• Potato Sourdough

    One of the many great foods that my mum makes is potato bread rolls. These are small rolls that we’d have alongside a meal made from yeasted dough and either instant or normal mashed potato. They are light in texture and soft in flavour.

    I was keen to try and bring this idea to the sourdough bread that I’ve been making as of recent. I researched online to see if there were any recipes available for this sort of dough, but I couldn’t see anything that exactly matched what I wanted. Which were an open crumb and no visible pieces of potato. There were several recipes using real potatoes and mixing it in smoothly, however, the dough that they made was of low hydration, fast rise and a closed crumb. Similarly, I did find one recipe that matched those characteristics. But, it was one where you left in chunks of potato, which I wasn’t keen for.

    I eventually gave up searching and just thought I’d wing it with a recipe. It turned out far better than I could have hoped, so I thought I’d share it here. It makes for a brilliantly moist crumb and flavoursome crust.

    Potato Bread

    Recipe

    • 400g strong white flour
    • 100g whole wheat flour
    • 375g water
    • 11g salt
    • 110g levain
    • 250g potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks

    08:00 - Prepare Levain

    Prepare a levain in the morning by mixing 60 of flour, 60g of warm water and 60g of sourdough starter. (You may need to adjust ratios and timing based on the temperature of your kitchen or liveliness of your starter)

    17:00 - Mix Dough & Boil Potatoes

    Mix 350g water with the flour - we will save the other 25g of water for after the autolyse. Leave to rest for 30 minutes, covered. Whilst that rests, boil 250g of potatoes for 8 minutes. Once they are soft, remove from the heat and mash. Leave the mashed potatoes to cool until the autolyse is done.

    17:30 - Mix Final Ingredients

    Add the mashed potatoes, 11g of salt and 110g of levain to the dough and mix well. I like to use the ‘slap and fold’ technique. Cover and leave in a warm place.

    18:00 - First Fold

    Using a wet hand, stretch and fold the dough over itself at each corner.

    18:30 - Second Fold

    Repeat the previous set of folds.

    19:00 - Third Fold

    Repeat for the final set of folds then leave the dough to bulk rise.

    22:00 Pre-Shaping

    By now the dough should show visible bubbles and have risen noticeably. Turn it out onto a counter top and lightly flour one side of it. Using a scraper, starting at the floured side of the dough, pull the scraper round the dough and then back towards itself, creating a ball shape. Leave it to bench rest on the counter top.

    22:45 Shaping

    The dough will have spread out by now. Flour the top of it and then use a scraper to loosen it from the counter in place. Using the scraper, flip the dough so that the floured side now sits on the counter. Stitch the dough into a tight ball and place in a proofing basket. Either leave the dough to proof for 1-2 hours or put it in the fridge overnight.

    08:00 Baking

    If you proof the dough overnight in the fridge, the time at which you bake the next day is pretty flexible.

    Place a lidded pod into the oven and preheat to 240 degrees. After 45 minutes, remove the pot from the oven and the proofing loaf from the fridge. Turn the dough out into the pot and optionally score the dough with a sharp blade. Place it back into the oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.

    Potato Bread

    Potato Bread

  • Muji Water Repellent Trainers

    Recently whilst on holiday in Milan I stopped in at a Muji store to buy some trainers I’d been looking at online. I‘ve now had them for around a month and I thought I’d lend my thoughts to any others browsing the internet for info on them.

    I went for a white pair of these shoes, though the black and the navy also looked great. It’s a subtle off-white that I think is far nicer than any ‘pure white’. If you have seen the 1970s Chuck Taylor’s that Converse put out recently, you’ll know what to expect.

    My only criticism of these shoes thus far is that they scuff really easily. At first I was trying to scrub off any marks from the front lip of the shoe. However, two weeks in I gave up and just let the dirt have its way.

    They say the shoes are water repellent but I don’t think you’ll ever see that in effect or see its benefits. This repellency does not apply to the small pieces of dirt that shoes pick up day to day, and it is this that you will notice.

