We have my big brother and his brood visiting for the bank holiday so we are in for a houseful for a couple of days. The first port of call for getting ready for any visitors is baking bread for our breakfast toast and I decided it was time to break away from my staple mill sourdough and try something new.
Now I love bread, and when it comes to bread Germany is the absolute world champion but I have always found getting recipes I can follow quite tricky because the techniques are more complex and many ingredients can’t be found easily. However my browsing uncovered a superb book called Hefe und Mehr (Yeast and More) by Stefanie Herberth who also has a very good blog, and whilst her techniques are quite complex her recipes make me salivate. The only downside with the book for native English speakers is you need to speak German – though many of the recipes in her blog are translated into English.
So for the breakfast toast I dived into her book and adapted one of her recipes. She calls it Weltmeisterbrot (Champion Bread – though literally Weltmeister means World Master – bless that lovely German literalness but perhaps we shouldn’t dwell on this one). I think Seedy Sourdough has a more amusing English ring.
It is a white, wholemeal and rye flour sourdough (with the tiniest boost from dry yeast) with oats, sesame seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds sprinkled with a topping of poppyseed (another German staple) and sesame seed. Normally with seeds I just throw them in, but for this loaf I needed to toast the seeds first and then add boiling water to extract the flavours. It felt like a real fiddle, but this part of the process not only gave the loaf a wonderful nuttiness, but also a very smooth crumb (boiling part the flour in water before kneading is another way to get this effect) .
The quantities here make 2 huge loaves, not that that stopped the hubby and me devouring one of them over the weekend, mostly toasted and dripping in butter and smeared with Marmite (oh how the hubby and I love Marmite – for non UK readers follow the link to understand one of the great mysteries of the British diet) and Peanut Butter (or cheddar – another very naughty combination with Marmite). Be warned that the dough is quite wet so you need to be a little adept at handling dough (get those hands floured my dears before you set to) and kneading well to get good gluten development is essential to helping you handle it.
What else is worth noting? Well you can see from the photos that one loaf is covered in seeds and one is not. Why? Well I was experimenting with 2 new cutting patterns and I lost my nerve a bit. To get the seeds on the bread you need to wet the top with water and sprinkle the seeds on and then cut it. However with the wet crust, the razor seemed to drag in the dough and I didn’t get the effect I was after (it was supposed to be like a lattice across the top), so for the second one I didn’t do the seeds and whilst the swirl cut looks fun, I regretted not having them on there.
And lastly Sourdough. There is so much mythology on Sourdough and quite a lot of unnecessary mystification of it. For most of our time since human beings left the savannah for farms, sourdough was the main form of bread. So if our long lost ancestors could manage without making a fuss, I am sure we all can. You just need to remember it is a natural yeast so takes longer to create the carbon dioxide that gives you the rise. The speed it does this also varies so you need to relax, keep an eye on your loaf and wait until it is ready. The advantage of all that time is that the yeast doesn’t just raise the bread, it also part ferments it making it easier to digest, plus the good bacteria which develop add to the aroma and taste. The other advantage of all that time is you can get on with something else – in this instance a hefty ton of gardening while the sun shined on Saturday.
The one downside of sourdough is that you have to keep your culture alive by refreshing it from time to time with fresh flour and water. Mine has been going for 6 years now. That being said, if there were social workers for sourdough culture, mine would have been taken into care by now to protect it from my neglect. It sits in the fridge for a few weeks unused (this time nearly 4) and I always have a moment of dread that it is no longer alive. But it always comes back to life, and after a few refreshes is back to its full strength and ready to bake with.
If you don’t have a sourdough mixture then don’t despair. You can still do this bread by taking half the flour in this recipe, and all the liquid (except for the water used for the seeds), add about 15g of dried yeast and leave the mixture to bubble overnight. Then add the rest of the ingredients and finish off the bread. It won’t have that sourdough tang but it will still be tasty.
For the soaked grains
- 100g porridge oats
- 50g sesame seeds
- 50g linseed (flaxseed to my US cousins)
- 50g sunfower seeds
- 175g boiling water
For the dough
- 400g sourdough starter (made from 200g white bread flour and 200g water)
- 700g white bread flour
- 200g wholemeal rye flour
- 480g water
- 20g melted unsalted buter
- 22g salt
- 5g dried yeast
- semolina for dusting
For the crust
- For the top
- Sesame seeds
- For the bottom
- Sunflower seed
- Get your sourdough starter refreshed and active
- Toast you seeds for the soaked grains
- Soak the seeds and oats for 1 hour in boiling water
- Combine all your ingredients and knead
- Prove for the first rise (2 or 3 hours)
- Prove for the second rise (2 or 3 hours)
- Cover in seeds
For the soaked grains
- toast the linseeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds until light brown (you can see the difference in the photo)
- take off the heat, put in a bowl
- add the oats
- add the boiling water and mix thoroughly
- allow to stand for 1 hour
For the Bread – the knead
- mix all the dough ingredients
- add the soaked grains
- knead either by hand or by stand mixer for at least 10 minutes until it has reached the right stretchy/elastic consistency
- this is a really wet dough so french kneading is the best technique
- this is also a lot of dough so get ready for a work out
- form into a ball and allow to rest for about 2-3 hours (until it doubles in size)
The Bakers fold
This technique is particularly important with a wet dough. During the first prove try to do this at least twice. the fold adds structure to the dough and you all see how the dough stands and supports itself much better when you have done it
- stretch your dough out into a long rectangle
- fold one third back on itself
- fold the other third back on top
- cover and allow to rest again
- lightly flour your work surface
- split the dough into 2 and form into balls
- allow to rest
- if you want a baton shaped loaf follow the steps in the photos using the heal of your hand to seal the bottom of the loaf
- put in flour dusted bread proving baskets (or a bowl lined with a tea towel and dusted with flour)
- scatter sunflower seeds on the bottom and press in
- put the baskets inside plastic bags (I use bin liners)
- allow to rise until double in size
- preheat you oven to 220C/200C Fan
- mix the sesame seeds and poppy seeds together in a bowl
- tip out the bread onto a semolina dusted baking sheet
- brush off excess flour
- brush the tops with water
- scatter the seeds across the top to get a good coverage
- slash your loaf to your desired pattern
- bake in oven for 10 minutes at 220c/ 200C fan
- bake for a further 40 minutes at 200C/180C fan
To get a really good crust you need steam in the oven. To get this put a shallow dish in the bottom of the oven and fill with boiling water just after you put in the loaf. But beware on this one – I did this so much I managed to rust my oven so now I have an oven with a special steam feature -again thanks to a crafty bit of German kitchen technology form Neff.
This bread is a lovely healthy tasty thing. I hope you enjoy it.