Our weekly bread | Truly easy seeded sourdough loaf

I’ve been avoiding and postponing writing about sourdough for a long time, because it seemed so tricky and mined by details and intricacies and the space already inhabited by so many others. But I have shared this recipe privately so many times now that it makes sense to write it down here, once and for all, for those friends — and any others who might be interested — to have.

The first time I created a sourdough mother (starter) was in May 2014. It was easy and worked immediately but my dedication to bread making was patchy at best, in the end I spent more time making pancakes to use up the starter discard than actually baking loaves. After some months the experiment was waylaid.

In early March of last year, in a scramble to devise self-sustaining food sources in light of the impending lockdowns, again I created a starter (closely followed by salt beef, duck confit, pickles, etc etc). Of course, the irony became that everyone had the same idea at the same time and, while freshly baked bread remained readily available throughout, getting flour in London required constant adaptive creativity including ordering directly from mills, which — even they — soon rationed availability to one kilo of flour per order.

In any case, I created a mother, again, and started baking, this time at an all-consuming rhythm. Within weeks I experimented with different methods of sourdough breads (knead and no-knead), made bagels and baguettes, pizzas and enriched doughs. It was great fun and a steep learning curve. I traveled with the mother, continued baking in Brittany with different flours, different ovens, a not-so-different climate…

When we came home, life returned (briefly) to its more normal, hectic rhythm — bread making needed to be slotted in. And I had a number of stray bags of flour to use up (in particular einkorn, which is a low gluten flour that requires some creativity in bread baking). So I started experimenting with tin loaves, using a basic recipe from the E5 Bakehouse‘s Breadmaking Manual (they have since published a book).

In the Manual, the Seeded Rye is the first recipe, the easiest introduction to baking with sourdough. Taking it as a baseline, I used different flours, different seeds and nuts, adapting the water quantity slightly. It became not only the easiest bread to make, but also the most popular in the house. When, occasionally, I summoned up the effort to make a boule, folded meticulously over many hours, it ended up neglected, languishing in the bread box. Because the other top quality of the seeded loaf, in addition to its simplicity, is that it stays moist and delicious for at least 5 days, and probably up to week.

I usually make two loaves weekly, hand in hand with the rhythm of the starter, about which I will write in more detail soon (including how to revive one neglected in the fridge for a month!). The method today presumes the use of an active, recently ‘fed’ sourdough mother, often called ‘levain.’

Truly easy seeded sourdough loaf

Makes one 25cm x 12.5cm (10in x 5in) loaf

200g ‘levain’ or active, fed sourdough mother/starter
400g warm water (warm, not hot, to the touch, about body temperature)
100g dark rye flour
100g white rye flour
270g white spelt flour
160g of a mix of seeds and nuts: pumpkin, sunflower, flax, sesame seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, …
12g salt
Olive oil for the tin

In a medium to large bowl, mix together the starter with the warm water.

Add all the other ingredients (the flours, seeds and nuts, and the salt) and mix well to obtain a homogenous, wet dough, with no more traces of flour. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up slightly.

Meanwhile, oil the bread tin with a little olive oil (if using a cake tin that is not non-stick, line it with parchment paper and oil the parchment).

To transfer the dough into the tin: scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl, wet your hands with lukewarm water and, with wet hands, roughly shape/spin the dough into a long-ish oval (somewhat resembling a giant slug), and place it into the tin. Leave at room temperature, covered with a tea towel, for one hour.

Sprinkle the loaf with seeds, and slide the tin, ideally, in a ziplock bag large enough so it can close with the tin inside (otherwise cover with clingfilm or a barely damp tea towel) and place in the fridge overnight (anywhere from about 8 to 15 hours, as convenient).

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 230C (450F) and place a small dish with 2cm water on the lower shelf rack (the steam helps improves the consistency of the crust).

When the oven has reached its temperature, take the bread tin out of the refrigerator, score the top with a sharp knife, and place it in the oven. Bake at this high temperature for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, remove the tray with water, lower the temperature to 200C (400F), and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Once out of the oven, remove the bread from the tin immediately. The bread should sound hollow when tapped. If it doesn’t seem completely ready, return to oven (out of the tin) for a little while longer.

Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack. If possible, wait for a few hours before cutting!

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Our weekly bread | Truly easy seeded sourdough loaf”

  1. Best scones, made with sourdough discard | Nettle and Quince Says:

    […] am beginning to suspect that these scones are justification alone for nurturing a sourdough mother in the first place. They are so good, quite a notch above any other scones I have ever made or […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: