Long-fermented bread…

OK then – sit up straight and pay attention. This is my first foray into long-fermented bread. The theory behind long (or slow)-fermented bread (fermented for a day or two in the fridge), is that it develops a much better flavour** than normal bread. And I have a batch of Canadian flour with a stronger than normal protein structure which, allegedly, is perfect for the job.

**My worry is that it will taste strongly of yeast, which is not what I want in bread – it should taste of the grains, primarily, in this case 50/50 organic strong white flour, and organic wholemeal flour.

We’ll see…

Note: This is a provisional recipe, but I doubt the final version will deviate at all as it’s a technique I’ve used in the past.

(Makes two loaves)

So, the long-fermented part:-

500g Canadian strong white flour (Shipton Mill)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

550ml lukewarm water (total hydration will be around 60% – a little is held back for the second stage)

1 teaspoon barley malt extract

1½  teaspoons Fermipan Red yeast

30ml olive oil (I use Sainsbury’s own-brand extra virgin, which is surprisingly good)

First, make the starter. It’s not essential, but the end result is so much better it’s worth the few minutes extra faff. Whisk the yeast extract into the warm water and, when it’s fully dissolved, whisk in a good tablespoon of the flour, followed by a teaspoon of the yeast (sprinkle the rest over the flour). Set aside until it has a head to rival Guinness. I generally sit it on a foam pad cut from a camping mat to the cold of the worktop doesn’t chill it.

While you’re waiting mix the salt and yeast into the flour.

Note: I use a stand mixer from here on in.

When the starter has a thick, creamy head, add to the flour, along with the oil, mix well, until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. Don’t worry about kneading – it’s too wet** – but mixing well will help develop the gluten.

By which I mean liquid – if using a mixer, use the whisk and beat the bejesus out of it.

Cover with clingfilm and set aside for the fermentation to get under way. Once it’s bubbling healthily, put it in the fridge.

In my case, that will mean my back-up fridge freezer in the bedroom as my main one is too cold – you want a fridge that is around 4 or 5 degrees C so that the fermentation continues slowly but surely.

Leave for a day or two. I’m making this today, aiming to bake on Tuesday afternoon. If you’re worried fermentation has stopped then take it out for a few hours and it’ll start to bubble away again (it takes a lot to kill yeast – I store mine in the freezer).

On Baking day, remove from the fridge in the morning and allow it to come up to room temperature, when the fermentation will regain its normal vigour.

Once it’s warmed up, mix in the following:-

500g Organic Stoneground 100% Wholewheat Flour (Shipton Mill)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

30ml olive oil

50ml lukewarm water – some or all, as needed. This completes the 60% hydration.

The dough will assume its normal texture, so can be kneaded, but not too much.

Divide it into two equal portions, shape as you fancy or use tins, and bake at 200C, in an oven preheated to its maximum (don’t forget to turn it down when the loaves go in, as I did!), and bake on a pizza stone for around 35 minutes (ovens, as they say, vary). Using a stone, even a pizza stone, will improve oven spring considerably, as will preheating to the max.

I have, as you’ve doubtless noticed, assumed that you actually know what you’re doing, as this isn’t really a technique for newbies. Wait until you can turn out consistently perfect loaves, then get ambitious.

All my flour comes from Shipton Mill. Before that it was Doves Farm and, as you’ll see from my bread blog, the change caused some problems which generated a post critical of Shipton. Feel free to ignore it – it was just a matter of getting used to the different characteristics of the flour.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d like to claim that breadmaking is an arcane and difficult art form, but it’s not. Anyone who can follow a recipe can make excellent bread.

If you’re new to breadmaking, and especially if you’re disabled, have a look at my original bread blog . I don’t use it now as all my recipes go in this blog, but scroll back to the beginning and there’s advice for novices.

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