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Sourdough with toasted fennel seeds


For the levain:

70g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

165g shiptons No.4 white flour

165g water

For the dough:

30g fennel seeds, toasted under a hot grill for 20-30 seconds (watch out, they catch fire if you do it too long).

535g shiptons No.4 white flour

225g shiptons stoneground strongest wholemeal

580g water at 37ish degrees C (must be less than 40 deg)

7-18g salt (I use 7g because I'm on a low salt diet)


2x oval banettons

1x big cast iron casserole dish

Kenwood Chef or equivalent (optional)


Day 1, Make the Levain:

at about 7pm on day 1, mix the levain ingredients together well. Do this by hand, it's easy. (I beat it well, no idea if that makes any difference)

Store 80g of the resulting mix in a container in the fridge for next time. Put the remaining 320g (well, it'll be about 310g because some will be on the sides of the bowl) in a kilner jar overnight.

Day 2, Mix the dough and ferment it

at about 7:30am on day 2, mix the dough ingredients WITHOUT THE SALT (I use a Kenwood Chef with dough hook on minimum for about 5 minutes)

leave for an hour or so

at about 8:45am add the salt, fold the mixture over it, and add 280g of the levain

Mix and then knead (Kenwood Chef: 2 minutes on min, then around 10 minutes on 2: the dough must 'ball up' around the hook, almost completely free from the bottom of the bowl - although it's OK if there's a small connection to the bottom of the bowl. You'll know what this means when it happens. It can be a bit random and not happen for 15 minutes sometimes)

Transfer the dough to a big round plastic bowl which has a lid (or that you can put a teatowel over)

Let it rest for a couple of minutes, and then do a set of folds (Googling is good here, but let me try to explain: imagine the dough has four sides, take one side and lift and stretch it up and then over the dough. Do the same with the remaining three sides. It'll be easy for the first set, but increasingly difficult for the next folds - after 30 mins etc see below)


Do another set of folds after 30 min, 60 min, 90 min and 120 min (or stopping when you just can't fold it)

Leave covered in a nice warm room for a few hours.

When the dough has doubled in size (or more - it's quite flexible) after maybe 6-8 hours, tip out onto a clean work surface.

Using a dough scraper cut into two halves.

Shape each half into a ball (using the scraper or your hands. Youtube search shaping sourdough)

Let them rest for 20-30 minutes, then fold/shape and transfer to banettons (again, Youtube will help)

By now it's the afternoon / evening on Day 2, so dust the top of the dough and put the banettons in the fridge covered with a teatowel.

Day 3, it's time to bake.

Heat your oven to 275 degrees, with the casserole inside

Once the oven is ready, take the casserole out, tip in a loaf, cut a shallow line down the middle (with a razor blade or sharp thin knife), put the lid on the casserole and bake for 25 minutes

After the 25 minutes, take the casserole out of the oven, take the loaf out of the casserole with oven gloves and put it back on the shelf in the oven for another 10 minutes. Put the other loaf into the casserole, score it, lid it, bake for 25 minutes, then take out and bake for another 10 minutes. (You can have the first loaf on the shelf next to the second loaf in the casserole. If you've got two casseroles and they fit you can do them both at the same time).

Cool on a rack until cold. (listen to the lovely crackling the cooling loaves make after about 30 seconds out of the oven)


NB: 250 degrees works too, with a longer out-of-the-casserole bake (12 minutes). It'll taste less caramelly.

NB: this recipe works well without the fennel

NB: you could bake on day 2, after an hour or so proofing at room temperature in the banettons, but it won't taste as good.