Freestyle Sourdough

I’ve been battling with trying to find the idea sourdough recipe to achieve a lovely plump loaf with caramelised ears and an open crumb with big air pockets to show off the power of naturally leavened dough.

The holy grail for me has been the open crumb.  I’ve tried various starter cultures, dough recipes and kneading techniques, following each to the letter with little success; frustrating considering the amount of commitment required.  Finally, in frustration, I threw all caution to the wind and decided to completely wing it; no recipe or timings; do it all based on feel and availability of my time – and I got the best result yet.


img_0173 fullsizerender


If you’re used to baking with fresh or fast action yeast, then you get an idea of flour, salt and water ratios, which helps.

Here’s the method I winged:

  • Sourdough starter – 100g (50/50 stone white flour and water made up over a week)
  • Flour, strong white – 400g
  • Flour, rye –  150g
  • Water – 250g + extra as needed
  • Salt – 2 tsp
  • Mix the starter in with the (blood temperature) water
  • Mix in the flours by hand until combined and leave covered to autolyse for [a time that suits] – 30min to 3 hours – add more water until you get a workable consistency
  • Flatten out the dough on a work surface and sprinkle over the salt
  • Knead for 10 minutes using the ‘stretch and fold’ method *
  • Shape into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight until you’re ready for the next chapter.
  • Remove from fridge and leave out to warm up.
  • Stretch and fold in one direction, turn 90 degrees and repeat – repeat this twice more at 20-30 min intervals – as suits
  • Shape into a ball and place seam up into a floured proving basket in a warm place for 3-4 hours to prove – check it now and again to see if it is approaching double original size (I put mine in a luke warm oven)
  • Heat oven to 2ooc with a pizza stone if you have one and place a baking tray in the bottom
  • Gently tip onto the baking surface and slash a couple of times **
  • Add some water to the baking tray in the bottom of the oven to generate steam***
  • Bake at 200c for 20 min
  • Reduce heat to 180c and bake for a further 20-30 min, until the ears around where you slashed begin to caramelise


*(If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is a gentle method of kneading which incorporates air into the dough – here’s a succinct instructional youtube video demo from american Jacob Burton “Holy oven spring batman” being my favourite baking related exclamation

**Check out @minskitchen on instagram for some truly inspirational ear designs.

*** a steamy baking environment improves the crust of the loaf, helps it rise and even improves the shelf-life of the finished loaf.




Home-brew Kölsch

Beer Bottle Top_Kolsch

Searching for a home-brew to suit the lager preferences of some friends and to accompany a BBQ on a hot summers day, we settled on brewing a Kölsch.

Kölsch has a similar clear, crisp and refreshing style to lager but is top-fermented as an ale making it a readily achievable lager-like beer to home-brew as it doesn’t require the cold (7-13c) fermenting temperatures of lager.  Kölsch originates from the German city of Cologne which straddles the river Rhine in the west of the country. Kölsch is local dialect and literally translates as ‘of Cologne’.  The name (like champagne) is a protected geographical indication, restricting official naming rights to beer brewed in this style in the Cologne region.  Commercial variants will be labelled as ‘Kölsch Style’.

Approx ABV: 4.5%; Makes about 22 litres (40 pints)

Bitterness rating 25 IBU

Grain Bill:

  • Pilsner Malt – 4 kg
  • Carapils Malt – 500g

Mash at 65c for 1 hour with 11 litre liquor

Boil time 1 hour 15 min with 27 litre liquor


  • Spalt select – 44g – add at start of boil
  • Tettnang – 20g – add for last 5 min of boil
  • Tettnang – 44g – add at flame-out


  • Protrofloc – 1 tsp or 1 tablet
  • Yeast – Wyeast 2565 Kölsch activator (needs to be activated 1 hour before pitching)

Ferment temperature: 18-20c

Mix in around 8g of brewing sugar for each litre of ale to a bottling bucket before bottling.

