Among (several) other things, 2020 will be remembered as the year of sourdough. Stuck at home, many of us tried our hand at baking the notoriously tricky loaf.
Whatever the outcome, it’s worth persevering, says Matthew Jones, founder of breadahead.com. While supermarket loaves are likely to lack probiotic effects, home-baked sourdough preserves the benefits of the good bacteria in the starter. To earn your crust, first you need to get that dough.
It’s no secret that wholewheat wins out in the health stakes, but there’s far more to brown bread than its high fibre content. According to one British Medical Journal review, three daily servings of wholegrains can lower your risk of heart disease by 22%.
About as Scandi as stripped-back interior design, rye keeps your calorie count on the minimalist side, too. According to research conducted in (you guessed it) Sweden, volunteers who ate rye bread for breakfast felt less hungry throughout the day.
There’s a reason this ancient variety of wholewheat has stuck around. Spelt has a number of benefits to your cholesterol levels, having been found to both lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol production.
Most commonly ground into extra-fine semolina, durum wheat supplies you with myriad vitamins and minerals that you won’t find in any basic loaf: every 100g contains 144mg of sleep-enhancing magnesium and 34mg of bone-strengthening calcium.
Sourdough begins with an all-star starter – and it’ll entail a week of work before you even turn the oven on. “You’re incubating a yeast culture, which becomes the basis for your loaf,” says Jones.
He recommends mixing 50g of flour and 50g of tepid water in a glass jar (two for £14.90 amazon.co.uk) and leaving this partially uncovered for 24 hours. Repeat, feeding the starter with the extra mix for four days straight, ideally keeping it around 22-24°C.
Once it’s bubbly, you can store it in the fridge and feed weekly. Then, to make Jones’s “no knead” loaf, mix half a kilo of your chosen flour, 250g of water, 10g of salt and 100g of your starter, and leave to prove for two hours.
Chill in a banneton basket (£14.50, boroughkitchen.com) overnight, covered in a shower cap, to “retard” the dough. Preheat a Dutch oven (£185 souschef.co.uk), add your dough – scoring the top for style – and bake for 40 minutes, taking the lid off halfway through to let it rise and crust.
Slices of Action
There’s less sugar in sourdough, thanks to its fermentation process, so you don’t have to stress so much about burning it. Crank up your oven for a crispy crust. That slash in the top is important, too: “You want to encourage the bread to crack where you want it to,” says Jones.
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