Lots of people are beginning to ask me about bread. So I am going to tell you how I got over my fear of yeast and sourdough and hopefully it will be of some help.
The short version is that I know nothing but I know a few women who know a lot. So big thank you to Janya Clemens who not only gave me the leaven I now use but also put me onto my favourite baking book.
This article includes two recipes from two books written by serious people. The first is written by a chef who cannot bake that uses dried yeast. This is a great recipe for a beginner.
Every other book makes it sound complicated. But it’s not. It’s like the best games; a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.
The second recipe is how I got started on sourdough and remains the backbone of how I make my sourdough today.
Nigel Slater needs no introduction. He says he cannot bake. His book, “Appetite”, is a masterpiece of comfort food. His bread recipe a masterpiece of simplicity. Its basically, 1000gr flour, 700mls water, three teaspoons of salt and two teaspoons of dried yeast. See? Simple. Try it.
So that is a demystifier. Sourdough is mystifying so I needed a little more detail and baking nerd Dan Lepard came to help, via Janya, with his book “The Handmade Loaf”.
The crucial thing here is not to be scared. The serious bakers do talk in another language. The big difference with Dan Lepard is that he was a baker in a top restaurant France when he was always expected to do other work for the chef. (Oui chef. See Dan’s varied recipes here.) So he does micro-kneading. This means only 15 seconds of kneading repeatedly through the day. The specified times are best followed closely at the start but after a few loaves, you will realise how it can be very flexible. Also, note that he starts with 500gr of “white leaven”/sourdough starter here. That means that you need to grow a little more sourdough starter in the days before the day you plan to bake. I do it overnight the night before. He grows his sourdough starter in a white flour to get the “white leaven”, I have found that you can grow the leaven in most flours but mine seems happiest in the darkest whole rye flour I can get. The other BIG thing is your success with this will vary with the vibrancy of your sourdough. You will grow to learn how to tell when the yeast is very active in your jar. The dough is more likely to rise well when the leaven/sourdough starter is full of bubbles like this;
I don’t understand the “%”s that he uses I just go with the weights. I don’t “Upturn” my loaves. I have altered this recipe quite a lot already and almost always use heavy bread tins. If you cannot read the recipe get in touch and I will tell you more or, even better, find the book in a shop or the library.
Note that both of these recipes use 1000gr of flour but the Dan Lepard one has the extra mass of flour in the sourdough starter. Sourdough rises more slowly and less aggressively and thus I find that on a good day I get three large loaves in three “700gr” tins with both recipes.
Go check Dan’s website; https://www.danlepard.com
Or go see the recipes that he has already released in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/profile/danlepard