Bottle conditioning gets best results at a cooler temperature of 12c for 3 weeks.  We cleared a couple of shelves out of the wine fridge and set the bottle in upright.

Beer Bottling

Kölsch (beer) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



A Starter for 10

So a barista walks into a bar… and ponders… how could I make some of this stuff at home?

This happens so frequently that I thought it would be worth a post looking at the bare essentials to make a half decent IPA without investing too heavily.  Like any good hobby, home brewing will inevitably lead to a constant cycle of buying or upgrading equipment, be it to increase volume (quantity) or, just… because new things are fun!

My first attempts at home brewing involved a kit consisting of a huge tin of extracted malts which you simply heated up, mixed with water and dumped into a fermenter with a sachet of yeast.  The quality of these kits can actually be pretty good, however the craft is virtually as non-existent as the satisfaction you get from preparing it.

The following basic equipment will be enough to achieve a 10 litre ‘partial mash’ brew.  A ‘partial mash’ requires no mash tun.  A mash tun is an insulated container which will hold malted grains mixed with water at a constant temperature (usually around 60-70c) for an hour or so to extract the natural sugars from the malts providing sugar for the yeast to eat and turn into alcohol.  For a ‘partial mash’ this process has already been done and dried out as one of the ingredients; ‘malt extract’ or ‘spray malt’.  We will still be using malted grains to achieve flavour.

Brewing Equipment


Basic Equipment Alternative – “I might get into this…”
15 Litre Stock Pot 30 Litre Brewing Pan
Digital Scales
Thermometer Digital Thermometer (Thermapen)
Long Handled Spoon Mash Paddle
Food Grade Bucket & Lid 25 Litre Fermenter
Food Grade Tubing Auto Syphon
Air Lock & Grommet (& vodka) Air Lock & Bung (& Jack Daniels)
Sanitising Liquid No Rinse Sanitiser & spray can
PET Bottles (Screw Top) Glass Beer Bottles
Bottle Capper & Caps
Ice Copper Heat Exchange Coil & Hose
Grain Bags/Hop Bags Mash Tun

So here’s a simple recipe and instruction which can achieve perfectly decent IPA. Ingredients and equipment are readily available on eBay and various home-brew websites, however we have had consistently good service from 

For the 20 litre yield, you will need a suitably sized pot and fermenter.

Ingredients/Shopping List 10 Litre Yield 20 Litre Yield
Malt Extract Spray Dried Malt Extract Light 1375g 2750g
Malt Crystal Malt 125g 250g
Malt Dingemans Aromatic Malt 125g 250g
Hops Cascade 33g 65g
Hops Centennial 33g 65g

Brewing Sugar

Safale US 0.5 Yeast

Brewing Sugar

1/2 pack


1 pack



  1. Add the Crystal Malt and Dingemans Aromatic Malt to a grain bag and tie off.
  2. Heat 2 litres (or 4 litres) of water in brewing pot to 71c
  3. Add the grain bag, remove the pot from the heat and leave to steep for 20 minutes
  4. Gradually raise the temperature to 77c
  5. Remove the grain bag and top up the water to 11.5 litres (or 23 litres) (best to pre-heat this water beforehand if possible, to save time)
  6. Gradually stir in the Malt Extract whilst the wort to the boil (this can be a bit sticky and messy)
  7. Once boiling, add the 8g (or 16g) of the Centennial Hops (tie off in a hops/grain bag)
  8. After 45 minutes of boiling, add 8g (or 16g) of both Cascade Hops and Centennial Hops (tied off in a hops/grain bag)
  9. After 1 hour of boiling , remove from the heat and add the remainder of the hops, again tied off in another bag.
  10. Start cooling the wort.  From this point onwards, it’s important to keep everything that comes into contact with it sanitised.  The boiling process keeps bacteria at bay however any that get introduced at this stage could multiply during fermentation and spoil the beer.
    1. No Rinse Sanitiser is a good investment as you can simply spray it onto any utensils etc.  It comes as a concentrated solution so a bottle will last a long time.  Standard sterilising solution contains sodium chloride so everything will need to be thoroughly rinsed in clean water before use.
    2. Immersing the pot into a sink of iced water will help speed the cooling up, however this can take a while.  A copper heat exchanger attached to the cold tap will take care of this within about 15 minutes!
  11. Cool the wort to below 29c
  12. Syphon the wort into the fermenter and top off with cold water to 10 litres (or 20 litres) agitating as you go to introduce some oxygen to help the yeast
  13. Pitch the yeast and stir in
  14. Seal the fermenter
    1. Rubbing some vaseline around the lid will help keep nasties out
    2. If you’re using a bucket and lid, you will need to make a hole for the grommet to tightly seal the air lock. Half fill the air lock with spirit (e.g. vodka).  The air lock will allow carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to escape, and prevent nasties getting in.
  15. Ferment for 2 weeks or until bubbling activity has stopped.  The beer should start to get lively within 24-36 hours if stored at normal room temperature