    I’ve had no issues in particular with comfort, these feel as comfortable as any Converse that I’ve had in the past.

    Speaking of Converse though, these shoes are a bargain. They retail for £25 - the equivalent Chuck Taylors are £65 - and I can’t say I’ve any issues with their build quality. However, there is a question to be asked with how they can make shoes this cheap. It seems unlikely they can make these whilst being ethical and ecological but nonetheless, I don’t imagine Converse do any better.

    I’ve only had these shoes a short period of time, but I shall try and update this at some point to note how they’ve held up over time, and also just to add some more photos as Muji’s website photos are as minimal in numbers as their products are in style.

    Muji trainers

  • Slap and Fold

    Following my improvements of bread in my recent posts, I bought and read Trevor Jay Wilson’s Open Crumb Mastery. The key takeaway I got from reading it was that I don’t get nearly enough gluten development in my dough.

    The lack of gluten development in my dough means that when stretched, the dough will burst rather than bubble. This is what is limiting the size of air pockets in my dough - or the ‘openness of the crumb’. This weak gluten is also a key factor in causing my loaves to spread out once I start to bake them. A stronger dough will hold its shape and stand tall, whereas a weaker one will spread out quickly.

    I typically always used two things to develop the gluten in my dough. These were ‘time’ and sets of ‘stretch and folds’. I learnt this from “Tartine Bread”, “The Perfect Loaf” and “Flour Water Salt Yeast”. It’s a really popular way to make bread just now. However, I can’t seem to get the same results as others do with this method. I’m imagining it’s related either to the temperature of my kitchen, the quality of gluten in the flour I’m using, or the technique and frequency of my stretch and folds.

    My new approach for developing gluten uses what’s commonly called a “slap and fold” technique. It involves you putting a wet dough on your countertop, picking it up by two sides, slapping the bottom edge down on the counter and quickly folding the bit you are holding down over the top of the dough. You then turn your hands 90 degrees and pick up the dough from the right and repeat the same motion to fold it in the opposite direction.

    The results I’ve had with this have been brilliant. My dough feels stronger, shapes easier - with less flour - and holds its shape far better. It‘s even easier to score - giving me the most decorative loaves I’ve done yet.

    Crumb

    Crumb

    Crumb

  • Flour Cheat Sheet

    Flour Description Flavours Baking Properties
    Strong white flour (hard wheat) Made from hard common wheat, meaning higher protein that ‘plain’ flour. Typically this is around 11-12.5% protein in the UK. - -
    Very strong white flour Made from harder wheat, typically 13%+ in the UK. - A higher gluten content than softer wheats can result in tougher doughs.
    Emmer Ancient grain made from hard durum wheat, ~12% protein. Often used for pasta, sold as 00 (low extraction) flour. Earthy flavour, creamy in texture. Delicate gluten, but higher protein than common wheat.
    Einkorn Oldest ancient grain, softer member of the wheat family. ~11% protein. Grassy and nutty. Delicate gluten structure, sticky when hydrated and quick to ferment.
    Spelt Ancient grain, heirloom of wheat, ~14% protein. Easy to digest and nutritional, more vitamins than other flours. Milky, honey flavours Not great for high hydrations and long rising times (acid breaks down the gluten quickly)
    Kamut (Khorasan) A type of durum wheat, used by the Egyptians. ~15% protein. Buttery and sweet Very high in protein
    Semolina The flour of modern, common durum wheat, very common in pasta and pizza Buttery and sweet -
    Barley Barley is a grain that is high in fibre and low in protein - ~8%. Subtle earthy flavours, sweet when roasted Not great for bread on its own due to low protein, could be made into a porridge and added to a dough.
    Rye Rye is a blue/gray grain that has a vegetable gum in it that mimics gluten, it is very high in fibre and contains around 8% protein. Often used in scandinavian areas for dense breads. Tangy and grassy Slick, sticky and able to bind water.
    Buckwheat Buckwheat is neither a wheat nor grain, it is a pseudo-cereal, related to rhubarb and sorrel! It has high levels of starch and oil, protein of around 11% and no gluten. Nutty -
    Beremeal And ancient kind of barley that is grown in Orkney. Earthy, nutty -
  • Less Water

    At the start of this week I was feeling baking-confident and tried baking two loaves of bread at 80% hydration (800g of water to 1000g of flour, I typically go for 75%). It didn’t go well. The bread was hard to shape and I went out for the afternoon and left the dough bulk rising far longer than planned. Shaping the loaves proved to be difficult and when it came to baking, the dough had stuck awkwardly to the baskets - something I thought I’d learnt to avoid.

