The basics of baking
This is not an attempt to restate the reams and reams of basic bread baking procedures that you can easily find elsewhere n the web or in a thousand excellent recipe books. However, bit by bit we intend to add the occasional recipe or method for a bread that we especially enjoy and that we have a foolproof and reproducible method for making.
In our recipes when we mention quantities of flour they will, when not a wholemeal flour, usually be either “bread” flour or “all-purpose” flour. Bakers outside of Canada should note that Canadian all-purpose flour is quite strong (high gluten content) and can be used to make a well-risen loaf as it is. In the US or Britain your every day flour will be softer and so will not rise as well as strong or Canadian flours and we suggest that you experiment a little – use a specific bread flour or at least use half and half plainéall-purpose flour to bread flour.
There are two of these – sourdough and yeast.
Sourdough is made using a culture of yeasts and bacteria that you will need to feed regularly to keep it alive. You will find more than enough information about this elsewhere but for simplicity and flavour it is unsurpassed. The one we use was derived several years ago from a donated culture given to us by a friend in the US – it has proved reliable and efficient. it is not especially “sour” but it is tasty … we call her Breadzilla. You can establish your own or purchase dried or wet starters to grow on – every sourdough culture has its own characteristics and flavours and you will need to learn to live together – but it’s easy.
Yeast is simply the dried stuff you get in packets from the grocery store.
Look in the menu to the right of any page on this journal or in the drop-down menu a the top of the page.
Basic sourdough techniques:
There are many, many variants and you will want to develop a method that works for you – this one works at the Sparroworks with Breadzilla – simply:
The night before you intend to make your bread, put three cups of flour, two cups of water and one or two cups of your sourdough mix into a bowl. Personally, I have found that adding a couple of tablespoons of (live) plain yoghurt improves the texture, giving a smoother “crumb” and adds a bit more sourness to the final product if needed – it does improve the texture though, albeit it is not essential. Mix well into a slurry – technically called a ‘sponge’ – and cover with film. Leave it in the kitchen, pour yourself a drink and go to bed.
The next morning as the tea brews, add three more cups of flour (approximately) to the overnight slurry, which will have grown and be emitting bubbles of gas, and mix up your dough. Knead it well – despite what purists tell you, a stout kitchen mixer with a dough hook good as good a job as doing this by hand and is faster too.
Then the usual things – let it rise, shape it, bake it, eat it. You should have loaves for lunch.
See specific recipes for more details and variations.