Recently I’ve been trying to master sourdough bread. After one aborted attempt at creating a starter last year (which began fine, but I just didn’t really know what to do with – so it exploded, collapsed and did pretty much everything except produce good bread!) I went on a day-course at E5 Bakehouse in Hackney – which was definitely the most enjoyable and informative ways I’ve spent a Thursday in quite some time!
That was back in June, and since then, armed with new-knowledge and confidence, I’ve been trying out various different recipes in an attempt to find a sourdough I am really proud of, and which I can fit into my routine.
The search continues – which is fine. It’s an enjoyable search, I’ve created some really good bread, and I’m learning loads along the way. But a few weeks back, I found myself wanting to bake a sourdough loaf but finding myself with less time than usual. That quandary, and the Google search that arose from it, led me to this recipe from Weekend Bakery.
Loosely based on a recipe by Jeffrey Hamelman, this is a hybrid recipe. The preferment includes sourdough, but there is a touch of yeast in the final dough too. The addition of yeast speeds up the process (and also seems to improve the oven spring compared to many of the pure sourdoughs I’ve been making) but the presence of sourdough starter gives that recognisable flavour and crumb structure of sourdough bread.
I’ve made this loaf four times now and it’s definitely become a favourite. The first time, I used my regular starter rather than the 100% rye version that they recommend in the recipe and the results weren’t great. My starter was a 90% hydration, white/wholemeal mix, and for some reason the poolish never quite seemed to reach its peak ripeness – or maybe it went over ripe? Either way, the result was a pretty flat and miserable-looking bread. The second occasion looked like it was fairing better, but for some reason I decided to try increasing the water content of the bread – I was having an arrogant “I know better than the recipe” day. It wasn’t good.
So after two attempts, I decided to follow the recipe to the letter; I converted my starter to a 100% rye and gave it a go. The results were brilliant! Good crumb structure. Nice lightly sour taste. And a decent oven spring. I used my Le Creuset as a dutch oven, which I think really helped with the crust formation as it kept the steam in nicely until towards the very end.
Here are my third and fourth attempts; for the fourth I included a large handful of poppy seeds, adding them in with the yeast and salt after the autolyse stage. On the fourth attempt it also took far longer for the poolish to peak – about 14 hours rather than 12. But the result was still great.
I also feel like I’m slowly getting the hang of scoring, although going for this kind of Union Jack pattern on a boule nicely hides the fact that I’m not great at getting a pronounced ear.
So if you fancy a quick-ish sourdough recipe to try, I’d suggest giving this one a go. Then check out some of their other recipes on the site too, and the helpful videos. Since we have a longer break with the Bank Holiday this weekend, I’m thinking of attempting the four-day San Francisco Sourdough. Wish me luck!