Busy Schedule Sourdough Loaf

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This is a really simple (although not quick) sourdough loaf to fit around any schedule.  The slow proving stages of sourdough makes the proving timings much more flexible and sympathetic to a  busy or unpredictable lifestyle:

  • Put the flours in a bowl and add the sourdough culture and warm water
  • Mix together with a spatula or with the dough-hook attachment in a mixer
  • Knead (by hand or mixer) until soft and pliable (around 10 minutes in the mixed on a medium low speed)
  • Cover and leave to rest for a couple or more hours or in the fridge if for longer
  • Punch out the air by shoving your finger-tips or knuckles into the dough on a work-surface, then shape into a ball and leave in a proving basket or covered bowl for 6 to 12 hours
  • Pre-heat the oven to 190c with a baking tray on the middle shelf (or baking/pizza stone if you have one) and lightly dust with flour
  • Pop a loaf tin or roasting tin in the bottom of the oven and pour in some water – this will steam the over and help develop a chewy crust on the loaf.  This isn’t essential however
  • Gently tip the risen loaf onto the tray/stone and bake for 30 minutes or until it has taken on a good golden colour

 

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Sourdough Starter Culture (convenient)

IMG_3995I was put off making a sourdough starter for a long time, and had a couple of false starts, following recipes that called for grapes to be added at the start to provide a boost, due to natural yeasts that are found on the skins, and ratios of different types of flour from rye to plain.

It can be a bit ‘needy’ with daily feedings of equal parts water and flour, however storing in the fridge reduces feeding frequency to about once a week.  Getting to trust the dark liquid that forms on top of the starter takes a bit of getting over, however this is harmless and just means the starter is ‘hungry.

This is the method I’ve now come to use; it’s as simple as can be:

  • Use a large, wide plastic tub with a lid.  Previous attempts with kilner jars, whilst looking attractive, failed due to it being too faffy to stir and wipe before heading to work in the morning.  I also ended up having to throw discard quite a bit as jars would become full
  • Put the tub on your scales and weight 75g strong white flour and 75g cold water and mix with a spoon or fork.  The fewer utensils used the easier.
  • Loosely attach the lid and leave it on the kitchen counter
  • Repeat this for 5 days at which point bubbles should be forming – the starter is alive!
  • The culture is now ready to use.  Continue to feed once every other day, or when the starter is looking a less active

A sourdough loaf take a lot of time to leaven and prove, however this can actually make it an easier loaf to fit in around a busy schedule.  The benefit that a slow prove brings to the flavour and digestibility of a sourdough loaf, also means your timings don’t need to be anywhere near as accurate.  You can combine the ingredients in the morning and bake in the evening without having to be any more accurate that that.

 

DIY Dry Curing Box

IMG_3698A dry curing box can simply be a covered container which will fit in your fridge and allow any liquid to drain away from your meat whilst it cures.  It should comfortably contain the meat to be cured without it touching the sides or lid.

Here’s how you can easily make your own:

  • 2 identical plastic containers (which can stack inside each other)IMG_3994
  • A drill and bit (a ‘step bit’ or ‘unibit‘ will remove any plastic burr when the holes are drilled)
  • Drill holes at regular spaces in what will become the top tier

Plastic cracks easily, so place the tub on a solid surface and try not to apply too much pressure.

When you stack the two tubs, liquid should be able to drip from the top tier and collect in the bottom.  When drilling the holes, ensure you put some in any dips in the plastic moulding, so that liquid can’t collect in the top tier.

Removing any burrs will make the tub easier to clean between curings.

 

Home-made smoked bacon – a simple cure

This is as simple as it comes.  A basic dry cure for a slab of pork belly to make delicious streaky bacon, free from factory manipulation and injected brine.  Cold smoke it and you’ve got smoked bacon.

When fried or grilled, this bacon won’t emit that white sludge which you have paid the same price for, gram for gram, as the actual meat when you pick up a packet of bacon form your local supermarket.  IMG_3681

Whilst kosher salt (free from additives) is ideal, we’re yet to find any issues with using the most basic salt available ‘cheap as chips’ in big bags from the supermarket.  This salt contains ‘anti-caking’ agent to prevent the salt from sticking together; sodium ferrocyanide (E535) in trace amounts.

 

 

 

 

Here’s what you need:

  • Pork Belly – 2kg
  • Salt – 500g
  • Sugar (any granulated) – 300g
  • Prague Powder #1 – 5g (2.5 g per kg of meat)
  • A dry curing box

Hygiene is important so keep utensils, surfaces and extremities good and clean.

  • Combine all the dry ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
  • Trim the pork belly of any uneven bits and remove any ribs if the butcher has left them on.  The rind can be a bit tough to slice at home once the bacon is ready so you can remove it now in one go.  Give the belly a rinse under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  • Spread a layer of the cure blend into the top tier of the curing container.  You may choose to put some cheese-cloth in first to prevent too much of the cure falling into the bottom tier.
  • Add your pork belly ensuring there is some space between the meat and the sides/top of the container, and spread over the remainder of the cure, covering the top and sides of the meat.
  • Pop the lid on and store in the fridge for 5 days, checking occasionally to empty any liquid.
  • After 5 days, give the pork a good rinse – now you’ve got bacon!

IMG_3663If you’re going to smoke it, let it hang for a day somewhere cool and dry to let a sticky film develop on the meat.  This will allow the smoke to stick more readily.

Cold smoke for 10 hours, slice and eat.

To slice the bacon evenly, it helps to pop it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes first.