I love this sourdough recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book. I’ve had a starter mix going for nearly two years, which had remained untouched in the fridge for way too long. I got it out on the weekend to stir and the impulse took over. Usually I make a rye version but having only wholemeal flour, chickpea flour and a bit of cornmeal in the cupboard, I opted for a combination of these. It made for a slightly cakey texture and deep flavour… and became the basis for a picnic down at the river on what was a very balmy Sunday evening.
The recipe looks slightly complicated, but is definitely worth the effort. Artisan-made sourdoughs are readily available these days, but there’s something about making your own that you won’t find in a bakery. This bread is heavy, intricately flavoured and different each time.
I’ve halved the Tassajara recipe to make two large (or three smaller) loaves at a time. I usually freeze one or two. The best part is playing around with different flours and add-ins.
A note on folding in. Folding in is the method used to mix ingredients. Don’t stir or cut through the dough – the aim is to keep it in one piece. Stir around the side of the bowl and fold over towards the centre. Turn bowl toward you a quarter turn with your left hand, folding as you go until oil and salt are incorporated.
A note on kneading. Pick up the furthest edge of dough, fold in half toward you, so the two edges are roughly aligned. With open palms, press down on the nearest side of the dough to you and push forward and away from you through the heels of your hands. The idea is to use the weight of your body to knead the dough so that the top fold joins with the bottom fold. Pick up the dough and turn a quarter-turn clockwise and repeat.
Combine 1 tbspn dry yeast, 2.5 cups warm water, 2 tsp sugar or honey and 2.5 cups wholemeal flour. (Alternatively, mix any sour food, such as two-day old rice, with 2.5 cups wholemeal flour and water as necessary to make it spongy.) Let ferment, covered, in a warm space for five days, stirring daily. The starter may be kept indefinitely in a sealed containter in the fridge, though it’s best to use it once a week. I’ve used it far less often and find it keeps well with an occasional stir.
the night before
4.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup starter mixture
3.5 cups lukewarm water
in the morning
1/2 cup oil (I like olive or sesame oil)
1 tbspn salt
3-4 cups rye flour and 2 cups wholemeal flour for the rye version (or 5-6 cups wholemeal for the standard Tassajara version)
couple of handfuls of seeds (toasted sesame & sunflower seeds, pepitas)
the night before
Add starter to flour without mixing. Then mix together while adding water a cup at a time. Mix well to form a thick batter. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight to sour. This mixture is called the sponge.
in the morning
Stir sponge and replenish your starter mixture with 1 cup of the sponge. Fold in oil, salt and remaining flour gradually with spoon. When you have a rough blob of dough, turn it onto a well-floured board. Knead for five minutes, adding more flour as needed. Cut into two or three sections (depending on how many loaves you want). Form into loaves, by rolling up the dough into a log shape. With the seam on bottom, mould into shape. Turn over and pince the seams together all the way along, including the loaf ends. Place into floured bread pans. Slit tops and sit in a warm place (covered with a damp teatowel) for two hours to rise. Brush tops with water and place in 220 degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 degrees and bake for an hour or until cooked through.
Cool before slicing. Serve with organic butter. Bliss!