This story starts when my pal Joanne persuded me to reverse engineer a loaf she had bought at some swell place in NYC.1 That done I looked around for other similar recipes, and found one at YeastSpotting. Over time I’ve modified it a bit, mostly by removing the fresh yeast and relying entirely on my 100% leaven. This version makes two smallish loaves.

Ingredients

195 gm ripe 100% hydration starter. I build with ordinary soft flour
220 gm strong bread flour
220 gm durum flour
245 gm water
10 gm salt
22 gm olive oil
110 gm sultanas (seedless!) or raisins, or currants
70 gm pine nuts
10 gm fennel seeds (optional)

Method

Mix the starter, water, flours, starter and olive oil in a large bowl and mix until combined. Turn out onto the counter and knead for about 5 minutes to a smooth, elastic consistency. Add the sultanas or other dried fruit, the pine nuts and fennel seeds (if using) and knead until the additional ingredients are well incorporated into the dough.

Form into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl to bulk ferment for 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, press out gently and divide into two portions.2 Shape the dough as you prefer and allow to rise for about another 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 230°C and prepare to use steam.

Slash the loaves and place them in the oven, with steam. Bake for about 10 minutes. Then remove the steam, turn the temperature down to 220°C and bake for a further 20 minutes. Test the loaves for doneness and if done turn the heat off and leave them in the oven with the door slightly ajar to help them dry out. Place on a wire grill to cool.

Durum loaves often dry quickly, but the sultanas help to keep this one softer longer. I like the contrast of the sweetish bread with salty salami and cheese. It also toasts well.

Notes

  1. That recipe will eventually be transferred over here. And right now she’s back there again, so maybe she’ll get the recipe they actually use, this time.a
  2. You can also divide into three or four, as Susan at YeastSpotting does, and bake as mini-baguettes, but I prefer a larger loaf.a


One of my favourite recipes in Bernard Clayton Jr’s Complete Book of Breads is Oatmeal Sesame Bread. The crumb is delicious and moist, from the oatmeal, and great for sandwiches. So I decided to convert it to weights and to use a sourdough starter.

Ingredients

100 gm white flour starter at 100% hydration
120 gm rolled oats
360 gm white flour (I use grano duro 0)
30 gm butter, cut into small pieces
15 gm salt
15 gm sugar
340 ml water
A little milk or eggwash and sesame seeds for the crust

Method

In a large bowl, whisk the starter into the water, then add the oats and 120 grams of the flour, the sugar, salt and butter. Mix well with a wooden spoon and leave to rest in the bowl for about 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the flour and work in the bowl and on a counter to incorporate all. The dough can be quite sticky. Return it to the cleaned bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Stretch and fold 4 times at 30 minute intervals, and then allow to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Turn out of the bowl, shape into a ball and rest on a floured board under the bowl of about one hour.

Transfer to a baking tray, reshaping if necessary, tucking the edges under, then brush with a little milk (or eggwash if you prefer). Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and make three cuts across the top. Cover the loaf with some kind of cloche and put into a cold oven set to Gas Mark 8 or 230℃. After 20 minutes remove the cloche and after a further 20 minutes turn the temperature down to Gas Mark 6.5, 215℃, for a final 10 minutes.

Place on a rack and do not slice until completely cool.

I’m sending this to Yeastspotting, with holiday greetings and appreciation. Also, I’ve made this recipe as a kind of crown loaf by forming small balls, dipping them in eggwash and sesame seeds, and heaping them in a round tin. The balls are easy to tear apart and make a great alternative to dinner rolls.