Timing is everything

It’s hot, and getting hotter. One thing that really takes some getting used to moving from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern is a hot Christmas. Firing up the oven when it is heading for 40°C isn’t an appealing idea; but bread still needs to be baked! So, the trick is to juggle the timing of the bread so that it can be baked in the morning, whilst it is still relatively cool indoors and out. The best way to manage time with bread is to control the temperature of the dough, and the best way to do that is to refrigerate it. In technical terms, this is called retarding the dough, and it usually happens after the loaves have been shaped, following the first rise. I decided to make a spelt sourdough so I fed my sourdough starter straight from the fridge on Sunday night with 100g of flour and 100g of water. The rest of the timings are included in the recipe.

Overnight Spelt, fresh from the oven this morning

A couple of things worth noting from this recipe: I have made my starter a little stiffer than usual on the second feeding by using half as much water as flour. The autolyse mixes only flour and water, and the rest of the ingredients are added later. This is a “no knead” bread. The sourdough is ‘spiked’ with a little commercial (instant) yeast to give it a little extra rise – purists can leave the room at this point. I am loosely following a recipe from Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. Overnight Spelt Sourdough

  • 200g rye flour
  • 100g lukewarm water
  • 100g sourdough starter
  • 540g white spelt flour
  • 260g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 620g lukewarm water
  • 20g salt
  • 2g instant yeast
  1. 8am – Mix the 100g of rye starter with 200g rye flour and 100g lukewarm water. Leave in a tupperware at room temperature.

    A stiff rye starter ready to go
  2. 3.30pm – Mix the 540g white spelt, 260g wholemeal spelt, and 620g lukewarm water in a large bowl by hand until combined. Rest (autolyse) for half an hour.

    The autolyse – a premix of flour and water
  3. 4pm – Add 360g of the rye starter. Put the rest back into the original jar in the fridge. Add the salt and the yeast, and mix all of the ingredients by hand for about 5 minutes. This is not a vigorous as kneading the bread: I mix by wetting my (right) hand, dipping into the dough and folding it over itself, whilst rotating the bowl with my left hand.
  4. Rest until just over doubled in size. On a warm day like today, between four and five hours.
  5. 8pm – Flour half of the workbench, flour hands, and tip a little flour onto the dough. Work hands around the side of the bowl and lift dough out. Be careful not to knock too much air out of the dough. Refer to the bread shaping guide here – I divide and shape into two rounds, then place into well floured round bannetons and place each in a plastic bag in the fridge. Proof in the fridge overnight.

    Divided, shaped, and placed into bannetons ready for the fridge
  6. 7.15am the next day – Preheat the oven to 245°C with a Dutch oven (I use a cast iron Le Creuset) on the middle shelf.
  7. 8am – Remove the Dutch oven from the oven (it will be extremely hot); remove the lid. Carefully tip the dough out of the banneton onto a floured surface, and using floured hands lift the dough into the Dutch oven. Place the lid back on and put into the oven. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, and then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.
  8. 8.45am – Cool the bread on a wire rack.

    A nice split along the top of the bread, and a dark crust