Wholemeal spelt sourdough bread with oxtail stew.
I have never baked my own bread. This is despite having had a go at cooking many different things over the years and so recently I decided to rectify this omission. Given that I have an interest in fermenting foods and historic cooking techniques the obvious choice was to attempt some sourdough bread with a fermentation of wild yeasts and bacteria.
This required both a starter and a method, as I had little knowledge on this subject. After searching around for recipes and becoming rather confused by the apparently many and various complicated methods for producing sourdough I stumbled upon an excellent article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian newspaper. As usual Hugh manages to simplify the sometimes complicated subject of preparing real food and make it readily understandable.
The first step was to make an active starter culture. I used Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour from Doves Farm to make the starter mixing together 100 grams of water and 100 grams of the flour in an open topped jar. The next day the same amount of flour and water were mixed in. Then each subsequent day the starter was halved and a fresh 100 grams of water and 100 grams of rye flour mixed in. The starter took a little while to get going but after a couple of weeks the culture was fermenting well and occasionally attempting to escape its jar.
Once my starter was ready it was time to move onto the bread baking. My sourdough making is complicated by the rather cool temperatures of my old granite Scottish home. With room temperatures rather lower than is normal my bread would require longer fermentation times than many recipes suggest.
Given my interest in the history of food and cooking I have so far chosen to try out a range of old varieties of wheat that I could get my hands on.
Active wholemeal rye flour sourdough starter.
For the sponge
- 150ml active rye flour starter
- 250g wholemeal spelt flour
For the loaf
- 300g wholemeal spelt flour
- 15 olive oil
- 10g fine sea salt
- To cope with the cool temperatures, and the limitations of my being at work all day, I mixed the sponge in the evening after getting home from work.
- The sponge was fermented overnight for 12 hours, by which time it had risen well and was frothy with bubbles.
- In the morning I added in the salt, olive oil, and flour and mixed it into a dough. This was kneaded for 10 minutes and then placed in a greased bowl and covered in clingfilm.
- After about 10 hours proving, when home from work, I punched down the dough and placed in a bowl lined with a well floured tea towel.
- After about three hours proving again I heated the oven to 200C, sadly about he maximum my oven seems to reached judging my my oven thermometer, placing my cast iron bakestone in the oven preheat with a backing tray on the oven shelf below it.
- The dough was turned out onto the hot bakestone and boiling water poured into the backing tray. The bread was baked for 40 minutes, topping up the boiling water at 15 minutes to maintain the humid atmosphere.
This first loaf worked out really well and the spelt flour produced an earthy rich flavour when combined with the sourdough fermentation.
Sourdough number two – Spelt flour.
This second loaf was also made with Doves Farm Organic Wholemeal Spelt Flour. Again the method worked well with spelt and scoring the dough when placing it in the oven helped the bread rise a little more than before.
Sourdough number three – Einkorn flour.
Einkorn flour is the ancestor of all modern wheat, grown for many thousands of years since the beginnings of agriculture. The flour for this bread is Doves Farm Organic Einkorn Wholemeal Flour purchased from Real Foods in Edinburgh. Due to this it has a lower level of gluten than modern bread wheats, and the different structure of the gluten means it will never rise like a modern bread loaf. However, this current method I’m using produced a good loaf, equal in structure and shape to the spelt flour loaves. The flavour of einkorn in this bread is very distinctive, imparting a mild, almost nutty taste to the bread. This einkorn flour is also produced quite a pale light coloured loaf despite being wholemeal and the bran it contains much be light in colour.
Sourdough number four – Khorasan (Kamut) flour.
For this loaf I used another ancient flour known as Khorasan, or Kamut, flour named after in the Khorasan region of Iran. This Doves Farm Organic Khorasan Wholemeal Flour was again found at Real Foods store in Edinburgh. Using the same method this flour produced a great tasting loaf, pale in colour and with a rich flavour all of its own.
Sourdough number five – white spelt flour.
A new recent find in Aberdeen was some Doves Farm White Spelt Flour at the Grampian Health Food Store. This white flour had a lighter flavour due to the reduced bran, with a slightly more open texture to the bread.
This foray into bread baking has definitely stimulated my interest in the process of baking bread and sourdough fermentation. This method from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has so far worked really well around the times I have available during the week and the cool temperatures in my home that require long proving times.