On Christmas Eve we will have dinner with family with seafood, antipasti, and desserts. We used to do it for an early lunch on Christmas day, until it got to the point where between lunch and dinner you could feasibly gain 20 kilos and lose the feeling in both legs. This year, we will be making prawns in a variety of ways, salmon blinis, yabbies (an Australian freshwater crayfish) – if we catch any – dips, and whatever else we decide on at the last minute.
For the dips, we need bread, and as it’s Christmas I have dispensed with the wheat embargo and gone for a white flour and wholemeal spelt ciabatta style bread. I say ciabatta style for a few reasons. The name ciabatta refers to the shape of the bread, and I have instead made mine into rounds or ‘boules’ rather than the traditional ‘slipper’ shape. I have, however, kept the high hydration of a ciabatta. This means the volume of water in the dough compared to flour.
I have briefly mentioned hydration before, and refer to in the glossary, but to explain further if the total weight of flour in a dough is considered to be 100%, then the hydration is the total percentage of water in comparison. My maths is not great, but most of my recipes use 1000g of flour, making it easier to work out. If there is a total of 800g of water in a recipe (including the water in the starter), then the loaf at 80% hydration. This loaf is about 82%.
High hydration doughs are sticky, slack, and hard to handle. They require extra folding to add structure, and need to be proofed in some sort of container or on a linen sheet folded to give support. Working with a high hydration gives those big holes in the crumb that are the trademark of a good ciabatta.
Spelt and linseed meal ciabatta style sourdough makes 2 large boules
Wholemeal Spelt and White Flour Starter
- 150g strong white flour
- 150g wholemeal spelt flour
- 450g lukewarm water
- 550g strong white flour
- 250g wholemeal spelt flour
- 600g lukewarm water
- 375g starter
- 50g linseed meal (flax meal)
- 20g salt
- The day before making the dough, feed the starter with 75g of white flour, 75g of wholemeal spelt flour and 225g warm water. Rest overnight at room temperature.
- The morning of making the dough, feed with the remaining 75g of each flour and 225g of lukewarm water. Rest for about 7-8 hours.
- In the afternoon, mix the 550g white flour and 250g wholemeal spelt flour with the 600g lukewarm water in a large bowl. Rest (autolyse) for 20 minutes to half an hour.
- Add the 375g of starter, the salt, and the linseed meal. In the bowl, knead the dough for 5 minutes to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Rest (bulk ferment) for 4-5 hours.
- Every half an hour for the first 2-3 hours, using wet hands, stretch, fold, and turn the dough. This develops the structure. “Stretching and folding” is explained in an earlier post.
- Flour the dough, your hands, and a dough cutter or large knife. Lift the risen dough out of the bowl and onto a work surface, and divide in half. Shape the dough into boules and rest for 30 minutes.
- Using a 50/50 mix of wholemeal spelt flour and rice flour, flour two bannetons or bowls liberally. Shape the dough again (it will have flattened out since the last shaping), and place into the bannetons seam side up. Place into plastic bags and refrigerate overnight.
- 45 minutes to an hour before baking, preheat the oven to max with a dutch oven (le creuset style cast iron or enamel pot) on the middle shelf with the lid on.
- Remove one loaf from the refrigerator and tip out onto a floured bread peel, or the floured back of a baking tray. The dough should be risen and will be quite fragile. Score the loaves if you wish with a razor or serrated knife.
- Using oven gloves, remove the dutch oven and slide the bread into it. Replace the lid and place back into the oven. Reduce the heat to 240°C and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.
- Before the next loaf, preheat the dutch oven for 5 minutes, then repeat as above.
- Cool on a wire rack.
Some notes about this bread: I use a rye starter, so two days before I began ‘converting’ the starter by feeding it with the 50/50 blend of white and wholemeal flours. I did this because I find that the rye does not give as much ‘lift’. The 50/50 blend of rice flour and wholemeal spelt used on the bannetons ensure that the very sticky dough actually comes out in one piece – something I have learned through a lot of trial and error. Because I wanted a lie in on Sunday morning, the timings I followed for this loaf were:
- 8pm, day before dough, feed starter
- 10am, day before baking, feed starter
- 4.30pm, day before baking, autolyse
- 5pm, day before baking, mix, knead, bulk ferment. Stretch fold at 5.30, 6, 6.30, 7, 7.30.
- 10pm, divide and shape, rest.
- 10.30pm, shape into bannetons and refrigerate
- 9.15am, day of baking, preheat oven
- 10am, day of baking, bake!