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Food Hall Friday: Bread-making Masterclass

Ali’s off for a well-deserved break in the sun this week, so we’ve got a bit of a throwback Friday guest slot this week.

Last September, in association with Master Stove Maker ESSE, River Cottage chef Tim Maddams hosted a sourdough bread-making masterclass in the Food Hall at Holmes Mill and we thought we’d share some of Tim’s top tips.

The former River Cottage head chef led a bit of a bake-off in which 15 amateurs rolled up their sleeves to take a deep dive into the subtle skills of crafting the perfect sourdough loaf by hand.



Tim’s top sourdough baking tips

  • Invest the time – it takes between eight and 12 hours to make a good sourdough from scratch. Proving takes four times as long as for a yeast-risen dough
  • Feed your starter or ‘leaven’ regularly – especially if it’s been in the fridge for a while. This is the best way to adjust the sourness to your individual taste
  • The wetter the better – a wet dough mix may be harder to handle, but it will make a better loaf
  • Watch the dough – not the clock. The dough will tell you when it’s ready to bake – it’s just a matter of practice
  • Don’t scrimp on the salt – otherwise your bread will taste bland
  • Respect the dough – handle it gently – take care not to knock the air out of it
  • Use semolina to minimise sticky ‘dough fingers’ without drying out the mixture
  • Make sure the oven is up to temperature well before the bread goes in – between 180˚C and 200˚C (aim for the ESSE cooker dial guide to be at the low end of HOT) – depending on the finish you want
  • Introduce steam – either with a water spray bottle or by placing a small bowl of water on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Tim continues to teach, cook and consult on ethical food sourcing. His latest book: Game – the 15th in the River Cottage Handbooks series – is now available in bookshops.

Tim’s masterclass was one of a series of events taking place nationwide during ‘Sourdough September’ the Real Bread Campaign organized by Sustain to inspire people to bake their own bread or seek out quality artisan baking from local sources.

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