400g Organic Khorasan Flour (413)
100g Organic White Flour No 4 (105)
10g fine salt
8g fennel seed
300 ml warm water
I tbsp olive oil
7g active dried yeast
100g active Rye Sourdough starter
Optional extras which can be sprinkled on the top of the loaf before the second stage of proving the dough
Blend together 400g Khorasan Flour with the 100g of White Flour in the mixing bowl of a food mixer; and then add the salt, the fennel seed, olive oil and about 100g of an active sourdough starter. My preference is to use a rye-based starter because it feels a bit more vigorous than my starter which uses White flour, and it enriches the flavour of the bread. However, any active starter will do the job.
In a separate bowl stir a teaspoon of sugar into 300 ml of warm water (between 31C and 37C) and then stir in the dried yeast powder and allow it to come to life.
Mix the yeasty water with the flour and, using a dough hook, mix the ingredients together at a low speed for about 4 minutes. If necessary, add a little extra water or flour to ensure that the resultant dough holds together well without being so sticky that it is difficult to handle.
Turn the bundle of dough out on to an oiled baking board/work surface. Work the dough for another minute or two before shaping the dough into a firm ball and placing it in a clean, oiled bowl to prove. Cover the bowl with cling film (or a stretchy plastic cover) and leave the dough to double in size. In a warm-ish kitchen this will probably take about 45 minutes.
Prepare a medium size loaf tin (450g / 1lb).
One way of doing this is to grease the tin with some olive oil.
Increasingly my preference is to create my own loaf-tin liner using a rectangle of non-stick Baking Parchment. By making a couple of cuts at either end of the rectangle it becomes easier to fit the liner into the loaf tin. It is important to use enough parchment so that the liner stands up above the edges and ends of the loaf tin.
After proving the dough, turn it out onto your work surface and shape it into a rectangle. Then fold over one third towards the centre and then fold the other end of the rectangle over towards the centre. Then working from the top, roll the dough up tightly towards you and mould it into a loaf shape with the seam at the bottom. Place in the loaf tin which you have prepared.
If required, brush the top of the loaf with a little milk and then sprinkle some seeds (e.g. a mix of poppy, sesame and sunflower seeds) onto the top of the loaf. Press the seeds gently down onto the top of the loaf.
Place the filled loaf tin in a large plastic bag and leave it to rise for another 25 minutes.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven, if possible, to 250C (for the fan oven I’m currently using the equivalent is 230C).
If possible, a few minutes before putting the loaf in the oven, pour some boiling water into a baking tray/roasting tin in the bottom of the oven (having put the baking tray/roasting tin in place before turning the oven on). Allow the oven to get to the required temperature.
Before putting the bread in the oven, it is good to make a number of slashes to the top of the loaf with a baker’s lame or razor blade.
If possible, as you’re putting the bread into the oven, spray some more water into the oven to help create a more steamy atmosphere in the oven.
Stage 4 Baking
• Bake at 250C (230C fan) for 5 minutes
• Turn oven down to 220C (200C fan) and allow to bake for another 30 minutes
• Check if it’s baked all the way through by turning the loaf out of the tin and tapping the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If it still sounds a bit ‘soft’ then put back into the oven for another 3-4 minutes.
• Leave to cool on a rack and wait until the loaf has cooled before seeking to cut it and eat it.