White Sourdough Bread

Followers of this blog will maybe know of my embarrassment at being 'famous' for a recipe that is a clone (albeit superb) of a supermarket soft-bap. They'll also know that I've had difficulty in coming up with a sourdough recipe that fits in with my life style.

I've always felt that I'd make better sourdough bread if I had the 'proper kit' for proving it: a couche (proving cloth) or some bannetons (linen lined wicker baskets), preferably the latter. Now the problem with this is that bannetons ain't not cheap! Nice cane or wicker ones are anything between £12 and £45. Then low and behold, I don't often get lucky, but I was in a local trade wholesalers just before Christmas and they'd got 4 lined wicker display baskets for about a fiver! Just the job - identical in all but name. Having acquired the kit, and then making a sourdough starter for a mate, when I watched last week's "Fabulous Baker Boys" TV show and they made a sourdough loaf, I thought I'd better bite the bullet and have another go, it all seemed like an omen!

Sourdough bread

I decided to use the recipe featured on the TV programme (Fabulous Baker Boys,Channel 4, episode 4) but had major problems with the dough; theirs was a very wet dough, mine made to the same recipe was so dry that it wouldn't come together. I ended up adding an extra 75ml of water and it was still on the dry side as sourdoughs go. I've asked a fellow blogger more used to these types of bread to have a look at it, but I'm naturally loathe to say that the recipe's wrong given that 'Fabulous Baker Boy' Tom Herbert has won 'Baker Of the Year' and his sourdough has won 'Organic Loaf of the Year' 9 times in the last 10 years! You'll have to try it and see what you think! I'll give my adaption of the recipe with a note of the changes.

White Sourdough Bread

300ml Sourdough starter
500gm Strong bread flour
275ml Water (200ml in original)
10gm Salt (a pinch in original)

A note about the salt: Tom's 'pinch' of salt on the TV show was about the same as the 10gm that I've used. I based mine on the normal ratios of salt used in this type of bread.

I added all the other ingredients to the flour and then mixed it well in the Kenwood Chef and subsequently by hand. I left it to rise for a couple of hours and then shaped it, floured it all over, and put it into a basket lined with a flour covered linen. The baker brothers then leave this to rise for 8 - 12 hours. I put mine into the fridge for about 16 hours and then gave it a couple or three hours to come back to temperature the next day. The loaf was then tipped gently onto a baking stone pre-heated in an oven at 240°C, the top was slashed, and it was baked for about 30 minutes, then cooled.

It has the classic thick crisp sourdough crust that demands better teeth than mine and an open textured crumb. It has a well developed taste without being at all sour. All in all quite a pleasing result.

...and how did I know it would all work out so well? I didn't, that's why I baked one of my 'everyday' loaves, just to be on the safe side!

Sourdough bread

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Back Again!

Once more a great big gap appears in the blog with no posts. Regrettably, I've been laid up in bed with the start of a pressure sore. This means that my internet access has been via my daughter's lap-top computer: a machine that I don't think I'll ever get used to!

Needless to say, I've done no cooking, curing or sausage-making, so I've nothing really to write about. However, one thing I am happy to have been able to do, is help one of the old gits sorry... ...the gentlemen revellers at the Elephant and Castle, with his sourdough starter... ... or lack of it. I'll explain, you see Keith (a.k.a. Victor Meldrew) had a sourdough starter which he'd been taking good care of and which he'd used to make his daily bread...

...now Keith is what they call around here "an eligible batchelor" - that is: he's breathing and got four limbs and most of his faculties! As such he's in constant demand with the local ladies, who having worn out a few husbands already, can't be too choosy. That said, he can occasionally be seen 'walking out' with a very nice lady - you know, a proper lady - she's far too good for the likes of 'im! Anyhow, it seems that said lady got to cleaning Keith's kitchen, and assuming that it was "sommat pass'd it's sell-by date", chucks his sourdough down the Khasi! Or something similar anyway! Laugh? I nearly bought a round!

