For the past few months Food For Thought has been following Simone (@fraeuleinsonntag)and her bread stories on instagram. It's been such a treat to watch each story unfold and read her thoughts on bread and the community surrounding it. We hope this post encourages you to get back to good grains and maybe even start your own bread community!
Even though Germany has a very strong bread baking tradition going back many centuries it is a trade that unfortunately is losing its significance. People seem to be unwilling to pay for good quality ingredients and time. Nowadays it is so much more convenient to choose from so many different kinds of bread in one of the pop up bake factory shops that are also almost open 24hrs.
About six months ago I decided it was about time to create my own bread stories and recipes. It had been a while since I'd last baked bread, and then I had been making soda bread. My first attempt at the famous “no knead bread” was a disaster, well for me it felt like a disaster even though the bread tasted good the look of it was rather disappointing. My husband called it a “flat bread”, I went back to the original recipe and began making adjustment to fit my preference. Some months later it was time for what I call the real thing - “sourdough bread”.
The trickiest part is making your own starter (mother dough) and I was lucky to get mine from my lovely friend and the very talented photographer Marta Greber.
Many attempts down the road with a thumbs up or thumbs down from Heiko, my husband I've developed what appears to be the perfect recipe for us and some even call it the best sourdough bread they have ever tasted, so I get many requests from friends also to bake bread for them.
Making your own bread is something very special and soothing as at some point in the process you are all by yourself, when it is dark outside and the rest of the world is still or already asleep.
Baking sourdough bread requires good planning especially when you've got a day job like me, and my bread does not seem to care about it, saying that the dough is also very forgiving but does not like to be stressed or rushed.
This is a 24 (at least!) hours project and only the best flour is key to success. Here in Berlin, where my husband and I have been living for eight years I found a shop that sells Danish organic flour from Øland and I simply love its texture.
Artisan sourdough bread (makes a two pound loaf)
For a workable starter
60 grams sourdough starter (mine is based on wheat flour)
100 grams wholegrain wheat flour
100 ml of luke warm water
215 grams sourdough starter (you generated through feeding your starter)
200 grams wheat flour
100 grams wholegrain wheat flour
300 grams wholegrain rye flour
450 ml water depending on water quality
15 grams sea salt
12 grams honey
1 table spoon olive oil
1 handful of wheat germ
1 proving basket, cheese cloth and a pizza stone (optional)
1. First you need to make a workable starter: Mix your starter culture with 100 grams of whole grain wheat flour and 100 ml water, cover with a clean kitchen cloth and let rest in a warm place for 6 hours.
2. Once your starter is active and all bubbly take about 215 grams of it and mix with 2oo grams of wheat flour and 200 ml of water and cover with a damp clean kitchen cloth and let it rest for one hour in a warm place (in the first hour of proving all the magic happens) after that put your dough into the fridge and let it rest for at least 15 hours. I usually let mine rest for 24-30 hrs.
3. Line your proving basket with a cheese cloth and now (this is a very helpful tip) sprinkle it with a mix of wheat flour and rice flour and the dough will later not stick to the cheese cloth.
4. Now get your dough out of the fridge mix with the remaining water which is about 200 ml, this varies from bread to bread as your dough reacts to humidity and other factors. Add the remaining flour, put it all on your worktop surface and work it for about 5 mins, it will change its texture and will become less sticky. Then add the honey and work it again for a couple of minutes. If you need a new starter culture it is now time to take about 60 grams off and store it in the fridge for next use. Then add salt and olive oil to you dough and bring it all together providing you with a nice texture dough (this can takes around5mins).
5. Cove your dough with wheat germs, this makes it also easier to handle in order to put it into the proving basket and it makes a lovely dense crust
6. As you shape your dough you will end up with a seam. Place your dough into the proving basket, the seam facing towards you. Sprinkle your dough with some more wheat germ and cover with a clean damp kitchen cloth and let it proof for another 2-3hrs in a warm place. With a longer first proving time I tend to go with a shorter second proving time avoiding that the bread dough get dry.
7. 30 minutes before the second proving time is over preheat the oven with your pizza stone oven tray in it to 250-270C (480F). For a lovely dense crust I place a heat proven dish on the bottom of my oven (this will be filled with boiling water later).
8. Once your dough is ready and the oven hot, flip your dough onto the pizza stone (it is very hot!) and pour the boiling hot water into the oven proved dish and close the oven door immediately as to keep the hot water steam in.
9. Bake the bread for 35 minutes at this high temperature and then turn down the heat to 200C (392F) and bake for another 20 minutes.
10. If your bread sounds hollow, doing the knocking test your bread is ready.
11. Let the bread rest at least for another hour before cutting it, the wait is worth it.
By now your home is filled with the beautiful scent of fresh homemade bread, so enjoy it with just a pinch of salt and butter.
Want to know a bit more about sourdough? Check out our article written by dietician, Heidi Sze where she talks all about sourdough and just how good it can actually be for you!