I only started to feel settled here in Sydney when we figured out where to get decent flour. It was an outright quest for us, slowed only by the oppressive heat of summer, but we found it in the end: high-protein, good quality bread flour, with sufficient gluten to make a proper, self-supporting loaf. With it, we discovered rye, hard whole wheat, spelt, semolina, all the ingredients we needed to make the bread we missed, and perhaps try a few new ones along the way.
This loaf here? It’s a new favorite. The raisins give it a subtle sweetness while the coriander turns this bread into something decidedly adult. And the semolina? It makes this amazing toast without messing with Tartine Bakery’s characteristic open crumb. In short, it’s the kind of sourdough loaf I’ve been trying to create since James and I became interested in baking so many years ago.
The only fault I can find with this bread is that it takes some planning to make. But now that it’s dark when I leave work, I don’t mind this so much. It gives me something to look forward to on the long drive home.
Raisin coriander sesame semolina sourdough
Makes 2 loaves.
This recipe is adapted from the Tartine Bread cookbook, by Chad Robertson. It requires a kitchen scale, a cast-iron dutch oven (or a really nice bread oven capable of keeping the steam in when baking starts, but now I’m really dreaming), and an active sourdough starter, which you can make using the instructions for a liquid levain here or via any number of recipes on the internet. Yes, it is a lot of work in comparison to, say, a basic Reinhardt recipe, but it doesn’t require much more effort in total, involves less cleanup, and makes a loaf that is typically better than anything you can buy here in Sydney. In other words, it’s worth it.
- 200 g. leaven (Leaven = 1 T active sourdough starter, 200 g water, 100 g. all purpose / bread flour, 100 g. whole wheat or rye flour, mixed and left to rest overnight or until a small piece of the leaven floats in water. This recipe will make more leaven than you need; use the remainder as sourdough starter for your next batch.)
- 750 g. + 50 g. water, room temperature
- 700 g. semolina flour
- 300 g. all purpose or bread flour (bread flour is better, as it has a higher gluten content, but all purpose will work for those of you in the US. Australians should consider Wallaby baker’s flour, which I think Woolworths occasionally stocks, or hard bakers flour from a co-op of some sort.)
- 1 T. coriander seeds, crushed
- sesame seeds and fennel seeds, optional (I toasted ~30-40 g. of the seeds and ground them with a mortar and pestle before adding them to the bread. I also topped the shaped loaf with some more sesame seeds.)
- 10 g. salt. This is a factor of 2 less than the original recipe calls for, which seems to be ok for this loaf.
- 3 c. raisins, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and then drained
Day 0: Feed your starter; make sure it’s active. If it’s in good shape, it should be bubbly after feeding and smell sweet and sour at the same time.
Make your leaven, following the instructions above.
- Mix the leaven, 750 g. water, and flours until the flour is completely hydrated. Let rest for 30 or so minutes. (No, you can’t skip this step!)
- Fold in the remaining 50 g. of water, salt, coriander, and the toasted fennel and sesame seeds until the dough is smooth and uniform. The best way to describe folding is to repeatedly pull the corners of the dough ball and fold over, as if you were making an envelope. Even better, check out the Tartine video for an illustration of how to fold dough. You’ll be doing this a lot today, so the five minute video is worth watching.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit. Fold the dough every 30 minutes or so in the first two hours, folding in the raisins at the second fold. For this step, keep folding until the raisins are uniformly distributed. After the second hour, you can fold the dough once an hour until it is ready to shape.
- You know the dough is ready when the dough keeps the folded shape and the dough is smooth. The surface should feel as if it has some tension keeping it smooth; if so, your gluten structure is in place, and you’re ready to shape. (Optional: You can slow this process down if you’re in a hurry by sticking the dough in the fridge overnight / during the day.)
- Shaping is next, and it’s similar to the folding process, except you do more folds. First, heavily flour a couple of kitchen towels and line two large bowls with the towels, flour side up. Next, pull the edges of the dough under, tuck in the bottom center, and repeat. If you do this enough times in a sensible order (try clockwise), you’ll end up with dough that looks like a ball. Make sure the folded-in ends are pinched together, press some sesame seeds into the top, and then put the dough ball topside-down in the lined bowls.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight (or during the day, depending on what your schedule is).
Day 3: You will have to bake one loaf at a time, so leave 2 hours for this process.
- Let your dough come to room temperature (~1 hour on the kitchen counter should do it).
- Stick your empty cast-iron dutch oven on the middle shelf of your oven. Pre-heat to as hot as your oven will get (~500°F, or “Max”, according to my oven).
- When the oven and the cast-iron pot are preheated, open the dutch oven lid and gently invert the bowl with the dough into the dutch oven. You should see seeds on top. If it gets stuck, well, save what you can and use more flour next time.
- Slice the top of the dough. I usually use a square slicing pattern, but be creative.
- Replace the dutch oven lid and slide the whole thing into the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes (the loaf should have puffed up by now), then remove the lid and reduce the oven temperature to 450°F or 235°C.
- Bake for another 20-25 minutes, turning on occasion. The loaf is finished when it sounds hollow on the bottom and has a beautiful browned crust.
- Repeat steps 2-7 for the next loaf.
I’d say let the loaf cool before slicing into it, but I can’t even follow this advice, so I’ll leave this step up to you.