Beetroot Sourdough

It’s been a long while since I posted a recipe, but in the gap I have been baking more or less weekly, and adjusting my sourdough technique to make baking fit around my work and home life. The most important aspects of baking for me – other than the final quality and taste of the bread – are the time and effort it takes to make a loaf.

Whilst I occasionally have time to spend a few hours attending to a dough (as for croissants, or puff pastry), generally I want the best results in the least time possible.

“Time”, however, is fairly subjective when it comes to sourdough. From start to finish, most of my loaves take three or four days to make. Whilst this might seem like a long time – when compared to, for example, a plain white loaf that takes a couple of hours from start to finish – it’s the amount of contact time with the bread that I’m interested in.

So, to get back into the swing of blogging, I’ll be writing a series of posts demonstrating the different methods I have been working with of baking quality bread with very little effort or contact time. The first of these is a beetroot sourdough. This bread was inspired by a recipe in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Breada book I came across a few years ago in England. I have also used Hadjiandreou’s recommended “stretch and fold” method of kneading the bread. In other recipes, I will discuss the merits of “no-knead” bread. For this one, however, I think that the beetroot is better incorporated into the dough with a little extra attention.

All of these recipes require an active starter. That means – for a weekend bake – feeding a starter on Thursday or Friday (about 5 minutes), combining the dough ingredients the following morning (5 minutes), doing a few stretch and fold kneads (another 5 minutes…), and dividing and shaping (5-10 minutes). The total “contact time” of these breads then is less than half an hour – for the rest of the time they just sit around and do their thing on the kitchen bench.

For recipes for the rye starter, baking skills, and some of the terminology such as “hydration“, see some of my previous posts and the glossary.

Two large sourdough boules, studded with fresh beetroot

Beetroot Sourdough – makes 2 large loaves

  • 1kg all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 670g water
  • 400g rye starter @ 100% hydration
  • 18g salt
  • 430g raw beetroot, coarsely grated
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, water, and starter. Autolyse for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Add beetroot and salt. Knead to incorporate. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or cling film and bulk ferment on the counter for 4 hours. During this time, stretch and fold the dough several times – still in the bowl, grab a portion of the dough, lift it, and fold it back on itself. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat the stretch and fold. Repeat several times.
  3. After the dough has risen by about a third, tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide and shape into two balls. Rest for 20 minutes.
  4. After resting, shape again into ‘boules’. Place into well floured bannetons or bowls. Proof for 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to maximum with a Dutch oven (or ‘Le Crueset’ style cast iron pot) on the middle shelf.
  6. Score the first loaf, and bake in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to 230˚C, and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove to a wire rack and rest for at least one hour. Repeat with the remaining loaf.

Because of the beetroot I have found that this bread will not last as long as other sourdoughs before going stale. Once it is cool enough, if you are not planning on eating soon, I would recommend slicing it and freezing.

Two beetroot sourdough boules proofing – the pink colour bakes out but the beetroot remains




Skills series

A while back I put together a few blogs on baking skills, using the knowledge I have gained over the last four or five years through trial, error, and a lot of great recipe books. As I haven’t posted in a while (because I haven’t baked in a while- busy weekends) I thought I’d pull together those skills posts into one page, so, here they are!

#1 Autolyse
#2 Kneading
#3 Bulk Ferment
#4 Divide and Shape

And because I won’t be baking this weekend, here’s an old pic of some millet sourdough to be getting along with…



Baking skills pt. 4: Divide and Shape

This is the fourth in a series of posts intended to make some of the more complex parts of bread making simpler for the home baker. The previous posts were on the autolyse stage, kneading, and bulk fermentation.

After the bulk ferment the dough must be divided into the necessary portions. Of you have made enough for one loaf then obviously this step can be skipped. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and using a dough cutter or large kitchen knife cut the dough into the required amounts. If you were planning on selling the bread then you would have to scale (weigh) the dough to ensure even portions, but at home I usually just judge this by eye.

A dough cutter is more versatile than a knife for dividing dough.

After dividing, shape each portion into a round and rest for 5 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax and makes the next stage of shaping easier, with less chance of the dough springing back out of shape.

Shaping is crucial to the final loaf, having an enormous impact on the texture, size, uniformity, and look of the finished bread.

An exploded loaf, due partly to poor shaping: the bread will rise most at its weakest point, in this case the seam.

It can be simple, such as adding the final couple of folds to a ciabatta, or much more complex like the round couronne,  or a plaited or braided loaf. For this lesson, I have stuck to the shapes I use most often: the round, the bâtard, the loaf, the baton and the stick or baguette. All of these shapes begin with the round formed after division.

Instructions on shaping at the back of my recipe book.


  1. Using the blades of both hands, lightly cup the dough on an unfloured work surface.
  2. Stretching the dough downwards evenly, gently begin rotating the dough.
  3. Perform this motion several times until the surface tension of the dough is even and the dough is round.
  4. Place seam side up into an oiled bowl or floured banneton, or seam side down on a floured baking tray for free form baking.


  1. Start as for round. Whilst stretching the dough, gently ease it into an oval shape like a rugby ball.
  2. Rock the dough back, exposing the seam. Using the side of one hand pinch the seam closed.
  3. Place seam side up into a bâtard shaped banneton or seam side down on a floured baking tray for free form baking.


  1. Gently stretch the round into a rectangle, being careful not to squash all of the air out of the dough.
  2. Roll the rectangle like a swiss roll, maintaining an even pressure.
  3. Pinch the seams together and place seam side down into a floured out oiled loaf tin.

Baton (Dan Lepard’s method)

  1. Gently press the dough into a flattened oval, seam side up.
  2. Take the top two “corners” of the oval and fold in towards the centre.
  3. Take the new point of the top of the dough and fold that in towards the centre.
  4. Rotate the dough 180 degrees and repeat.
  5. Fold the dough in half towards you, and seal the seam with the side of your hand.
  6. Place the dough, seam side down, onto a floured baking tray.


  1. Begin with as shaping for a bâtard, up to step 2.
  2. Rest the dough for 5 minutes. This helps to further relax the dough which is necessary for stretching.
  3. Gently stretch the dough from each end, pulling it into a stick or baguette shape.
  4. Roll the dough back and forth to create an even surface tension