I’ve been practicing the ancient art of sourdough bread making, inspired by a day spent with the Hornbeam Bakers. I love bread making especially the kneading and playing with new flavours and techniques, but I was left confused by the mathematical science required for sourdough. It was like being back at school – at the back of the class, copying someone else’s answers. There’s no wonder that commercial quick active yeast is such an easy attractive solution.
But this just made me more determined to crack this mystical conundrum – how to take just flour and water and capture the wild yeast that’s in the air all around us, and somehow turn this into a wonderful loaf.
Sourdough bread making is a real slow food mission – there’s hours of ‘do a bit, wait a while, do a bit more and wait some more’. But this long time rising and fermenting breaks down the gluten and enzymes making better tasting bread, with a longer shelf-life and better digestibility.
I left the hornbeam bread making day with a jar of sourdough starter which I’ve been using and feeding ever since. You can beg, borrow or buy a starter off the internet or patiently develop your own following instructions on the web. This is a labour of love and determination.
So for this multi-seed sourdough bread, you need:
180g Sourdough starter
200g Mixed seeds (sesame, flax, poppy, pumpkin, sunflower etc)
340g Warm water
450g Flour (multi-grain or wholemeal)
10g Ground sea salt
Soak the seeds in 200g of warm water for 10 minutes. In a large bowl mix the starter with the remaining 140g of warm water, then add the seeds and water they’ve been soaking in.
Next stir in the flour and salt. At this point it will be a very sticky mixture. Leave it to rest and absorb the flour for about 10-20 minutes. With all the stages of this bread making it’s about fitting it around your day rather than the other way around, the timings are a guide and the slower the process the better the bread.
After it’s rested, knead the dough in the bowl for just 2 minutes, then leave it (and you) to rest for 10-30 minutes. Repeat this 3 times. Then cover and leave to rise somewhere warm for 1 hour. You can cover the bowl with a damp tea towel, plastic bag, cling film or even a disposable shower cap, but I have found a plastic dough bowl with a lid which I bought from the Turkish shop near Bakers Arms, E17 for about £4 works really well.
An hour later, it won’t have risen very much so don’t be disappointed. Knock back the dough, then gently shape it, dust in cornflour and tip into a proving basket (again a large £1 plastic colander works great), cover and leave to rise for 4 hours. I left my latest loaf overnight and it seems to have been fine.
Finally it’s time to bake – gently turn the dough onto a preheated baking tray, slash the top to let the steam escape, and slide quickly into a hot oven.
Bake at 200C for 15 minutes, then turn and bake for another 15 minutes. To check it’s cooked turn the loaf over and knock on the base to check for a hollow sound, leave it to cool before slicing. It makes great toast and lasts about a week – but we’ll scoff it all before then – delicious!