You can buy screw-top plastic (PET) bottles which removes the need to buy glass bottles and a capper, however even recycled glass bottles make for a much more authentic finish.

Once the beer has stopped bubbling, fermentation is complete and it’s ready to bottle.

Syphon the beer into a clean pot/bucket which has been thoroughly sterilised. Sediment created as waste from the fermentation process will have settled to the bottom of the fermenter so syphon from a few centimetres from the bottom to avoid too much of this ending up in your bottles.  Try and avoid introducing too much air at this point.

If you want the beer to be fizzy and produce a head, it will need to go through a secondary fermentation in the bottles.  There will still be enough live yeast in the beer to consume more sugar if you add it and thus create Co2 and pressurise the bottles.

Stir in 4g (1 tsp) of brewing sugar per 500ml of beer.  Overdoing this can lead to a lot of Co2 buildup in the bottles which can result in  them popping their caps and making a mess.

Syphon into your chosen (sterilised) bottles leaving about 3 cm empty at the top, and cap.

Ready to drink in a couple of weeks!

DIY Mash Tun


Mashing is the term used to describe the process of extracting sugars from the grain bill.  Mixing the grains with water and maintaining a set temperature for a set period of time promotes enzymes in the malt to break down the starches in the grain into the sugars required for the yeast to ‘eat’ and produce alcohol.

The vessel most commonly used for this process is an insulated container called a mash tun.

There are many methods for making your own, however here’s my take on a low-cost Instructable by ‘Rich’ or ‘Chard’ (depending on your familiarity with him) but using UK high-street plumbing. It is basically 2 buckets; one which acts as a filter, holds the gain bill and stacks into the second bucket.  The second bucket is insulated and will hold the liquor at a set temperature for an hour plus.  A tap or spigot makes sparging, circulation and racking off easier.

We have used this cheap mash tun on many occasions now for small 20 litre beaches and it works well, with no catastrophic fails or blockages.


  • Drill
  • Drill bit (ideally a step bit/unibit)
  • Spanner/adjustable wrench
  • Sharpie



  1. Take one of the buckets and drill holes in the base.  You can print out this hole guide to help.  Stick it over one quarter of the base and drill a hole at each place a line crosses.  Using a step bit/unibit will help remove any plastic burr.  Move the guide onto the next quadrant and repeat until the base is like a sieve.  This may take some time, however you can make a call on how many holes are needed.
  2. Take the second bucket.  Drill a hole approx. 2cm up from the base, big enough to fit the tank connector.  Clean off any plastic burr so that a clean fit can be made.
  3. Now you need to cover this bucket with 3+ layers of the foil insulation, including the base and one of the lids.  Use the waterproof tape to IMG_2469make a seal around the base and at the top.  Make a hole for the tank connector to jut out.
  4. Fit the tank connector and seal the insulation around the outlet.
  5. Cut a 10cm length of barrier pipe
  6. Slot in one of the inserts and fasten this end to one end of the ball valve, tightening with a spanner
  7. Cut a 5cm length of barrier pipe
  8. Slot another insert into one end and fasten this end to the ball valve outlet, again tightening with a spanner
  9. Slot on the stem elbow
  10. Slot this assembly into the tank connector
  11. Test for any leaks by filling up with water and then draining through the spigot.