Now Keith's not daft - I know, he does a good impression of it, but he's not. No! honest, he's not! So he makes up another starter, feeds it etc and, well to cut a long story short, every-one he makes dies. Now, my sourdough starters usually work OK. They daren't do any other with Mrs Phil on the case! So, kind old soul that I am, I made one for Keith. I called mine Selwyn, just because of the alliteration - Selwyn Sourdough - get it? Keith says that sourdoughs given as gifts should be named alphabetically, or is that hurricanes? I forget. Anyway, his is called Brenda. as in Brenda Barm! (pot or cake?)

Blow me, less than a week in and he reckons Brenda's flagging. Super-sleuth Phil to the rescue! It turns out that Keith's tap water stinks of chlorine! No wonder he was having problems. Anyway, Brenda's now drinking bottled water and is up and running on all four cylinders. She's making some great bread as this photo of Keith's shows:

Keiths sourdough
Photo: Keith Smith. Copyright © 2012 Keith Smith

Nice one Keith!

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My Lovely Daughters

Both my girls are great, I couldn't ask for better. Emma still lives at home: Hannah in a nearby village.

I didn't realise at the time, but one of the hidden bonuses of her moving out is that when she visits for a meal she behaves like a 'proper guest' and brings her half-starved 18 stone dad a pressy!

On Saturday it was these:

Macarons in a tin

Given that she'd never made them before, and is new to baking, she's done a great job.


I believe that she used this recipe from Delicious Magazine.

Now, I've just got to train her to brew beer!

Plum Tart

Picture of a slice of Plum Tart

brought me a bag of plums along with the peaches that I posted about previously. What to do with them? Well, sometimes you just feel like doing something different; I recalled seeing a recipe for Tarte a'la Alsacienne, basically plums in custard in a tart, in Larousse Gastronomique and thought that I'd give it a go. A quick Google offered a few alternative recipes and this is my take on it from a mixture of those - mainly this one:


8oz Plain Flour
2oz Lard
3oz Butter
1oz Sugar
1 Egg
A pinch of salt

Rub the fats into the flour, add the salt and sugar and mix. Add the egg and form into a dough. Leave it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or so and then roll it out and line a greased 8 inch flan tin with it. It's a pig to roll out and you may end up having to 'patch' the pastry in the tin. Leave in the fridge for 20 mins to rest and then line it with baking parchment and 'baking beans' and cook it 'blind' for about 15 minutes at 180°C - turn the oven down to 150 - 160°C. Remove the beans and parchment and cook it for a further 5 minutes, or until cooked but not too brown.
In the meantime make the...

7 - 10 plums (depending on size)
2 Tbsp Raspberry Jam (seedless) or other jam of choice
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp Sugar
6 fl oz Double Cream

Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Brush the base of the pastry case with the jam and arrange the plums in it, cut side down. Whisk the eggs and sugar together then add the cream and mix well.
Pour this mixture over the plums and bake at 150 - 160°C for about 45 minutes until the custard is set.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.

I think I went a little overboard with the plums - it tastes superb, but would look nicer with the plums spaced further apart so that the custard surrounds them.

Picture of a slice of Plum Tart

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Cheese and Onion Pie

I was going to save this post until later, but Robert posted the following comment on my Bacon and Egg Quiche thread:

And ear's me wiv nothing better to do and thinking about doing cheese and onion pie for the punters. This has been at the back of my mind for some time, just wondering how these Vancouverites will take to this 'posh comfort' food.

By the way; it smell good from here.

Cheese and onion pie

I think that he must be telepathic because that was one of the pastry items I made at the weekend.

It's simplicity itself and tastes great even if it doesn't look that good.

It's just a couple of chopped onions cooked in some salted boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes, then drained and mixed with about 8oz (225g) of grated strong cheese; I used a cheddar for this but a good Leicester Cheese is nice. Make pastry with the recipe here using 8oz flour, 4oz fat and ½ level teasp salt but don't bake it 'blind'. Line a greased flan tin with the pastry, prick the bottom a few times with a fork and fill it with the mixture. Wet the edges of the pastry with water. Roll out a pastry lid, put it on to of the pie and press it around the edges to seal it to the bottom. Brush milk or egg wash over it to glaze it, make a slit in the top to allow steam to escape, and cook it for about 35 minutes at 180°C (approx 350°F) until nicely brown.

I like it cold with a salad and it's great for buffets and picnics.

On the subject of baking tins, there's no better for the home cook than those made by Silverwood.

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