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Posts Tagged ‘sourdough bread’

If you can bake a regular loaf of bread, you can make epi.  This decorative loaf, traditionally fashioned to mimic a stalk of wheat, is always impressive, providing you don’t show anyone how easy it is to make.

Start with your normal batch of dough (mine was a white sourdough, but it will work equally well with yeasted dough) and when it has finished its first rise, divide it into 250g – 300g portions.  Stretch and roll these out into long baguette shapes and allow them to prove on a floured tea towel until well risen – about 30 minutes for a yeasted dough, perhaps a bit longer for sourdough.  I dust my tea towel heavily with rye flour – plain flour seems to stick quite badly. Place the long rolls seam side up, so you can flip them over when you go to bake them.  As shown below, pleat the tea towel to form channels for the baguettes to rise in, then fold the ends of the tea towel in to cover the top of the dough while it rises.

Preheat the oven to 250C (480F), then drop the temperature down to 220C (430F) – or your usual baking temp – when you put the dough in.

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Move each proved sausage carefully to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Using a pair of scissors, snip through the dough and twist the little knobs to alternate sides.

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Once you’ve finished, spritz the top of the epi with water and bake in the oven (dropping the heat down when you put them in) for 20 – 30 mins, or until golden brown and crusty.  For my dough, I allow 15 minutes on 220C, then drop the heat to 175C for a further 10-15 minutes, rotating the trays when I reduce the heat.

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Epi are the perfect bread for sharing – a stick or two on the dinner table can be easily broken up, resulting in lots of little individual bread rolls.  It’s also the perfect bread for dipping in the Pukara Novello!

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Most days the bread is more than good enough to eat, and some days it is so good that we eat nothing else.

Jeffrey Steingarten, The Man Who Ate Everything

Today is one of those days when the bread is so good that I really don’t want to eat anything else.  I kneaded up a batch of sourdough last night, using my current favourite mix – 85% white bakers flour to 15% dark organic rye – and left it to prove on the bench overnight in a covered plastic container.  Here’s what greeted me this morning at 5am..

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I baked two 750g loaves for school lunches and some small rolls to take to El and Peter’s today for a barbeque lunch.  The rolls were simply cut from a log of dough and flattened out onto a tray, but they are absolutely perfect.  They’re crispy on the outside with an airy, holey crumb and a sublime flavour that beautifully complements Pete’s homemade butter (which he made last night, so it’s super fresh).  I wonder if it’s bad form to go to lunch and just eat bread?

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Hope you’re all having an equally enjoyable Sunday!

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Photos of this morning’s sourdough bake – I knocked up the dough last night at 9pm, left it to prove overnight on the bench, shaped the loaves and rolls this morning at 6am and baked them an hour later. These are a 60:40 white:dark rye hybrid and the long overnight prove has given them a delicious sourness that works particularly well with the rye.  The loaves will be turned into Vegemite sandwiches for Small Man to take to school and Big Boy will take the rolls for lunch, stuffed with ricotta, prosciutto and chilli jam.  And the best thing is – the kitchen smells wonderful all day!

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I started baking bread in December 2006. I’d made the occasional loaf prior to this, but it wasn’t until Maude  bought me a copy of Richard Bertinet’s Dough that the mania really set in.  This book was great for two reasons – firstly, it was easy to follow with lots of gorgeous photos and great techniques.  Secondly, there was a dvd included, which showed the eye-candy Frenchman simplifying the breadmaking process to something my seven year old niece was able to master.

Bertinet’s book focuses on yeast breads, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to make my own sourdough.  After a couple of failed attempts at brewing my own (I did manage to grow some rather scary looking purple mould), I opted to purchase some dried starter over the internet. About three seconds after I’d hit the “Pay Now” button, it occurred to me that I’d asked for little sachets of white powder to be sent to me from the US. Visions of trying to explain this to the AFP led to several frantic calls to friends – “Look, I know this sounds bonkers, but if the Federal Police ever ask you, please tell them that I mentioned I was buying sourdough starter, ok?”.  Surprisingly, nothing ever came of this – the envelope arrived unopened.  I placed a second order a few months later and that was opened, but quarantine approved it and sent it on through.  I guess wild yeasts just aren’t a problem.

The dried starter took off like a dream and within a week I’d made my first loaf of sourdough.  This was in January 2007, and we haven’t purchased a loaf of bread since (except for when we’ve been on holidays).  Neither has Maude, whom I passed a jar of bubbling leaven to as soon as it was healthy enough to bud off. Since then I’ve shared the starter with half a dozen friends, most of whom are still using it today.

Here is our midweek sourdough bake – three loaves of white for school lunches, a loaf of grain bread for Pete and I, and some mixed grain epi, using Kevin’s pre-mix.  This will feed our family well for three to four days, so I’ll be baking again on the weekend.

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Friends often ask me why I bother, given that it’s now possible to buy great sourdough locally.  Of course, there are the usual reasons – being able to control what goes into the bread, huge cost savings and the warm inner glow that comes from some small measure of self-sufficiency.  But there is  another reason I “bother”, and that is because I find the rhythm and routine of the process very comforting.  We bake our own bread, that’s just what we do, and I know that twice a week, the house will be warm and filled with hot, fresh loaves that smell divine, and I’ll be filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

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