You can tell what sort of family mine is when my mum says stuff like ‘Ooh you’re coming home, I’ll get the sourdough starter out.’ Sourdough is a bit of a faff and takes some preparation, but it is completely justified by the taste of the bread. We really wanted to try an ale bread and this recipe from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake book looked lovely so I gave it a go. With only one sourdough proving basket, one of my loafs sort of looks like it should and the other looks like a very sad squished version. Queue us madly searching Amazon for a second proving basket for next time…
750g strong white bread flour
500g sourdough starter
250ml Spitfire Ale
100-200ml tepid water
Olive oil for kneading
For beer paste
125ml Spitfire Ale
100g rye flour
Start off by measuring the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt and the starter. (I used my mum’s KitchenAid just because I could).
Add the Spitfire Ale and half the tepid water and mix it all around using your hands. Add more of the water if you need to in order to pick up all of the flour.
Coat a work surface with a little olive oil and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. I did 5 minutes in the KitchenAid and 5 minutes by hand, because I always like to get a little feel for the dough. Keeping kneading until the dough is soft and smooth.
Pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove at a warm temperature (I put it in the airing cupboard) for 5 hours.
Cover 2 baking trays with muslin cloths and dust them with flour, or prepare your proving baskets in the same way if you have them.
Tip the risen dough out onto a floured surface and knock the air out. Divide the dough into two round cob shapes and pop onto the trays or in the proving baskets. Cover with a large plastic bag and leave to prove for about 24 hours or until at least doubled in size.
Around an hour before you intend to bake the loaves make the beer paste by mixing the Spitfire and rye dough together. Leave it to stand on the side.
Heat the oven to 190⁰C. Line two baking trays with parchment.
Transfer the loaves to the baking trays. As you can see the one in my proving basket came out quite nicely, and the other one looks like a very sad, squished version of a pile of gunge. (I baked it anyway and it still tasted nice, it was just a bit flatter than the other one…)
Smear the beer paste all over the loaves. This is a litter harder than I imagined, and I think I managed to deflate my poor loaf quite a lot by being a cack-handed paster. Practise makes perfect as they say.
Slash a crosshatch pattern deeply over the top of the loaves. As usual I was a bit timid with my slashing so the pattern wasn’t especially deep but who really cares?
Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap them underneath. Cool them on a wire rack.
This bread is amazing with soup, curry and stews, or just as a special sandwich.