Sourdough made easy… (Part 2)

OK, in Part 1, I mixed, lightly kneaded 2 batches of dough for honey spelt and maltster breads. This happened between 9 and 10pm last night and it’s now just before 7am when its time to press on…

risenHere’s the tubs of dough. As you can see they’re well risen and ready to go.

scaledNothing really special here – I put the tub on the scales, zero the scales then tip out the dough. Put the empty tub back on the scales (which weight negative!) and divide the number by 4 to get the weight of each loaf… Divide the dough into those 4 lumps, then roughly shape into a boulle.

couche1I’ve re-shaped them and transferred them to the couche. My shaping is a 2-step process and one day I might even video it, but there’s a quick 2-turn roll, then a stretch and fold in thirds followed by another roll… It needs a video!

The couche is covered by the spare linen,  the oven it turned on to heat up to 250C, and it’s left to prove while I have breakfast, shower, etc.

couche2Almost there now. The spelts have risen and spread, the maltsters have also risen but not as much – it’s always a trade-off when doing anything else with spelt (unless I use 2 ovens) as its much quicker to prove. Fortunately they get a good bit of spring in the oven.

 Next up, it’s onto the transfer board, slashed and into the oven!

transferCouche to transfer board – this is a piece of 3mm plywood shaped to fit just inside the guide rails in my oven, so I can use it as a full-width peel to load bread into (and out of) the oven.

ovenThis is the oven (with one bulb broken!) Note three shelves, each is a 10mm thick steel plate that fits into the guide slots. Each one weighs nearly 17Kg. the oven is heated up to 250C. Once the door is closed, a little button on the front panel opens the water solenoid which jets a spray of water onto the back panel which fills the oven with hot steam.

Finally …

doneAnd there we are. Low-impact sourdough baking. Minimal kneading, let all the hard work happen overnight and it only takes up a few moments in the evening and morning and it fits in well with the rest of the days activity.

The last thing now is putting them in bags, sticking the label on and taking them up to the shop! This lot were in the shop by 9:30 and sold-out by lunchtime. Must make more!


Sourdough made easy… (Part 1)

Sourdough is the “King of Breads” (according to some), however it’s the daily bread here in the Moorbakes kitchen. I did a post last year about how I make it, however since then a few things have changed, so here’s an update with pictures and wordes.

Firstly what is sourdough bread? Simply put, its bread made without commercial yeasts. It relies on natural yeasts present on every grain of wheat (spelt, rye, etc.) which have been fed and watered and kept alive for use in bread. This goes by various names – The “mother”, or “starter”, “levain”, and so on. They’re all the same thing – active natural yeasts working alongside lactic acid bacteria to ferment the bread and give it a mild acidic tang.

Some people keep their starters at room temperature – this is fine, but at room temperatures, the yeasts and bacteria will be working very fast – so-much so, that the culture will need feeding daily, and that means feeding it, then throwing away the excess… This Scottish baker doesn’t like the sound of that, so I keep mine in the fridge. It still works, just slower.

So we start by taking the mother out of the fridge to use in our bread. I use the mother directly from the fridge unless I need more than is in the jar – then I take some from the jar, add in flour and water and leave that on the counter for a few hours to get going, then use that in the bread (and top-up the jar and put it back in the fridge again)

startersHere we are at the start. It’s about 9pm and I’m making 2 different types of bread for tomorrow. On the left here is the makings of my honey spelt and on the right is “Maltster”. This is a granary style bread. I keep separate spelt and wheat starters and the jars are in-front of the bowls. Because I have enough starter in the jars I’m going to use it directly from the jars which have just come out of the fridge. I’ve weighed out the flours (the maltster is Shipton Mills three malts and seeds (the light version) and the spelt is a 30/70 mix of wholegrain and white spelt. Salt is added too and its given a mix just to disperse the salt.

These loafs are using 30% (bakers percentage) of sourdough starter in the mix. Until very recently I was using 40% sourdough starter, but the new bakehouse is a few degrees warmer than the old kitchen so I thought I’d see what happened when I dropped it down to 30%. This is the first time I’ve tried the spelt loaves at 30%…

(Note – the Moorbakes bakehouse is in the process of being renovated and it’s almost done here – all that’s missing is the nice acrylic splashbacks that are currently on-order – hence the wooden batons and bare wall behind the bowls!)

startersAddedStarters added into the bowls. 330g starter in each one.

allAddedI’ve now added water and honey into the spelt mix and just water into the maltster.

The next step is to mix the dough in the bowls – nothing special here, use one hand as my mixer and the other to turn the bowl – when all the water is incorporated into the flour, tip it out onto the bench and (literally) push it about a bit to make sure its mixed. This isn’t kneading, just mixing.

mixedThis is the maltster mixed into a sticky/shaggy lump. You can just about see the spelt is the same to the right.

