Zakwas – Sourdough

I have been on a long quest to find out how to make a really good sourdough bread.

I have make various rye bread versions, the easiest being a no knead version.

What I wanted was a recipe that used a sourdough starter, zakwas – in Polish,  for a wheat flour loaf that was a “classic” shape.

I wanted a loaf that looked right, tasted good and had a lovely crispy or chewy crust.

Every book or article that I read had loads of advice much of it contradictory.

I tried different methods with different degrees of success and several complete failures!  Sometimes I knew what had gone wrong sometimes I just did not know.

I was getting the taste most of the time but getting the shape without an exploding crust was more difficult.

I kept wondering how my grandmother and others in generations past had made this type of bread with ease without the aid of books, articles and videos found on the internet.

The best advice came from two sources – the book – all you knead is Bread by Jane Mason and several YouTube videos by Tomek Lach – these are in Polish.

  • I am now writing up the results of many months of baking trials.
  • Timing given in the book are often not enough – depends on many factors.
  • I have found that leaving the refreshed starter or the dough for hours longer – even overnight, works.
  • My latest loaf tastes wonderful, the crust is lovely, the shape is nearly right.
  • I am hoping that next time it will be spot on!

Sourdough starter – zakwas

  • To make this you put 50g of rye flour and 50ml of water into a large glass preserving jar on day 1 and stir, cover and leave for 24 hours.
  • On days 2, 3, and 4 you repeat this.
  • On Day 5 it is ready to use.
  • Or you can keep it in the fridge – topping up once a week with a couple of spoons of flour and water.

Day 1 – refreshing the starter

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of starter
  • 60g of wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons of water

Method

  • Mix the ingredients together to make a thick paste.
  • Add more water if needed.
  • Place into a bowl and cover – shower caps are good for this.
  • Leave for around 12 hours at least – often I have make this in the morning and then leave it at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.

Day 2 – making the dough

Ingredients

  • Mixture from day 1
  • 300g of strong wheat flour
  • 200ml of water (may need more)
  • 1¼ teaspoons of salt

Method

  • Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
  • More water may be needed – a wetter dough may be harder to work but better in the long run.
  • Place on a floured board.
  • Knead for 10 minutes (set a timer).
  • Try not to add much extra flour.
  • Form into a ball and place in a bowl.
  • Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  • *
  • Pretend the dough is a clock face-pull a piece of dough out at noon, stretch and fold it back.
  • Repeat going around the clock face.
  • Cover it again and leave to rest for 1 hour.
  • Repeat this resting – pulling – resting twice more.
  • That is 4 rest and 3 pulls in all.
  • *
  • To shape the dough put it gently on to just a very lightly floured surface.
  • Try to use as little extra flour as possible.
  • Stretch and fold the dough to get a round ball shape.
  • Tucking the dough into the the base of the roll with your fingers.
  • Place in a proofing basket
  • I have found it is better to place a cotton or linen floured napkin over the surface.
  • This makes it easier to turn out the risen dough.
  • I now have a special circular piece of cotton specially for this.
  • It is best to wash this without the use of fabric conditioner or perfumed detergent.
  • Place into a large plastic bag or use a shower cap to cover.
  • *
  • Allow to rise until it has grown in size by 1½ times.
  • This can take 2-3 hours or even longer – depends on the heat in the kitchen.
  • *
  • Pre-heat the oven to GM 8 – 230°C.
  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with greaseproof paper and sprinkling on semolina or flour.
  • Gently tip out the risen dough onto the sheet.
  • Cut three long slashes in the top with a sharp knife.

 

 

  • Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to GM6  – 200°C.
  • Bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Check the base sounds hollow.
  • Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Different wheat flours

You can alter the type and proportions of wheat flour and can use whole-wheat or wholemeal flour.

I am trying different versions out and have made a loaf with 60g of whole-wheat in the refreshed starter and 150g whole-wheat and 150g strong flour for the dough. It was a little heavier but tasted super.

There are many  variations to try out!

 

Poolish Rye Bread

I recently posted about a wheat bread I made using the Poolish method.

As this was such success I thought I would try out a Poolish recipe this time using rye flour.

There are lots of steps and it takes most of the day, so it is best made when you are at home with other things to do in between.

A Poolish is a pre-ferment usually combing equal parts of flour and water (by weight) with some yeast.

This recipe is adapted from Bake it Better  – Bread – edited by Linda Collister, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.