Now just get yourself some malts and start discovering the self fulfilment of all grain brewing.  Our tried and tested recipes to come shortly.

Leave a comment if you’d like any further information or have any suggested improvements.





BBQ Brioche Buns

It’s the much anticipated Taylor BBQ today and my contribution is going to be a batch of 32 brioche burger buns.  Brioche burger buns have become something of a standard in the UK over the last couple of years; a much sturdier bun, fortified with eggs, milk and butter. Somebody I chatted to who had recently returned from living in France for a decade complained that UK offerings were no comparison to the authentic french delicacy. Whilst I agree, I don’t think they need to compare and I feel this take on brioche is a fitting vehicle for a quality burger and accompaniments and they can be quickly made without years of patisserie experience.


Makes 16IMG_4091

  • Strong Bread Flour – 900g
  • Water (blood temperature) – 500g
  • Milk – 6 tbsp
  • Eggs – 4 (+1 for egg wash)
  • Yeast (fast action) – 4 tsp
  • Castor Sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Butter (softened) – 80g
  • Salt – 2tsp


Whisk the yeast, water, milk and sugar together in a measuring jug and leave to activate for 5 min.

Measure the flour, butter and salt into a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms ‘bread crumbs’ (you might need to do this in a couple of batches depending on processor size)IMG_4089

Combine the flour mixture with the yeast mixture, crack in the 4 eggs and knead (using dough hook) in a mixer on medium-low speed for 10 minutes or until the dough starts to firm up.  This is a very wet dough so whilst it’s perfectly possible to knead it by hand, I wouldn’t fancy trying.

Cover the bowl with a tea-towel and leave for 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Line 3 baking trays with baking parchment.

Once risen, tip the dough onto a floured surface.  The dough will still beIMG_4088 pretty fluid, so you may need to used a bit extra flour to help shape.

Cut off 110g of dough and shape into a ball.  Easiest way to do this is to gently flatten the dough then fold in the edges all the way round, trapping air in as you go.  Neaten up by cupping your hands around the dough, gently press you up-turned palms beneath the ball and rotate a few times.

Flip over and pop on a tray.  You should be able to fit 6 per tray, with about 5cm gap between. Repeat another 15 times.  This can become fun and make you feel like a true artisan!

Cover again and leave to rise for 30min.IMG_4087

Whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt and a splash of milk.  Using a pastry brush, paint each bun with the mixture.  You can choose to dust the buns now with some sesame seeds or similar.  I used polenta which gives a crunchy third dimension and an attractive look.

Preheat the oven to 200c or 180c (fan)

Add a tray to the bottom of the over with some water.  This will steam the oven and help the buns bloom and give them a soft crust.

Bake for 20min or until golden then remove and place on a rack until cool.




#RealBreadWeek – Sourdough Pizza


It’s #RealBreadWeek!! A shove in the right direction when it comes to decent unadulterated bread – bake it yourself or find your local Real Bread outlet.

I’ve subscribed to the Sustain Real Bread Campaign for 3 years now and eagerly look forward to their quarterly issue of their True Loaf magazine, stuffed full of inspirational stories of artisan bakers and their campaign to provide our daily bread, minus the additives and over-production which has unfortunately become commonplace with what should be the most simplest of staples.

Sustain’s definition of real bread: “Real Bread is that made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives”

I’m marking the beginning of Real Bread week with a sourdough pizza, using my sourdough starter culture.

