Monday, 25 February 2013

Hagbech White Bread with a sluggish starter

I'm publishing this post because from time to time, I find I have neglected my starter for a longer interval than usual and that this is something that happens to others. The starter looks pretty forlorn, brought out of the fridge with a pool of liquid on top. Wild yeast is remarkably sturdy and apart from the odd occasion when from some reason the starter produces bread with an unwelcome new flavour, a neglected starter can be coaxed back to being productive and is worth saving. I take a little longer to work with the starter in this situation than I would do otherwise. I take the jar out of the fridge, stir it well and remove a tablespoon of it and place in a bowl with 200g of strong white flour. 50g of rye flour and 200g of water and set aside somewhere warm to begin growth. The starter which remains in the jar I feed well with equal parts of flour and water and leave out of the fridge for 12 hours or so in order to begin a rather gentler growth. I replace the jar of starter in the fridge with a promise that I shall be baking again in a day or two.

The ferment which I have now been treating to a little more warmth than usual, shows signs of growth, bubbles form on the surface and a smile forms on my face. I usually put my ferment ingredients together 24 hours before I need to make the main dough. When the starter I am using has not been out of the fridge for more than a week, the ferment process can take longer. The bread I made with this ferment, having been treated to warmer conditions including the main rise, proved to be just as well risen as usual. The lesson to learn for me was to watch out for signs of vigorous growth in the ferment before adding the main dough ingredients, in this case it was 30 hours.

This is my standard white bread  Click here for recipe I have been baking bread using my beer & malt recipe for a few weeks now, Beer & Malt bread recipe so it's nice to get back to this old favourite.


  1. Although not turning out picture perfect gorgeous looking loaves like yours, mine are at least tasty and risen now that I managed to get a starter that was at least partially "yeast" based! My vinegar bricks were a result of trying to bake with an almost totally lactobacilli starter (imagine trying to get anything but vinegar bricks with what was effectively grain based yoghurt!). I have made pizza, flatbreads, spice and chocolate cakes and muffins (American not U.K.) and have a batch of cinnamon rolls proving in a round cake pan as I type this. This desire to bake gorgeous bread came from seeing your loaves on Yeastspotting. I had long lusted after bread like yours but thought that it was totally out of my reach. I might get the gorgeous look one day but for now I am completely in love with the way that this yeast works with me to create real bread that tastes like bread should. :) Cheers for the sluggish starter tip. Audrey has been a sterling trouper so far but if she should flag, I will immediately give her your recusitation tips :)

    1. This all sounds excellent, I'm certain your baking will keep moving towards your ideal. It sounds as if you are getting in a huge amount of practise. I think a loaf that is denser and less lofty than I had hoped is always the most disappointing possibility when baking bread, the flavour is invariably good but that extra lift somehow spells success. It all happens when the gluten is strong enough to contain the gas, the yeast is growing rapidly enough to create the gas and the timing is spot on enough to capture the moment when a loaf needs to be baked. I believe it's better to put a loaf into the oven a little too soon than any time too late. I think a trip to Norfolk to polish up your technique maybe in order. Best wishes, Tôbi


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