Bread is the stuff of life, or so they say. Others might disagree, preferring internet karma, getting passionate about politics, or simply chocolate as their life fuel. However, come the zombie apocalypse (or Brexit, whichever arrives sooner), we may all have to bake our own bread over flint-sparked flames, using flour made from foraged acorns. Thankfully this article is nothing to do with bread made from acorns.
Local entrepreneur and talented baker, Klaus Kuhnke, proprietor of Ventnor’s popular Cantina and its sister restaurant Stripped, hosted another of his informative sourdough workshops at Tiny Homes Holidays in Northwood. We popped along to see how it was all done.
Sourdough is having a bit of a moment right now (some folks prefer to call it natural bread). Nomenclature aside, it is bread made using a sourdough starter rather than a commercial yeast product. We’re big fans of Klaus’ baked goods and particularly his breads; on the sourdough workshop we learned how to create three of his products: a white sourdough loaf, white and rye mix, and a focaccia bread, plus how to keep a starter ‘alive’ by feeding it.
Klaus’ bread recipes have just a few simple ingredients: strong flour (high in gluten), water, starter and salt. The starter is the first to be measured into the mixing bowl in case it is over-measured and some needs to be taken out. Water next – just tap water will do, although we learned that its temperature can have an effect on the dough. Flour next, then salt later.
If you’re feeling energetic you could blend the ingredients by hand but why bother when the robot overlords are on standby! We combined our ingredients in these mixers for about fifteen minutes – hard work if you are going to do it handraulically!
The mixers have hooks that move in a planetary rotation. As well as circling the bowl the hooks knead as they rotate on their own axis; think of how the earth spins as it orbits the sun.
So that we didn’t have to hang about for a whole day watching dough prove, Klaus brought some with him that he had prepared 24 hours earlier. It proves in spiral baskets which create an interesting groove pattern on the surface of the loaf.
It is recommended that the white sourdough is scored before baking otherwise the crust will split as it warms and rises. Klaus cut his signature hashtag pattern into the loaves before they went into a hot oven for half an hour.
Although we were delighted to see the freshly-baked bread, Klaus cast a more critical eye over the hot loaves; examining the evenness of the browning, and the cooking of the undersides.
We also made sourdough focaccia. This dough has the same ingredients as the white sourdough loaf, plus plenty of olive oil. The dough is folded every twenty minutes while proving. This adds air into the dough and also changes its elasticity. We gently kneaded it when in its baking tins, poking a texture into the dough’s surface before adding rosemary-infused sea salt crystals.
Unlike the white sourdough, the focaccia and half-white-half-rye bread could be cooked after a few hours proving. The rye mix didn’t need scoring; Klaus prefers this loaf to create natural tears in its crust.
Of course, after all that learning we’d built up an appetite so what better to satiate it with than with sourdough bread. We all tucked into a white and rye loaf which we ate with charcuterie, cheeses and a rather spectacular beetroot hummus salad.
It was fascinating to work through the stages of soughdough bread production, plus how to create and maintain a sourdough starter. Cat enjoyed her fresh focaccia later at home with some kale and mushrooms, topped with a poached egg. Of course once today’s loaves are eaten we could make some new ones with our new-found skills – or maybe just buy them from Klaus; after all, he is the expert.