Homemade Sourdough Bread

The year 2020 has been fairly eventful. Bushfires. The untimely death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. The coronavirus global pandemic and the societal lockdowns that followed. I have noticed that a lot of people on social media have been making their own sourdough breads whilst in isolation.

This is a skill that I have been wanting to learn for a while.

Here is the recipe that I used to make my very own sourdough bread. No kneading required. First, I made my own sourdough starter, which took 5-7 days mature. This recipe only requires the starter to be mixed with water and flour, then letting the mixture rise naturally overnight to finally bake in the morning.

What is sourdough bread?

Simply put, it’s a bread made without the use of a commercial yeast, but with a sourdough starter or culture instead. The starter is what makes the bread rise. Generally, breads made with a sourdough starter have more flavour than yeasted bread.

Equipment required

  • 4-6 quart cast iron dutch oven with lid (or bread baker)
  • some mixing bowls
  • measuring cup
  • digital kitchen scale

How to make sourdough bread (quick version)

  1. Mix the flours (520 grams) and salt (2-3 teaspoons) together.
  2. Mix sourdough starter and water together (90 grams starter with 385 grams water).
  3. Combine all in a medium bowl, until flour is fully incorporated.
  4. Let rest 15 minutes. Stretch the dough, inside the bowl. Repeat 15 minutes later.
  5. Cover and leave to rest on the kitchen counter for 9-12 hours (at room temperature).
  6. In the morning, stretch, fold and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, let rise for 1 hour in the refrigerator and preheat the oven.
  7. Score.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes.

How to schedule sourdough bread?

  1. 12 noon: Feed the sourdough starter. 4-8 hours before you plan to mix up the dough, feed your starter (alternatively, you can use the unfed starter straight from the fridge at 8 pm).
  2. 8 pm: Mix. Mix flours and salt, and mix starter and water, and mix all into a ball. After 15 mins, stretch the dough, using the “stretch and fold” technique. Cover for 15 more minutes and repeat the stretch and fold.
  3. Proof. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel, to proof (rise) overnight, or 9-12 hours at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
  4. 7-8 am. Shape. Check your dough and when it has almost doubled in size, stretch, fold, and shape. Place in a parchment-lined bowl, dusted with flour.
  5. Final Rise and Preheat Oven. Place the shaped dough in the fridge for 1 hour while you preheat the oven (heating up your dutch oven or bread baker too, for 50-60 minutes at 250C) 
  6. 9 am: Place and score. Pull your heated dutch oven out of the oven. Lift your shaped dough, either flipping or lifting out by the parchment, carefully place into the hot dutch oven. 
  7. Score the bread using a sharp knife (lightly oiled) or bread lame, cutting a single slash slit into the dough, about an inch (2 cm) deep.
  8. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove lid, lower heat to 200C and bake 15-20 more minutes, until very deeply golden. You will want it darker than you might think. Let it cool on a rack before cutting. If you like a softer crust bake covered 25 minutes, uncovered 10-15 minutes.
  9. 10 am: Bon appetite!

How to make mulled cider in a slow cooker

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Winter is officially here. Which means colder and longer nights. But it’s not all bad news. Hot drinks and cocktails come back into fashion, making it easier to enjoy the cooler nights out and about socialising with friends.

Mulled cider is a must have for autumn and winter social gatherings. Most popular in the northern hemisphere where the winters are very cold and a hot beverage is always welcome. Melbourne may not be as cold as the north, but the smell of spiced cider is pretty inviting and it tastes delicious.

Anybody can enjoy a mug of mulled cider, and as an adult you can take the opportunity to add a shot of spiced rum for a smooth kick.

A slow cooker does the double of both mulling the cider and keeping it warm for hours, making it the perfect appliance for this classic cold-weather beverage. It will also make your house smell like Christmas.

How to make mulled cider in the slow cooker
Makes 4 litres.

Ingredients

  • 4 litres of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
  • 4 x cinnamon sticks
  • 1 x large orange
  • 1 x piece of fresh ginger (approx. 4cm)
  • 1 x tablespoon of whole cloves
  • 1 x tablespoon of nutmeg
  • 1 x teaspoon of star anise

Instructions

  • Fill the slow cooker;
  • Add the fresh ingredients (orange and ginger);
  • Add the spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and star anise);
  • Slow cook on low for up to 4 hours or pressure cook on high for 3o minutes;
  • Strain cider (if required or desired) using a fine mesh strainer.

Keep warm and serve in mugs garnished with sliced orange or a cinnamon stick.