The overall method is much more what I’m used to, and what I like about this Handbook is that there’s a big chapter about the different stages of bread-making, what each is for, and then he gives a basic blueprint recipe referring back to the ‘foundation’chapter, followed by a number of variations. To be fair, Dan Lepard does the same, but in slightly less detail.I feel like I’m not a novice baker, so took the opportunity to fiddle around with the recipe, using half and half strong white and wholemeal flour. The last batch of Dan L bread I made, I followed the half sponge method for his farmhouse tin loaf, but used half spelt flour and it worked pretty. I am determined to go back to using more wholegrain flour, it’s just a matter of making bread that isn’t completely dense and bricklike with it.
So back to Dan S’s philosophy. In his blueprint recipe, he lists a number of optional extras including a ladleful of sourdough starter. My starter has been languishing at the bottom of the fridge, without so much as a feed, since the Husband broke his tooth on a piece of crackling before Christmas. Neglected and unloved, I thought the chances were slim, but to my surprise, it seems to have survived. I added some as instructed, and then gave the rest of it a feed. I’ll keep it out of the fridge for a few days and see if I can pep it back up.Rather than using my trusty Kenwood dough hook, I have been hand kneading my bread recently, and I took care to give my bread today a good 10-15 minutes which it seemed to knead. The instruction is to leave the dough to rise wrapped in a bin bag – this I did not have but a plastic carrier bag seemed to do the trick. I followed the instructions to the letter, letting the risen dough rest before being shaped, and then I followed his instructions for shaping what he calls a ‘stubby cylinder’. I left the 2 shaped loaves, coated in oats, to do the second rise wrapped in a floured tea towel, covered again with the plastic bag, and then baked according in a hot oven for 10 mins followed by 30 mins at 180. He gives some helpful cooking guidance for ditherers like me – “Hmm – looks done – has it had enough time? – I’m not sure it’s had enough – may be I should take it out – maybe I should leave it in” and is very supportive about trusting your instinct. I like this.
And was it all worth it? I think it probably was. I am truly thrilled with my loaves. I’ve never got wholemeal rising so well - even a half and half dough like this batch. How exciting.