N1 Sourdough

Oh my goodness.  Sourdough.  It’s a bit like one of those dreams you have, where you are suddenly back at school taking an exam paper about pythagorus theory.  There is too much maths going on for my liking.  Anyhow, I had a go at making a beer sourdough with Hammerton’s N1.  For the most part I think it was successful, but it did involve quite a lot of fretting, getting cross with my boyfriend watching me trying to knead it, and endless crouching down to look in the oven while it was cooking.

There are a GAZILLION blog posts about how to make sourdough out there.  I’m only writing this so I can come back to it if I need to.  However, if you want to give this 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th version of how to make sourdough bread a go, be my guest!

Behold the mighty sourdough I made!
Behold the mighty sourdough I made!

My main source for recipe action was this post about beer rye sourdough by The Bojon Gourmet – I adapted it to the vagaries of my nutty oven, my Britishness about grams rather than ounces, and just generally my BRAND NEWNESS at making sourdough.  This is not as easy as everyone seems to make it online.  I was VERY glad that I had earmarked a whole Bank Holiday Monday to try this, as there was no way I was going anywhere outside my front door once I had started it.  The process began at 8.15 am and the second loaf of 2 was out of the oven at 9.45pm so that’s almost 13 and a half hours.  But I did make two different beer mustards during that time, so it’s not as bad as it sounds…

Baron H Mustard fermenting...
Baron H Mustard fermenting…

All I will say is this.  I WILL CONQUER SOURDOUGH.  I think the basic fact is, you have to keep trying different techniques, different cooking times, different cooking methods etc. until you find the perfect combination.  Here’s what I did this time.  I will probably have another go at this, and tweak it…

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“Hobbsie” – my sourdough starter from Hobbs House Bakery

I refreshed my starter (with 75g flour and 75g water) a few days before I was planning to make this bread.  It just bubbled away happily in the fridge until I was ready.

Here are my metric measurements for The Bojon Gourmet’s recipe….

226g sourdough starter

1 bottle Hammerton’s N1 Pale Ale plus 10ml water to make up to 340ml

1 tablespoon honey

141g rye flour

340g strong white bread flour

2 and half teaspoons sea salt

I might have a go in the future at making the grams less daft in their “141g” specific-ness.  But for now, sourdough is one of those things where measurements are important, so I’ll leave the literal translations as they are.

I combined the ingredients in the bowl of my stand mixer in the order listed.  I attached the dough hook and set it off on the first speed until all the flour was incorporated.  I covered the bowl with cling film and left to rest for 20 minutes.

I mixed the dough on the second speed for 10 minutes.  The Bojon Gourmet recipe said the following: “mix the dough on medium-low for 10 minutes adding more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time within the first five minutes until the dough comes away from the bowl.”  As a newbie to sourdough, this made me a bit anxious.  I had no idea what I was doing here, and added 10 tablespoons, one at a time, worrying constantly whether my dough was coming away from the bowl or not.  Too many?  Not enough?  Who knows.  But my dough was very, very, very sticky so I’m guessing not enough.

I scraped out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneaded for a few minutes, shouting at my boyfriend every few minutes, “sprinkle more flour for me, sprinkle more flour!” as my hands were too sticky to get into the flour packet.  I reckon I probably added another 2 tablespoons of flour, just to get that dough off my hands, and to get the mass of dough into a workable form.

I oiled a big bowl and rolled the dough around in it, then covered it with cling film.  The Bojon Gourmet said to leave it to rise for 3-4 hours, but I fully understand (after excessive googling) that sourdough is mental.  It all depends on the liveliness of your starter, the ambient temperature, the amount of booze you’ve drunk the night before and how old you are in earth years.  Mine took HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS to rise.  I was only happy with putting it in the oven at 8pm.  Which let’s face it, is almost 12 hours after I started the process.  10 and a bit hours to rise basically.  Hmmmm…

Once I decided that I couldn’t possibly wait any longer I watched a YouTube video about how to make a boule and went for it.  I dusted the bannetons that Battenberg Belle had loaned me, with a mixture of rice flour and bread flour (I read that this was best, online somewhere), bunged the boules in and put them in a bin liner.

IMG_0290Yeah.  I actually knelt on the floor and blew up a bin liner as if it were a balloon.

I decided that in front of my shoe cupboard was the warmest place in my flat.  Is it?  I have no idea.  I need to get a thermometer.

I made a schoolgirl error when making the boules and didn’t put the seam on top, but in the end this wasn’t a problem, because when I decided they were ready (I think after about 2 hours and 20 minutes) I turned them out onto my hand, and then turned them over and plopped them into my red hot casserole dish.

This is where I diverted from The Bojon Gourmet recipe as I wanted to cook my sourdough in my big old Le Creuset that my ma gave me.

I am very tired now after spending all day and night trying to make sourdough, so let’s just say this.  The first one was overcooked.  The second one looked very good.

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So here’s the deets for the second one.

The casserole dish was super hot after being in the oven for AGES as it heated up.  For the second loaf I did this:

1 – sprinkled a layer of cornmeal on the bottom of the dish (I read this on the internet somewhere)

2 – plonked the dough on some baking parchment and put it on top of the cornmeal ( I read this on the internet somewhere)

3 – baked the loaf with the lid on for 20 minutes at 225 degrees.  Oh, by the way I read on the internet somewhere that high temperatures can melt the plastic lid thingamabob on a Le Crueset so I took it off, using a knife and bunged a bit of foil in the resulting hole to stop the steam escaping.  What a nut-job.

4 – Turned the oven down to just above the number 2 of the 200 on my oven dial for 10 minutes (sorry if this is a bit vague – I’m guessing 205 degrees?)

5 – Took the lid off and cooked for 12 more minutes.

This resulted in a loaf I liked the look of – hurrah!

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P.S. Next day I had a slice in the morning with that delicious swanky butter that has bits of sea salt in it.  DIVINE.  The bread was so tasty and moist and really one of the nicest bits of bread I have ever eaten.  Quite a result!

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Over the next few days I mostly had this toasted, I also sliced up part of the loaf and froze it so that I can have a bit of N1 Rye Sourdough whenever I fancy.  The bread is still fine and it is now Friday. So it is true what they say about sourdough bread being good for 5 days or so.

I want to experiment with keeping it in a paper bag for the first couple of days and then inside a plastic bag, still inside the paper bag.  As this is what the author of this recipe suggested.

I really enjoyed making sourdough, and it is #sourdoughseptember so here’s to many more loaves of it!

Bank Holiday Monday Breadfest!  There’s also a plain sourdough made with N1 in this photo which I’ll blog about later…

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