Ingredients – Poolish

  • 250g rye flour
  • 150g strong flour
  • 15g fresh yeast (7g dried)
  • 300ml  lukewarm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar

Method – Poolish

  • Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a jug
  • Leave for about 5 minutes.
  • Make a well and pour in the yeast mixture.
  • Bring it all together to make a thick lump free mixture.
  • Cover the bowl (a shower cap is good)
  • Leave at room temperature to rise for about 4 hours.

Ingredients – Dough

  • Poolish
  • 200g rye flour
  • 100g strong flour
  • 125ml lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • *
  • Milk to brush loaves
  • Extra caraway seeds for sprinkling on loaves

Method – Dough

  • To the Poolish add the water and mix to make a smooth batter.
  • Mix the flours and the salt.
  • Add the flour and salt to the Poolish  and mix.
  • You will have a soft and heavy, sticky dough.
  • Leave uncovered to rest for 5 minutes.
  • *
  • Add a little water if it feels too stiff.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured board.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes (set a timer).
  • *
  • Put back into a large bowl and cover (a shower cap is good).
  • Leave to rest and rise for 1 hour.
  • *
  • Knock back the dough.
  • Roll into a ball.
  • Cover and leave for 1 hour.
  • *
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured board.
  • Knead a couple of times.
  • Divide into two.
  • Shape each piece into a ball.
  • Cover loosely with a dry tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
  • *
  • Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper.
  • Knead and fold and shape each ball into an oval.
  • Place the two pieces on the baking sheet.
  • Cover loosely and leave to prove for 1 hour.
  • *
  • Pre-heat the oven to GM7 220°C
  • Put a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven to heat up.
  • *
  • Cut 3 slashes in the top of each loaf.
  • Brush lightly with milk or water.
  • Sprinkle with caraway seeds.
  • Put the loaves in the oven.
  • Quickly pour a glass of water into the roasting tin (the steam helps to give a good crust).
  • Close the door and bake for around 10 minutes.
  • Reduce to GM6 2O0°C  and continue baking for 25 minutes
  • Leave to cool on a wire cake rack.

Poolish Bread

A Poolish is a pre-ferment usually combing equal parts of flour and water (by weight) with some yeast.

The origin of the term Poolish is that it is named after a method used by Polish bakers around 1840 when it was brought to France.

However – Poolish is an old English version of Polish and this term seems to be most used in France where polonais is the word for Polish – strange!

Fermentation is carried out at room temperature for some time – long enough for the Poolish to bubble up and increase its volume. This can take anywhere from 3 to 24 hours.

Using  Poolish is said to give a light texture to the dough, develop a sweetness of flavour and also give a good colour in the crust.

This recipe is adapted from Bake it Better  – Bread – edited by Linda Collister, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.

The original amounts made two very big loaves so I the second time I made this,  I cut it down, to make two small loaves – these are the instructions below.

Ingredients – Day One

  • 25g wholemeal flour
  • 150g strong flour
  • 10g fresh yeast (5g dried)
  • 175ml water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar

Method – Day One

  • Mix the yeast, water and sugar in a jug
  • Leave for about 5 -10 minutes.
  • Mix the two flours together in a bowl.
  • Make a well and pour in the yeast mixture.
  • Bring it all together to make a thick lump free mixture.
  • Cover the bowl (a shower cap is good)
  • Leave a room temperature for 20 – 24 hours.

Ingredients – Day Two

  • Poolish from day one
  • 125ml water
  • 250g strong flour (maybe a little more)
  • ½ tablespoon of salt

Method – Day Two

  • To the Poolish add the water and mix to make a smooth batter.
  • Add 125g of the flour and mix it in by hand.
  • Add the salt.
  • Gradually add the rest of the flour until you have a soft but not sticky dough.
  • Add more flour if necessary.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes (set a timer).
  • Put back into a large bowl and cover (a shower cap is good).
  • Leave to rise till double in size – around 3 hours.
  • When it looks nearly ready – line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper.
  • Knock back the dough with your knuckles to deflate it.
  • Cut the dough into two pieces.
  • Leave them to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Knead each piece for 1 minute.
  • Shape each piece and put it on the baking sheet.
  • Dust them lightly with some flour.
  • Cover loosely and leave to prove for 1 to 1½ hours.
  • Pre-heat the oven to GM7 220°C
  • Put a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven to heat up.
  • Cut 3 slashes in the top of each loaf (oops I forget the 2nd time!).
  • Put the loaves in the oven.
  • Quickly pour a glass of water into the roasting tin (the steam helps to give a good crust).
  • Close the door and bake for around 30 minutes.
  • Leave to cool on a wire cake rack.