    To make up for this, on Thursday, I made two loaves at 60% hydration to see how well I could shape them. I was delighted with the results.

    60 percent water

    The bread cut easily and rose delightfully in the oven. I dusted them with rice flour prior to scoring in order to accentuate the scores.

    As much as I enjoyed its shape, I must say that I prefer the flavour of my higher hydration loaves. So, today I’ve got another 75% hydration dough rising, I’m keen to shape it just as well.

    As for the 60 percent well shapen loaf however, this morning I turned it into french toast using the recipe in Tartine Bread. It was incredible.

    Tartine french toast

  • Weekday Baking in a Cold Kitchen

    Prework bake

    It’s been just over a year since I started baking bread and I’ve almost certainly baked more in the last month than I had in the previous twelve. There are two reasons that I’ve been doing so much more recently.

    The first, I have documented in my previous post. It is that I am noticing tangible improvements in the bread that I am making. Spurred on predominantly by my reading of Tartine Bread, my loaves are closer to where I want them to be, and the best way to improve is to bake again.

    The second reason is probably more significant. It is that I have been adapting recipes to suit my schedule. I mostly work 9 till 5, Monday to Friday and although good bread does not require much hands on time, it requires moments of attention at often inconvenient intervals.

    Because of this restriction, I used to only bake on weekends. Recently I’ve been working with the following schedule:

    Tuesday Evening:

    Feed starter as normal. 100g of strong white flour and 100g water at 35-40 degrees). - my flat sits at around 15 degrees in the winter so I’ve been using particularly warm water in order to get good activity.

    Wednesday Morning:

    Prepare levain. 150g of strong white flour, 50g whole wheat flour and 200g of water at 26-32 degrees.

    Wednesday 5pm:

    Mix 900g strong white flour, 100g whole wheat flour and 700g water at 26-34 degrees. I place this in the oven (turned off) to autolyse next to a jug of water as hot as my tap will go - roughly 45 degrees. This is done to keep the dough much warmer than my kitchen will allow. I aim for the inside of the oven to be about 28 degrees.

    At this point, I check my levain for bubbles and growth. If it is not showing many bubbles on the surface, then I place it in the oven beside the mixed dough in order to accelerate activity.

    Wednesday 6pm:

    Add 50g of warm water, 180g of the levain and 20g salt to the mixed dough. Mix well by hand and place back in the turned off oven.

    Wednesday 6:30pm:

    Wet your hand and stretch one side out and over itself. Repeat for each side of the dough.

    Thursday 7:00pm:

    Repeat stretching and folding.

    Thursday 7:30pm:

    Repeat stretching and folding.

    Thursday 8:00pm:

    Repeat stretching and folding.

    Thursday 10pm:

    Tip dough out onto the counter and preshape using a dough knife and light dusting of flour where necessary.

    Thursday 11pm:

    Final shaping loaves and placing into bread baskets. Place the baskets in the fridge. Either bake the next morning before work (requires preheating the oven around 6am) or leave in the fridge till after work and bake when you get in.

    I’ve done this routine several times over the last few weeks and always enjoyed the end product. Some days when I’m going out in the evening, I’ll use my mixer to thoroughly mix the dough for 10-15 minutes after the autolyse in order to accelerate gluten growth. I’m hoping that this can be used somewhat as a substitute for multiple sets of stretching and folding. However, I’ve not experimented much in comparing methods. No matter what, the end result is still bread.