At this point, we do some magic. Well, no, not really… But after doing this for a few years and occasionally being distracted, as well as reading up on no-knead breads and so-on, what I do now is just cover them and leave them alone for half an hour. This may be autolyzing, but some will say that a “true” autolyze won’t have salt (or even yeast) in it. Whatever – all I know is that after half an hour’s wait, the dough will be very different and even the maltster which has a lot of wholemeal in it will pass a “window pane test”.

snoozingThe doughs relaxing after mixing. At this point, I set a timer and top-up the starters and put them back in the fridge. Sometimes I even clean the outside of the jars…

relaxedAfter half an hour.

stretchyQuite hard to try to demonstrate a window pane test with one hand… But compare that with the photo above – it’s smooth and stretchy and I’ve not kneaded it at all.

kneadedAt this point, I have kneaded the doughs. But lets not go overboard. I literally did 3-4 rock and roll kneads. It took me 30 seconds per lump of dough. You can do stretch and folds if you like, but standing over it, kneading and kneading and kneading is not what I’ve done here.

boxedInto the fermentation tubs for an overnight snooze. (I’d use the metal bowls, but I know that they’re not quit big enough for this quantity of dough).

I did check the temperature in-case anyone wants to know – it was 24C.

So that’s that. It’s taken 10 or so minutes of my time over the space of an hour. This is my “Low Impact” soudough baking. Not much kneading. Does it make a difference? I don’t think so at this stage. I do have a machine (or 2) that can knead dough and I do use them, but for smaller lots like this, it’s less washing up if I leave them on the bench…

bakehouseThis is the moorbakes “bakehouse”. Well, the workbench. The ovens are behind me… The splashback will be fitted soon!

so off to bed now and up at about 6:45am tomorrow morning, ready for part 2 when we get them ready for the oven and Bake!

Making a Sourdough loaf

It takes the best part of a day to make the Moorbakes sourdough bread, so I thought I’d put together a page on how it’s is made….

Step 1: Lunchtime the day before

So I start at about lunchtime and need to work out what I’m going to be baking for tomorrow… Sourdough isn’t something you can make at a moments notice – this is a 20 hour process! So for tomorrow I’ll be making 3 small Maltsters and 3 small Devon Rustics. Fortunately these both use the same starter (white wheat) so I only need to make up one lot of levain.

First job is to make up the levain, or starter. For the above 6 loaves, I need just under 650g of levain – I only keep about 500g of the mother in the fridge, so I use the mother to make the levain for the bread. I take the mother out of the fridge, measure out enough to make up the levain add in flour and water, mix, cover and leave in a warm place for the next 8 or 9 hours. (Not forgetting to top up the mother and put it back in the fridge!)

levain-1This is our starter mixed with flour and water. It’s not looking that exciting yet…

If I was only making 2 large or 3 small loaves, I could skip this step and take 320g of the mother and use it directly, however it’s impractical to keep much more than that mother in the fridge, so this two-stage process works well and it very easy to scale up if I were making 2 or 4 times the amount of bread I’m making here.

That only took a few minutes, but it’s the start of the (almost) day-long process.

Step 2 – Mix and Knead the Dough

… Some time later – at about 9:30pm to be precise, and this is what the levain looks like now:levain-2

…it’s now a light and airy mix, full of bubbles with a nice tangy smell and taste to it. It smells and tastes like it should  (I always taste a tiny bit just in-case!)

This is split between 2 bowls – one has the white + wholemeal mix for my Devon Rustic loaves and one has the Shipton Mill 3-Malts and sunflower seeds mix for the Maltsters.


Add water, salt, a bit of kneading and there we are:


After kneading, a little bit of vegetable oil is rubbed round the bowls and the dough is transferred back into them and covered and left to rise overnight. They’re going to get about 9 hours rising time!

Step 3 – Scale, shape and rest/prove

Now it’s about 7am which isn’t too bad a time to get up. Quite reasonable for some! The dough has risen slowly and gently overnight and now we have 2 full bowls of nice soft and sweet smelling dough:

drustic2Devon Rustic dough, after an overnight rise

maltster2Maltster dough, after an overnight rise

Nothing special here for people who already make bread – tip the dough out, divide it up using the scales to make sure each piece is the right weight, then pre-shape in preparation for the final shaping on the baking trays:


proving…final shape and proving on trays

Step 4 – Decorate/slash and bake

When they’re ready – usually after 45 minutes to an hour, it’s time to get them ready for the oven.

provedThe maltsters get a dusting of flour and 3 cuts, the Devon Rustics get sesame seeds and 3 cuts too.

ovenIn the oven

The loaves get a roasting at about 240°C for 11 minutes with a good slug on water in a tray at the bottom to create some steam, then the oven is turned down to about 210°C for a further 21 minutes before they’re checked for readiness and removed to cool.

coolingCooling on a rack

drustic3Devon Rustic


After that, they’re bagged and labelled and take up to the shop where they’re sold and hopefully enjoyed by happy customers!