starter first. I used this method to get mine going:
I then started feeding it only with rye flour which worked really well - but can’t find it at the moment. Any flour will do but rye does give a nice flavour.
Then it was a journey of trial and error. So many loaves later, some good, some not so good. The family has decided this is the one they want me to keep making… So this is it… I bake this recipe about 3 times a week. It sounds like a lot of work - but it really isn’t. Most of the time the bread does its thing and I just guide it and reshape it.
I must stress that this is my own recipe that I made up. I don’t know how many official bread baking rules I am breaking, but it works for us and that’s all that matters.
Flour, water, salt and time. Why did we ever let business take this from us? Why did we let them add stuff that we didn’t need? Keep it simple and life definitely gets better. If Covid-19 has taught us anything maybe it’s just that. Keep it simple.
5 Omega Seed and Chia Sourdough
The night before
Put 3 Desert spoons of starter in a large bowl add
150g White Flour
Mix well and leave over night
Next day it should be nicely bubbly
1050g White Flour
3 large spoonfuls of seed mix
1 Large spoon of chia seeds
Disperse amongst the flour
Mix in, including the starter mix at the bottom of the bowl
It should make a dry stringy dough
Let it sit for 10 mins
20ml of water with 2 tsp salt dissolved in it
Start to knead.
Because my kitchen is tiny and I never managed to find clear bench space I have always kneaded the bread in the bowl. It works fine and creates less mess. Win
I only manage about a 5 minute knead before something else needs doing. So I then cover the bowl with a large plastic bag and let it sit for between 6-8 hours.
Usually just before I start cooking the evening meal I get the now, slightly risen dough out of its bowl, cut it in half and stretch and fold and shape into two small loaves and put them in proving baskets.
I then let those sit for a further 2-3 hours. Then when the kids are in bed and I’m watching Netflix I bake the loaves. I do them separately on a baking stone for 45mins each at 200 degrees. There is probably a way more efficient way of doing it but I only have one baking stone (which is actually an off-cut of a bathroom tile from when we had the bathroom done) and my oven is rubbish. But that is what works for me.
And on that note. I have to stress… when it comes to baking it is a totally personal thing. What I like and what works for me and my family might not work for you. Find your own way. Keep it simple. Let the bread adapt to your life, not the other way around.