Christmas is that one time of year in our hectic calendars when we can justify spending hours in the kitchen.
So often our busy city schedules mean the rest of the year is spent eating toast whilst we find time for the 20 other things we’ve must get done that evening. But now we can slow it down, and that’s why I chose this bread recipe. It does take time, but the results are worth it. Plus, your in-laws will think you’re awesome. This recipe makes one small loaf.
What you need:
- 3 plump dried figs, roughly chopped
- 40 g/1⁄3 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 g/1⁄2 teaspoon ground star anise
- 100 g/3⁄4 cup white strong/bread flour
- 45 g/1⁄3 cup wholemeal/whole-wheat flour
- 20 g/21⁄2 tablespoons dark rye/ pumpernickel flour
- 3 g/1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 65 g/1⁄4 cup white sourdough starter (buy from bakerybits.co.uk or see recipe below)
- 130 g/130 ml/1⁄2 cup warm water
- long proofing/dough-rising basket (900-g/2-lb. capacity)
- floured bread peel and baking stone (optional)
- baking sheet lined with parchment paper
What to do:
- Mix the figs, nuts and anise and set aside.
- In one (smaller) mixing bowl, mix the flours and salt together. This is the dry mixture.
- In a (larger) mixing bowl, mix the sourdough starter and water together until well combined. This is the wet mixture.
- Add the dry mixture and fig mixture to the wet mixture and combine until it comes together.
- Cover with the bowl that had the dry mixture in it and let stand for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, leaving the dough in the bowl, pull a portion of it up from the side and press it into the middle. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat this process with another portion of dough. Repeat another eight times. The whole process should only take about 10 seconds and the dough should start to resist.
- Cover the bowl again and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Repeat Steps 6 and 7 twice, then Step 6 again. Cover the bowl again and let rise for one hour.
- When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down with your fist to release the air.
- Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Transfer the ball of dough to the floured work surface.
- Fold one edge of the dough over into the middle. Fold the opposite edge over to the middle. Now roll the dough to make a sausage. Make the ends tapered.
- Dust the proofing/dough-rising basket with flour. Lay the dough inside it.
- Let the dough rise until about double the size – this will take between three and six hours.
- About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 240˚C (475˚F) Gas 9. Place a roasting pan at the bottom of the oven to preheat. Fill a cup with water and set aside.
- When the dough has doubled in volume, tip it out of the basket onto the bread peel or prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle flour over the bread. Slash diagonal lines along the surface using a sharp, serrated knife.
- Slide the bread into the preheated oven on the baking sheet, or if using a baking stone, slide it from the peel onto the hot stone. Pour the reserved cupful of water onto the hot roasting pan and lower the oven temperature to 220˚C (425˚F) Gas 7.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.
If you’re feeling up for a serious challenge, you can always make your own sourdough starter. (Be warned – this takes about a week.)
- Day 1: Mix one teaspoon flour and two teaspoons water in a clear jar. Seal and let stand overnight.
- Days 2, 3, 4 and 5: Add one teaspoon flour and two teaspoons water to the jar and stir. More and more bubbles will form on the surface.
- To make a starter, mix 15 g/1 tablespoon from the jar with 150 g/1 generous cup flour and 150 g/150 ml/2⁄3 cup warm water in a large bowl. Cover and let ferment overnight. The next day, use the amount of starter needed for your recipe.
- Add one teaspoon flour to the remaining ferment in the jar, seal and refrigerate for use another time. If it is left in the refrigerator for a long time, it might become dormant. Throw away the acidic liquid on the surface, stir in 30 g/2 tablespoons flour and 30 g/30 ml/2 tablespoons water, mix to a paste, seal and let stand overnight. The next day, if bubbles have formed, it is ready to be made into a starter. If not, repeat the process above. Treat your sourdough with tender loving care and you can keep it indefinitely.