Monday, 12 September 2011

Project Sourdough: Trying out a few techniques

A couple of weeks ago my good friend and fellow baker fodderfanboy sent me the links to a couple of really interesting videos by a home baker called Dom. (He happens to be English, but that's got nothing to do with why I like him!) There are lots of tips / things to observe in the videos, but I picked up three techniques I wanted to try.

If you are into your home baking, I'd recommend you watch them. They are only about 4mins each.

In the first video the two things that grabbed me were the cardboard pizza paddle and the technique of turning off your (fan) oven when you first put the bread in.

I've been toying with the idea of buying a pizza paddle so was curious to see how using part of a cereal box would work as a substitute. I first used my 'peel' for a pizza two weekends ago and it worked really well. You need to put a decent amount of flour onto it, but otherwise it worked just fine.

Today I used it with a sourdough for the first time and I didn't have enough flour on the peel or my stone so the loaf stuck a bit. I have been proving my bread on greaseproof paper and then just popping that directly onto the stone. It has worked well, so I'm a bit undecided on the best technique. I didn't like today's stuck loaf, but then I don't like the waste of using greaseproof paper either.

The second technique I took from the video was the idea of turning your oven off when you you put the bread in. I'm no expert on what helps your loaf to rise the most or how to obtain the bet crust, but I think the basic theory is that oven fans are a bit of a killer. The idea is to heat you oven to max and then turn it off, pop in your loaf and then turn it back on after 15mins to complete the baking.

One of the things that has been concerning me in my recent efforts is how dark my crust has been getting, almost reaching the burnt stage, so this was another idea that appealed.

In my excitement of all the new techniques I forgot to score my loaf (school boy error) so it is difficult to really know how it affected the rising. However, the crust definitely wasn't as dark after 35mins in the oven as I have been recently getting. I would actually prefer a slightly darker loaf than I achieved today so I need to refine this technique a bit.

The second video demonstrates baking your loaf inside a Le Crueset. Again, I don't really know what I am doing, but the idea is that steam is really important in the baking of your bread. I've been experimenting with putting a pan of recently boiled water in the base of my oven and squirting in some jets of water from my steam iron (classy, but it is the only spray jet I have) as I close the oven door.

The idea of this technique is that the loaf itself in a small enclosed space will create all the steam that it needs. My Le Crueset pans are all in London, so I just used a porcelain casserole pan that I have here in Sydney instead.

I baked for 15mins with the lid on and 15mins with lid off. Check out that crust! I haven't had the speckled effect before, it looks quite professional!

I'll definitely give this one a try again. My loaf stuck slightly to the base of the pot, so some more flour is needed.

Three interesting techniques, all definitely worth a second attempt to see if I can refine them some more.

Things to try next time:
-  More flour on my cardboard peel and pizza stone
- Leaving my oven on max for a bit longer before I place the bread in the oven and turn it off, I think the temperature dropped too much.
- Not leaving the oven off for 15mins, perhaps only 10mins?
- More flour on my peel, baking stone and in the base of my casserole pan


  1. I failed at my only attempt to keep a sourdough starter alive, but did bake yeast bread for a few months in my Dutch oven. Works like a charm.

  2. i dont think id ever try making bread// its so pro :)

    but mmh.. fresh bread with pate yum!

  3. Hm, heard about some sort of lab in the UK that you can request custom yeasts from - i.e., if you wanted to have apple overtones in the final product etc.. you could custom create it. I'll try to dig up the name - might have only been for science research tho..

  4. Richard, I've got tears in my eyes with the imagery of you using your iron to get steam into your oven. That's too funny. Treat yourself, and spend $3.50 and get a squirter :-)
    I'm still using the baking paper but use it over and over again until it crumbles at a touch. ONE day one of those maginificent looking super peels.


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