I’ve written before how, although sourdough can be time consuming to maintain, the slow proving can be used to your advantage as the dough will be very forgiving if you leave it to prove all day or over-night.  If you tried to make a yeast risen dough after work, you would’t be eating until 10pm.  Make this dough the night before and leave to prove and ripen in the fridge until you’re ready.

Do we need a beer pairing? Well based on name and concept alone, why not a bottle of Toast Ale. Toast is 5%er brewed with the addition of surplus bread (about 25g/half a slice per bottle) that would otherwise go to waste, with proceeds going to the Feedback charity, aiming to reduce food waste. @Hackneybrewery even released their recipe so we might give this a go at some point.

For the Pizza Base (makes 1 big):image

  • Sourdough culture – 150g
  • Strong white flour – 150g
  • Plain white flour – 100g
  • Salt – 1/5 tsp
  • Water – 200g (warm)
  • Olive Oil – 1 tblsp
  • Polenta (for shaping)
  • Combine the culture, flours, olive oil, salt and water in a bowl then knead for 15 minutes by hand or 10 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook attachment.
  • Cover with a tea-towel and leave for 3 hours, or overnight/all day in the fridge, to best suit your timings (bring up to room temperature before using)


For the base sauce:

  • Tinned tomatoes (preferably decent quality like Tuscan Cirio) – 1 tin
  • Shallots – 3 (finely sliced)
  • Garlic – 1 clove
  • Olive oil (as much as you dare)
  • Woucestershire Sauce – 5 glugs
  • Gently heat a good splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped shallots. Cook really slowly, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes. The shallots should become traslucent without burning.
  • Peel and squash the garlic clove and stir in to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, about 5 glugs (2 tablespoons) of worcesterhsire sauce, salt and pepper and simmer on a medium heat until it becomes a thick sticky sauce.  Stir occasionally and turn down the heat if it starts to stick.
  • Blend the sauce in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth and it’s good to go.


Shaping and Baking:

  • imagePreheat your oven as hot as it will go. Preheat a pizza stone if you have one, or a large baking sheet
  • Sprinkle some polenta onto your work surface and then shape the dough into a ball, removing any excess depending on the size or number of pizzas you’re going for. The polenta gives a fantastic texture to the base and prevents sticking
  • Shape the pizza base – roll out with a rolling pin or have a go at tossing it if you dare (I’ve never managed this!)  My preferred method is to roll into a small circle, then grab one edge between your index fingers and thumbs and let the dough stretch under its own weight, quickly moving around the circle so that it stretches out evenly
  • Prepare your chosen pizza toppings (I used mozzarella, spinach, anchovies, finely chopped peppers and aubergine)
  • Remove your pizza stone/baking sheet, sprinkle with some polenta and quickly transfer the pizza base to the stone/tray and paint on a good layer of the tomato sauce avoiding a boarder around the rim, encouraging it to rise a bit during baking
  • Bake until done!


Left over dough and sauce?

Flatten the dough out, paint it with a goodly dollop of the tomato sauce and roll it back up (sauce to the inside). Leave to prove whilst your pizza bakes then pop it in the oven after for 30 to 40 minutes and you’ve got a tasty luncheon loaf for tomorrow.

Good luck! Simon.

Dry Cured Coffee and Maple Bacon

IMG_3912Pork is often paired with sweet flavours and maple syrup is a common curing flavouring for bacon with origins in America.  The high sugar content helps create a very sticky external layer which helps the cold smoke to stick.  The maple and smoke flavours are really set off by the coffee aroma when cooking.


  • Pork Belly – 2kg
  • Himalayan Pink Salt – 250g
  • Salt – 250g
  • Maple Syrup – 100g
  • Dark Muscovado Sugar – 300g
  • Espresso Powder – 10g
  • Prague Powder #1 – 5g (2.5 g per kg of meat)
  • A dry curing box

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