Signor Pot on Sourdough

Signor Pot is taking over the blog today to talk all things Sourdough so without further ado, here he is…
 
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Starting with starter
 
A starter is the magic ingredient that makes sourdough bread rise. It is the starter of the leavening process. It contains a colony of microorganisms which assist in leavening and developing flavour in your sourdough bread.
 
A little while ago our friend Flore generously gifted me a jar of 1 year old sourdough starter. Admittedly not knowing a hell of a lot about sourdough and fearing taking on the parental responsibility of keeping the thing alive, I graciously accepted and so began a sourdough adventure of my own.
 
My first few attempts at making bread included many trials and tribulations, such as forgetting to add salt (resulting in beautifully bland bread), staying up into the wee hours due to poor bakers time management (more than once), burning a fair few in the final minutes of baking, and countless crunchy tops and doughy bases.
 
The above examples and the resulting emotional outbursts that closely followed, highlight how embarking on a sourdough adventure can result in a blurred line between normality and lunacy. Being mildly depressed for a day because a bread didn’t achieve a crunchy crust is in all likelihood a pretty sound warning that things have gone a bit far. In saying that, if you are a perfectionist, this might very well be the thing that is missing in your life and/or the thing that pushes you over the edge until you wake up one morning in an asylum with nightmarish visions of burnt crust and unfloured bannetons.
 
Luckily for you, I have included some handy tips throughout this recipe to assist in mitigating the frustration and maximising the enjoyment of the almighty sourdough.
 
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A very cheffy loaf
 
The genesis of this recipe started by walking through the local Kirribilli community garden. I stumbled upon a slightly lemony and completely unfamiliar herb known as Lemon Scented Geranium. After trying a tea made from the leaf, I knew it would be great to add to a bread since the flavour was really special.
 
The second half of the combination came from reading the book Sourdough by Sarah Owens. Sarah uses wild rice in one of her bread recipes.
 
The nuttyness and wholesomeness of the wild rice coupled with the citrus zing of the Geranium results in a really delicious and unique flavour combination.
 
Wild Rice and Lemon Scented Geranium Sourdough
Makes 2 loaves
 
Ingredients
 
• 270g 100% hydration starter
• 640g warm water
• 850g bread flour plus extra for dusting benchtop
• 200g stone ground wholewheat flour
• 50g cooked wild rice
• 7g lemon scented Geranium, finely chopped (and one whole leaf for the top)
• 22g salt
• Coarse semolina
 
Olive and rosemary works really well as a flavour variation if you want to make two different loaves. To achieve this just replace the wild rice and lemon scented geranium in the second loaf with:
• 85g pitted kalamata olives, halved
• 10g finely chopped rosemary
 
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Utensils and equipment
 
• A heavy based casserole / Dutch oven
• A wide based bowl for mixing your dough and proofing
• A dough scraper
• Scale
• Measuring jug
• A baker’s blade or sharp knife
• Gloves
• Baking paper
• 2 plastic shower caps for covering your bannetons
• 2 bannetons
• Resting tray
• Brush
• Tea towel
 
18 to 36 hours before you are even thinking about eating sourdough you need to start the process.
 
The first step is to make sure the starter looks healthy. Ideally, the starter should be fed a few hours before starting to make the dough. For this recipe use a 100% hydration starter. This is the amount of water relative to the total flour weight. For example, if the starter weighs 100g prior to feeding, add 100g flour and 100g water. After mixing the above, the total weight will be 300g. Mix to combine and place the starter bowl in a warm spot and wait 1-2 hours until bubbly. To test if the starter is ready, drop some starter in a glass of cold water. If it floats it is ready. If it sinks it needs more time.
 
I have always found visual references to be most effective when learning new hands-on skills. The following video by Danny McCubbin is used as a visual reference throughout this recipe.
 

 
Dough preparation:
 
Transfer 270g starter to a wide based bowl. Add the water and mix through with one hand until the starter has dissolved.
Add the bread and wholewheat flour and mix through, making use of your dough scraper to get the bits off the side (see video – 2:05 minutes in).
Once combined and dough has been folded, cover with a tea-towel and place in a warm spot for 1 hour.
While the dough is in the bowl, add salt to dough mixture (scatter around) and press gently into the dough, add 1 tsp water to help it dissolve.
Remove dough from bowl using dough scraper.
Flip and fold your dough using the technique demonstrated in the video (see video – 3:25 minutes in) adding the lemon-scented Geranium and cooked wild rice to the dough while folding.
 
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Place dough back in bowl, cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Remove dough from bowl and do a letter fold (see video- 4:20 minutes in).
 
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Place dough back in bowl and cover with a tea towel for 30 mins.
Scatter flour on bench top, remove dough from bowl and place on top of the flour. Using a dough scraper, split dough in two (see video – 5:20 minutes in).
 
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Handling one portion of dough at a time, use the back of your hand to roughly flatten (approx. 6 taps).
Roll dough into tight balls (see video – 5:45 minutes in).
 
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Press a small whole herb in the middle of the dough.
Transfer dough to well floured bannetons to avoid sticking (herb side down).
 
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Place a plastic cover or disposable shower cap over the top and place in the fridge for a minimum 14 hours, max 36.
 
Baking – Using a casserole /Dutch oven
 
Remove dough from fridge 1 hour before baking.
Place casserole in the oven and preheat to 250°C.
While waiting, prepare your cartouche to line the casserole
Sprinkle coarse semolina on top of cartouche.
Place inverted banneton on cartouche and tap top until dough falls out in the middle.
Using a baker’s blade or sharp knife score the top of the bread.
 
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Using oven gloves, remove casserole from oven, place the cartouche with dough into the dish. Cover the casserole with lid and place in oven for 24 minutes.
Remove lid and allow to bake for further 20 minutes until dark and crusty.
Remove casserole from oven and allow the sourdough to cool for 30 minutes before taking the bread out of the dish (This is to achieve a crusty base).
Place the bread on a cooling rack for a further 30 minutes.
Butter your bread and you won’t be regretting your efforts.
Not much can beat fresh bread hot from the oven.
 
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Tips & references:
 
Sourdough by Sarah Owens
Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish
 
Suppliers:
 
Wallaby flour – I use this brand of bread flour to feed my starter, on Flore’s advice. It’s affordable, accessible and delivers a really nice result.
Whispering Pines Organics – In a search for organic wholegrain and wholemeal flour as well as a quality unbleached white flour, I turned to these guys. A little more expensive but as fresh as can be.
 
xxSignorPot

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