Welsh Rarebit

Ok so this isn’t a recipe for bread – in fact it’s barely a recipe at all; it’s basically a glorified cheese on toast… but still… Welsh rarebit is one of those comfort foods thats great for a Sunday night dinner.

welsh_rarebit
Fresh out of the grill – the mixture soaks through the bread and browns on top

Being from Stoke, I find it hard to get past Staffordshire oatcakes as the best vehicle for melted cheese but, I have to admit, this comes a close second. When the mixture is made, it seems as though the resulting liquid will be far too runny to do anything other than leak all over the baking tray and make a mess. But once the bread absorbs the liquid and as soon as it is placed under the grill, it begins to develop a dark, bubbly crust. It also uses more of that dark ale from the previous post, and is a fantastic excuse for using some thick slices of the dark ale sourdough.

mustard_and_beer
Essential ingredients – a good beer and a hot mustard

Welsh Rarebit – serves 2

  • 100g grated mature cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 25g butter
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1tbsp of beer (optional)
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  1. Preheat grill to high.
  2. Combine the milk and cheese in a pan over a medium heat and stir until melted. Stir in the butter, and then the remaining ingredients. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the four thick slices of sourdough onto a baking tray. Slowly pour over the cheese mixture, allowing it to soak into the bread. Don’t worry if some leaks out.
  4. Place under the grill for 4-5 minutes, until the top has browned.
  5. Serve immediately.
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Dark Ale Sourdough

Two dark ale sourdough loaves
Two dark ale sourdough loaves

Some people rate a perfect sourdough based not only on the flavour but on the irregularity of the crumb – a holey, open-crumbed texture with a well risen and crispy scored edge is the holy grail, achieved by using a high hydration dough, a fierce heat and often judicious use of steam. I can take or leave the big holey dough thing; sometimes a dense and flavourful crumb – like a rye bread or a wholemeal loaf – is just as good. But, every now and again, I like to experiment and try to find that “perfect” sourdough.

ale_crumb
The crumb is springy and full of large, uneven holes.

This recipe was born of a simple idea: I like beer, I like bread, and I’ve never (despite seeing many recipes) combined the two. So I took a pretty standard formula for two loaves – 800g of bread flour with 70% liquid, and swapped out 330ml of the water with a bottle of dark ale. The results were even better than I expected.

This sourdough loaf has the open holes and irregular crumb, the dark and crisp crust, and a fantastic flavour (so good that one loaf barely lasted out the day). The dark ale gave it lift, colour, and flavour, without being overpowering. The best part – slicing some of it up and turning it into the best Welsh rarebit ever… more on that later this week.

Sourdough_ale_crust
Well risen and with a crisp and delicious crust

Dark Ale Sourdough – makes two boules

Firm starter

  • 115g white sourdough starter @ 130% hydration
  • 130g white bread flour
  • 55g water

Dough

  • 240g firm starter
  • 800g strong white flour
  • 230ml warm water
  • 330ml dark ale
  • 16g salt
  1. Two days before baking, make the firm starter. Combine the ingredients, knead for a few minutes, and allow to rise at room temperature for four hours. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning, remove the firm starter one hour prior to making the dough, and break into a dozen pieces.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and knead briefly. Autolyse for 20 minutes. Bulk ferment for 4 hours, with a stretch/fold every half an hour for the first 2.
  4. Divide and shape the loaves into two boules. Rest on the counter for 20 minutes, then quickly and gently reshape and place into well floured bannetons. Proof for 2 hours, then place into plastic bags and retard in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. The day of baking, preheat the oven to max with a lidded cast iron pot (Dutch oven) on the middle shelf. Bake one loaf at a time for 30 minutes with the lid on, then 15 minutes with the lid off and temperature reduced to 230˚C.
  6. Remove to a wire rack and rest for at least an hour before slicing.
dark_ale_boules
Dark ale sourdough loaves shaped into boules