Monday, 13 February 2012

Orange and Pecan Sourdough

The perfect start to Valentines Day 
For me the perfect Valentines day is breakfast in bed. A cup of tea, some fabulous hot buttered toast, with marmalade and a great book!

However I had no sourdough ready in time to make my bread in time for Valentines day as my starter was ruined.  It's a long story but the short version is my freezer defrosted and yet still had a light so 9 days later my frozen stuff was well and truly disgustingly defrosted.  With so little time I was stuck and so I called an amazing baker who inspired and helped me to make my own bread again years ago ( 2006!)  called Andrew Whitley who wrote Bread Matters

Andrew kindly sent me  some of his starter in the post.  Unfortunately my dog got hold of the packet and chewed one half of it .. but I cut away the un chewed part and managed to rescue it and get it going !

200g of unbleached flour strong bread flour
200g of wholemeal strong bread flour
200ml of tepid water
1 tps sea salt
Zest of one large orange
75 g of pecans
1 tbs of polenta for dusting
2 – 3 tbs of olive oil

1 To make the bread add one nugget of starter to 200ml of tepid water.  You might need another 10 ml. Mix the nugget of starter with the water until a paste is formed then add the flour. Leave for about 20 minutes.

2 Gently knead on a lightly oiled surface for 2 minutes.  Leave again for about an hour or so.

3 Knead again adding the salt, orange zest, and pecans. Shape into a ball and leave to prove in a breadbasket, covered with a damp cloth.  There is no need to knead it lots! I leave mine for about 5 – 6 hours, until it is half raised. Check that the bubbles are formed by cutting a small slit in the dough with a sharp knife.

4 Score the bread with a pattern of your choice and put it gently onto a baking sheet dusted with polenta and transfer into a hot oven 190 with a pan of water underneath.  The steam encourages a crusty crust.   It’s that simple.

5 After 30 minutes check the bread is cooked by tapping the base.  It should sound hollow.

To make a starter

Use a glass jar or a suitable vessel with a lid.
Blend I cup of warm water and I cup of unbleached strong flour
Place in jar and keep at between 28 and 32 degrees. Do not exceed 38 degrees.

This comes to life. Every 24 hours or so for up to seven days half the mix, throw away one half and add half a cup of flour and half a cup of water again, repeat for at least three days, it will start to cake and bubble. This is normal.

Really the longer you feed it for the better, but look after it! You can store it after the first week in the fridge, keep feeding though and make sure there is a hole for air to vent, if a brown liquid appears either pour off or stir in, stirring in will increase the sourness.

Then that’s it - you have the sponge.  What baker Dan Lepard taught me was to batch freeze nuggets of this about 45 – 50g to and use them, as you need them.  From one of these you can restart your sponge to make the next lot to freeze.  Use wholemeal flour to get the best results!

Anyway I must say that between Andrews starter and Bakery bits dome and Dan teaching me the bread was delicious!


  1. Lovely photos Vanessa, the blog is fab and I could tuck into the sourdough right now xx

  2. Happy Valentine's Day - what a wonderful way to start it.

    Quick question - is the wholemeal best for making the starter or for making the bread from it?



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