Since my last post about sourdough bread baking I have been practicing and experimenting. Time and again, I found my bread too dense and my crust too hard. As many before me have found, the learning of sourdough baking can be a very frustrating process.
I have been working with Teresa Hosier Greenway’s book, Discovering Sourdough. She has divided the recipes into 3 parts; beginner, intermediate and advanced. Up until a couple of days ago, I was sticking to the beginner recipes, figuring if I couldn’t master those, I wasn’t going to be able to create one of the harder ones with any success. However, from the start, my interest was caught by a pumpkin sourdough recipe. I love pumpkin and really wanted to try it. It is a recipe from the advanced section and I was feeling brave and decided to try it.
To my surprise, I created the holy grail of sourdoughs! Light, soft centre with plenty of bubbles and a thin, soft crust. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was that the crust was too dark but I know what to do next time.
The proces by which I made this bread was a bit different to that of other breads I have been making. Here are the main differences:
- The dough was a lot wetter and a little more difficult to work with.
- There was a stretch and fold method incorporated during the fermentation process, whereby once an hour during the second ferment, the dough needed to be stretched and folded 5-6 times in order to develop the gluten.
- The time at which the bread was suppose to go into the oven was inconvenient as it clashed with school pickup and so I had to leave the baking until later. For this reason, the final ferment was 3 hours instead of 1-2. As a result the dough rose more. All the recipes I have, say to only leave shaped loaves 1-2 hours before baking and yet I have always found they don’t rise enough. In hindsight, I was happy for that upset in my planning.
- My friend, Gennaro who has had success with his sourdough also told me that it is imperative the oven be really really hot. He uses the fan-forced setting at 240 degrees! I also did this which is probably why the crust is too dark, however I figure next time I will leave a cover over the bread for longer than the suggested 20 minutes as that prevents burning.
The pumpkin sourdough recipe I used created enough for 2 loaves of bread. However I didn’t want 2 loaves the same so I decided I would create a focaccia-style bread with half the mix. I am so pleased I did this as it turned out so well! I didn’t need to worry about covering it and spraying with water like you would when baking a regular loaf as it was covered by moist ingredients already. This prevented the crust becoming to dark.
Since this is a modification of the original recipe from the book, I have included it below.
The loaf that I created as specified in the recipe turned out really well apart from the dark crust. Next time I will just leave the cover over it for longer. The only thing is, despite its great taste, there is no hint of pumpkin. And it is not as orange as I would expect from a pumpkin loaf. Next time, I intend replacing the milk content of the dough with more pumpkin which is very moist and should suffice. I will keep you posted on how that goes.
This focaccia is soft, moist and delicious. Your family is sure to love it! Start making the dough at around 5pm the day before you will bake it. This recipe uses a 166% hydration starter which is the thickness of a pikelet batter. It makes one 21cm x 30cm focaccia and for the time and effort required you may want to double the mix and freeze one loaf for another time.
- For the Pre-ferment - start 5pm the day before baking
- 1/2 cup vigorous starter (166% hydration)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 ½ cups flour - you can use white or wholemeal
- Remaining Dough Ingredients
- Just under half a cup of mashed pumpkin (140g)
- ¼ cup milk - I used almond milk, but use whatever you like
- 2 ¼ cups flour - you can use white or wholemeal
- 1 ¾ tsp sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 large handfuls of fresh herbs - I used basil, rosemary, parsley and thyme. You can use just one herb if you like.
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3-4 tomatoes, thinly sliced - Try and get flavoursome ones, not the hard watery tasteless excuse for tomatoes that fill many shelves
For the Pre-ferment at 5pm the day before baking:
- Mix these ingredients in a bowl, cover loosely and leave to sit until about 9-10pm that night.
- Put the mix into the fridge and leave until at about 7am the next morning.
The day of baking:
- Blend the pumpkin and milk and then add to the pre-ferment.
- Mix in the flour until just combined and leave to autolyse (rest) for 20 minutes.
- Add the salt and knead by hand or with dough hook in food processor for 5-10 minutes. Usually you need to go longer if you are kneading by hand. You will know if the dough is ready by doing the windowpane test; stretch the dough to a thin membrane and if it holds, the gluten is developed sufficiently.
- Oil a large container and put the dough into it. It should be quite wet and sticky. Put the cover on your container but don’t press or click into place as the dough needs to breath. Leave in a warm place to ferment for 4 hours. Every hour, stretch and fold the dough 5-6 times. This will further develop the gluten.
- Oil and line a 21cm x 30cm baking tin. You can use a larger one and stretch the dough out more to make a thinner loaf if you like. Check out the picture above to make this decision. With oiled hands, stretch your dough out to cover the pan evenly. If you find the dough is resistant to being stretched the breadth of the pan, leave to rest for 5 minutes and it will stretch further.
- Leave to rest for another 1-3 hours. You are looking for the dough to become light and springy to touch and to rise to 1 ½ times its original size. When you have about an hour before baking time (judge by how quickly your dough is rising), preheat the oven to 240 degrees – fan forced.
- To prepare the topping, blend the oil, herbs, garlic and salt in a blender until pulverised.
- Spread over the focaccia just before baking. Cover the herb topping with tomato slices and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave ½ an hour before cutting.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you.