Monday, 10 December 2012
Lazy No-Knead Sourdough Spelt Bread
In the lead-up to Christmas, there's always loads of recipes for treats and cakes floating around the web and in the magazines and free papers, threatening my promise to be Santa's good girl. After two chocolate cakes in a week, I think it's time to practise a bit of self-restraint. Even with vegetables thrown in (best-ever beetroot chocolate cake recipe here), or with the flour taken out (chocolate orange almond cake recipe here), too much cake is too much cake. But I missed having the oven on-- the ritual of creating wonderful smells and something tasty from nothing; and well, frankly, the heat from the oven (it is mad freezing here)-- so I made bread.
And one would think I must be a really talented baker to have made my own bread, and by bread here I don't mean banana bread (not that I look down on banana bread, I love banana bread) but a proper artisan loaf of sourdough spelt bread. I'll be the first to admit that baking is not my thing. They come out alright when I follow the right recipe, and very often do taste good, but you would never get me making symmetrical tarts or perfect pies. So if I can do this, you probably can. If you've ever seen bakers make bread, or have ever attempted making bread on your own, everything about this dough feels wrong, but it works.
Though I usually believe good things come out of a bit of bicep work and sweat and tears, the no-knead technique surprisingly turns the worryingly wet dough into a loaf with an open crumb and large holes that many people dig. I thank the (lazy) genius who discovered this and shared this with everybody in the original New York Times article, and the subsequent geniuses who then excitedly adapted this for other types of flour and for sourdough. This is not really no-knead, but you only need to do a series of 'stretch-and-folds' i.e. no manly muscles involved. I like spelt because it has a wonderful mellow nuttiness without the heaviness of most other wholegrains, and this ancient grain is also better digested than normal wheat and ; the sourdough method gets rid of the anti-nutrients found in the wholegrain flour, plus, sourdoughs just taste freaking good.
You do need a strong, bubbly sourdough starter to make this bread though, which really, is just a fermented mix of flour and water that you can make easily or beg/steal/borrow from your favourite artisan bakery.
LAZY SOURDOUGH SPELT BREAD
(adapted from Breadtopia- he has a video too, very helpful if you're still scared; and Cheeselave.)
You can use all-whole spelt too, in total 530g, as in the original recipe. I mix it up for a lighter loaf.
350g whole spelt flour
200g white spelt flour + more for sprinkling
10 g (1 1/2 tsp) unrefined sea salt
60g (3 tbsp) unrefined sugar or honey
1/4 cup active sourdough starter (fed and bubbly, 100% hydration)
You also need
a dough whisk (makes mixing wet sticky doughs easier, but it's possible to use a very large fork...)
a large mixing bowl
a dough scraper (or some plastic card)
a proofing basket (or a colander + thin dish cloth)
The night before,
1. Add the sugar/honey to the water, then mix in the starter.
2. Mix the flour with the salt.
3. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together, using a dough whisk or the large fork. You'll realise the dough is like a very stodgy batter that's quite impossible to knead.
4. Cover with a plastic bag, and leave for 30 min to an hour.
5. Wet a dough scraper, scrape and separate the edges of the dough from the bowl just so you can lift up the dough. It's still quite slack, but you should be handling it very gently anyway.
6. Do a stretch-and-fold i.e.stretch the dough slightly, then fold each side into each other. Repeat in the other direction.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 three more times. 15 minute intervals work too if you're a bit impatient.
The next morning,
8. The dough would have risen quite a lot*, yay! Using a wet dough scraper again, scrape out onto a floured surface, then using floured hands, gather all the sides in and pinch at the top to seal (should seal easily because the dough's quite sticky). Sprinkle more flour over.
9. Place the blob into a floured proofing basket or dishcloth-lined colander, seam-side up. Cover with another dishcloth and leave for its final rise, about 1 to 1 1/2 hour, or till doubled.
10. 1 hour in, pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. Put the cast iron pot in (with the lid on) so it gets really hot. WEAR MITTENS when you take it out!
11. Turn the risen dough out into the very hot pot (now the seam-side is down), then place in the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 200 degrees celsius.* Bake for 35 min covered*, 10 min uncovered to brown the crust.
12. Let cool for an hour before slicing into it. It continues to cook as it cools and become less gummy, so be patient. I know it's hard to resist warm bread fresh from the oven, but it's worth it.
Notes and tips
*How much your dough rises depends on how good your starter is and how warm your kitchen is. It will take a lot longer to rise here in dreary cold London than, say, in sunny Singapore.
*All ovens work differently so you may have to adjust the temperature and timings according to your oven. You might need to turn it down lower than 200C, or bake for slightly longer.
*The amazing thing about using your cast iron casserole pot is that the tight lid creates a steamy environment making for a crisper crust. Other recipes I've seen that use a baking stone (obviously not for a no-knead sort of bread) will put a tray of hot water at the bottom of the oven to create steam; this one has no need for that.
In Europe, bread is considered the staff of life, but if you told me three years ago that I can never eat bread again, I probably wouldn't give a hoot (I will die without rice though #asian). That was before I discovered real bread-- warm golden crusts and the wonderful yeasty smell of slow-fermented sourdough. It still amazes me that you can build something like this out of 3 basic ingredients: flour, salt, and water. Now when I need a quick bite to start the day, or a peckish nibble to break up my hum-drum day in front of the computer, I understand why one can really be happy simply with bread and butter (and a dollop of jam, or better yet, kaya, if one has it).
Farewell, my hero (and how to make your own no-fail sourdough starter)
Sourdough (Crepe), that was easy!