Fresh homemade bread is so much better than store-bought, unless you are happy enough to live near an artisanal bakery that bakes bread several times a day. As we both eat at the office on weekdays, I usually only bake bread once or twice a week: multi-grain bread for the weekend, and white Italian bread for a dinner party with company. When I am cooking for a dinner party, it is no trouble to make the dough with my stand mixer, allow it to rise, and then bake the bread in the oven. Fresh homemade bread takes a dinner party to the next level. If only because everyone can smell it when they enter.
I like to have fresh multi-grain bread for breakfast in the weekend. For a dinner party it is important to bake the bread in the oven so it will look nice, but for personal use a breadmaker is a great help so you don’t have to work and wait before you can eat. The night before you put all the ingredients into the breadmaker, you set the timer, and the next morning fresh bread is ready at the scheduled time. If you have a good breadmaker such as Panasonic and you use good flour and a good recipe, the bread will be very good. Except for the rectangular shape and the hole in the bottom, but who cares?
This has been my bread routine for several years. But then something changed, because I switched from commercial fresh yeast to using my own sourdough starter. I have been maintaining it for 8 months by now and I really like the bread. However, the breadmaker does not have a program for sourdough bread. So at first I kept making multi-grain bread using commercial yeast. But then I did some experiments and found out that I could get good sourdough bread out of my breadmaker! This bread has great flavor and is all natural because the ingredients of this bread are only flour, water, and salt (considering that sourdough is made from flour and water as well). The bread is more compact than bread from commercial yeast, but it is certainly no ‘brick’, nor is it too dense or too sour. The only drawback is that the top of the bread isn’t browned as nicely, but the crust is excellent anyway. So again, as bread from a breadmaker is for personal use anyway, who cares?
Baking bread this way once a week is also a great way to maintain your sourdough starter, which needs to be refreshed (‘fed’, it’s like a pet…) once a week anyway. Since I maintain a ‘white’ starter that I can use for both the multigrain bread and white bread, I do not add any white flour to the multigrain bread like I do in the regular recipe.
So how to make sourdough bread in a breadmaker? The trick is to mix the dough about 12 hours before the bread should be finished, and then use the timer to allow it to rise before the regular baking program of the breadmaker begins. Use a program with a long proofing time. It depends on your breadmaker whether this will work for you too. On my Panasonic, I use the ‘French bread’ program. It takes me about 15 minutes altogether to refresh the starter and prep the dough for the breadmaker (including waiting while the stand mixer is kneading), and it is well worth the effort.
300 grams sourdough starter
200 grams wholemeal flour
175 grams multigrain flour
225 grams lukewarm water
15 grams (2 tsp) salt
For refreshing the starter
200 grams flour
100 grams water
If you maintain 500 grams of starter, each time you can take 300 grams of it to bake bread, and feed the remaining 200 grams of starter with 200 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. This will give you 500 grams of starter for the next time. Allow the starter to grow for 24 hours at room temperature or at least 96 hours in the refrigerator before using it again. It should quadruple in size. The photo above shows the starter just after it has been fed. If you compare it to the ingredient shot, you can see how much it will grow.
Mix the dough about 12 hours before the bread should be finished (i.e. the night before). If you don’t own a stand mixer, you could use the ‘pizza dough’ program on the breadmaker to mix the dough. I use my standmixer. First I put 300 grams of sourdough starter in the bowl.
Two years ago the International Shanghai Chicken project was inspired by Clayton. Several bloggers created dishes based on one of his favorite dishes, chicken with sambal, pine nuts and crispy deep-fried chinese cabbage.