Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

Sour Dough Bread.

Flour and water and not much else. Fascinating, almost unbelievable, delicious but very cantankerous for some of us. 

For the initiated, sour dough bread is made without commercial yeasts instead the baker captures and cultivates the natural yeast occurring in the air and flour. This process is called a  starter and starters can be kept, maintained and used for many years. Starters can be shared with family and friends. Doesn't it sound wonderful! Well, let me tell you, creating a starter in the first place can be ridiculously hard and frustrating. Nothing like pulling a packet of dried yeast out of the cupboard when you decided to bake some bread. Nup! A starter is nurtured and babied for at least four days before you even think of baking the bread. Then the production leaven is prepared and rested for 4 hours, then the dough is prepare and rested for another hour and, no, you're not ready to bake yet - knead again and rise for 3 to 5 hours. This is a bread not to be taken lightly. But when is works the satisfaction and delight is immeasurable!

Let me introduce you to "Myrtle the third". Myrtles 1 and 2 unfortunately both saw an untimely death! "Myrtle the first" lived in my laundry which was nice and warm. What I didn't realise that it was so warm Myrtle needed to eat more often. When she didn't she started to die letting me know by smelling out the whole house with a stink more akin to rotting garbage. Eeeak! The family became suspicious of the Daring Bakers Challenge! "Myrtle the second" just never got off the ground. I kept her in the airconditioning - maybe she didn't like that maybe she was contaminated from the outset. "Myrtle the third" bubbled and frothed from the second day. She needed to be fed a little more often in our warm tropical climate but she thrived and proved to be very useful!

This is my first sour dough attempt with no commercial yeast whatsoever. Previously I attempted sourdough with a recipe from the cookbook My Calabria by Rosetta Constantino. We were supplied with several recipes but I chose the  French Country bread.  I was thrilled with how this finally turned out. Thanks Jessica!

More sour dough recipes and tips provided by Jessica can be found here.

The dough set in a basket lined with rye floured cloth.

I'm impressed with how much it rose!

The dough is carefully turned out onto a baking sheet for baking.

A crusty, well risen loaf! Yum!

Once we had baked our sourdough bread our next task was to showcase the bread. I chose to make Anchovy Bread. First it was cut in half horizontally and it was at this point that I marvelled at the fine crumb and even texture. I wonder if this is a result of the the "air kneading".  The linked videos Jessica provided proved invaluable. 

Strips of anchovy, ground dried chilli, finely chopped garlic and a sprinkle of oregano were finished off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little oil from the anchovies. Replace the lid and heat through in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

The flavours meld and intensify. Mmmmmm!

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
(Note:- where ever you read stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat flour I used regular whole-wheat flour and where ever you read unbleached all-purpose flour I used white breadmaking flour
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water

Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here:
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here:
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. I used a bit of flour on my surface to knead, though not a lot. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here:
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.
7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.
8. Cool on a cooling rack.


  1. Your bread seems to be higher/more risen than other loaves I've seen so far - I wonder if it was because of the breadmaking flour, rather than all purpose? Great job - I'm so glad it worked out in the end!

  2. Korena, thanks for your comment. Yes, maybe the breadmaking flour helped. I used that because I couldn't find any whole- wheat breadmaking flour.

  3. oh well done Marcellina! Congratulations on getting Myrtle the third to work for you :) I can't wait to try and make another loaf when i get back from holidays. Hopefully it will look as good as yours.

  4. The bread is breathtaking. Kudos for three tries (and 3rd time's the charm). 86 degrees F won't happen anywhere here until July!

  5. Hurray for Myrtle III! Myrtle's a great name.

    Ooh yes, your bread pre and post-baking is such a beautiful, rounded shape. Mine sank and spread quite a lot when I put it on the tray. Maybe I'll try strong flour next time. Oh, and the Anchovy Bread sounds soooo good. YUM!

  6. Marcellina, I'm thrilled that it worked out after the first attempts! I know how hard you worked on this one - congrats! xx.

  7. Your soursough is gorgeous! And nice to meet Myrtle the third! I really wanted to do this challenge but alas time ran out for me!

  8. Wow, your bread looks terrific! I enjoyed this - who knew that you could make bread with just flour and water?

  9. Gorgous French Country Sourdough Bread! Your boule is beautiful, the cuts perfect! The filling in the finished loaf sounds and looks amazing!

    I love that you named all of your SD starters, Myrtle...and this Myrtle is a 'third'! My Herbie is a 'second', maybe we should fix them up ;) lol Happy New Year!

  10. Wow, your loaf looks really great. so tall - I'm about to try this recipe out and I'm afraid I'll end up with a disc of bread three miles wide!

  11. Happy New Year, Marcellina! Best wishes for you in 2012 and many years to come!

    Perfect sourdough bread, I just have to try this :-)

  12. Wow, your bread looks amazing. I've seen a few of these sourdough loaves on the 'net, and yours looks more round...I think you got a better rise on your dough. Delicious!

  13. What a lovely loaf, Marcellina! I can see you got the perfect shape, it puffed up, it didn't spread! You were courageous to try the starter 3 times! Sorry for taking so long to come visit, the past 2 weeks were oh so busy, I didn't have the time to visit my favorite blogs.
    I hope you had a great time with your loved ones at the holidays and I wish you a wonderful New Year!
    Hugs & Kisses

  14. Complimenti, per il tuo pane con lievito madre, prima o poi mi cimenterò anch'io nella preparazione di questo lievito, un abbraccio e tanti cari auguri di un anno pieno di soddisfazioni e tanta serenità, a Presto!!!:-)

  15. Ciao, Marcellina! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your bread looks amazing! One of the things I miss most about Italy is the bread - I have rarely found anything like it in the States.

    We would love to have you join "Baked Sunday Mornings" - it looks like you're quite the baker! A presto.


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