It wasn’t that long ago when the Kit Kemp design team visited the official Firmdale Bakery in Brentford. The bakery supplies extraordinary pastries, sourdough breads and cakes to all of our hotels and we are proud to use only British ingredients which are sourced as locally as possible.
It was a day out to remember, starting with about 4 croissants each! We were taught by head chef Robin Read and his talented team on how to master the perfect loaf. We decided to put into practice what we were taught and set to making a sourdough starter and then the bread itself. The starter takes a week to ferment so you have to be a bit patient but it is so worth it in the end…
Ingredients for your Sourdough Starter
– 250g strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground
To begin your starter, mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water in a jar or, better still, a plastic container. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours.
Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered at room temperature for another 24 hours. Continue doing this for a further 3 days and you should start to see some activity in the mixture as bubbles will start to form at the top.
The mixture should be very active now. If it’s not bubbling, continue to feed it on a daily basis until it does. When it’s ready, it should smell like yoghurt.
You now have a starter, which is the base to the bread. You’ll need to look after it, but naming is optional! Keep it in the fridge (it will stay dormant) and 24 hrs before you want to use it, pour half of it away and feed it with 100g flour and 100g water. Leave it at room temperature and it should become active again. The longer the starter has been dormant, the more times it will need to be refreshed (the process of pouring off half the starter and replacing it with new flour and water to reactivate). If your starter is ready to use, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.
The starter can now be used to make white sourdough bread.
● 500g/1lb 2oz strong unbleached white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
● 300g/101⁄2oz sourdough starter
● 2 tsp brown sugar
● 2 tsp salt
● Flavourless oil for greasing
Mix together the flour, sourdough starter and 250ml/9fl oz water in a bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Turn out onto a surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the ‘windowpane effect’ is achieved, where the dough can be stretched until it is so thin that it becomes transparent.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for 2½ – 3 hours. You won’t notice as much of a rise in the dough as you would with a normal, yeasted bread and it will take a lot longer. Turn out the dough onto a surface. Portion the dough into two and shape into two ball-shaped loaves. Flour generously, and place each loaf seam-side up in a bowl, lined with a heavily-floured tea towel – without the cloth, your loaf will stick in the bowl and you won’t be able to turn it out. Leave to prove for a further 2½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 230C/210C Fan/Gas 8. Put some cold water into a baking tin and place in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Turn the loaves out onto a baking tray or hot baking stone. Using a thin sharp knife, score two or three times on the top of the loaf and place in the oven. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until a good crust has formed and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Lastly, eat warm and enjoy with lots of jam!
Once you have mastered the art of baking, why not take it a step further and decorate your bread! These sourdough delights are the work of Stockholm based artist, Linda Sofia Ring.
If the idea of making your own bread doesn’t appeal or you’re just in need of a treat, fear not, Ham Yard Hotel has the answer! We are now serving delicious coffee and pastries to take-away from the hotel’s leafy courtyard!
Weekly Book Recommendation from Much Ado Books
Walter & Florence by Susan Hill
Susan Hill may be best known for her chilling tale The Woman in Black, but her career encompasses more than 50 books. They range from thrillers and detective fiction (including the popular Simon Serrailler series) to subtle portraits of wartime friendship (Strange Meeting). Her inventiveness, close observation and taunt pacing have secured her a place in the highest ranks of popular authors.
This new collection of short stories will enhance her reputation. Love is lost – and found; ghosts offer a kind of comfort; childish vandalism has unexpected consequences. Susan’s strengths include an unerring sense of tonality that reverberates through her characters’ lives. This is a delicious and entertaining compilation, and we are pleased to be offering copies Susan has signed!