Since I started working the allotment I’ve become a lot more tolerant of garden centres and now sometimes even go to one voluntarily. However about ten years ago, whilst I was no-doubt impatiently waiting for D to look at every single plant, I picked up a copy of “Bread – Breads of the world and how to bake them at home” by Ingram and Shapter. It’s designed for the US reader, so recipes are given in cups. I quite like measuring out flour in cups although it is less accurate than using a scale. You are going to have to adjust the quantity for the absorption of the flour in any case so weight isn’t necessarily more meaningful. But does anyone really think that measuring butter in cups is clever or sensible? Cups are not standard across the world so I convert it to European cups. A European cup is 250ml or 9fl oz, not the 8fl oz of American cups. I’ve measured a European cup of strong flour in the past and it’s about 150g.
I took to making several of the recipes from this book, especially a Welsh herb bread, cooked in clay pots, and a Prosciutto and black pepper bread. I made some clay dishes, rather than flower pot shapes and took to using them to bake both of these breads.
I’ve not made either for some time. The reason being that I prefer to use my sourdough starter rather than dried yeast. I have to use or feed the starter every two weeks as a minimum anyway so it seems crazy to be throwing good starter away and then making bread with tinned yeast. It was time to convert the recipe to sourdough.
In fact this is pretty easy. I have a fairly standard routine for sourdough of putting the entire contents of my starter pot into a bowl with one or two cups of flour and the same of water – all depending on how big a bake it is. The next morning I take out half a cup and feed that in the, now cleaned, jar. What is left in the bowl is a mixture of flour and water fermenting with natural yeast and bacteria. All I have to do is deduct that quantity of flour from the total in the original recipe, and deduct the water from the total fluids.
The only other difference is that the sourdough works a little more slowly than commercial baker’s yeast. This can be offset a little by increasing the hydration of the dough, and in any case longer fermentation makes breads that taste better. So here is the converted recipe:
260g Sourdough starter at 150% hydration
1 cup (150g) Strong white bread flour
1 cup (250g) Water
Make a batter out of that lot, cover it and keep it in a slightly warm (23 – 15ºC) environment overnight. I put it in the oven with just the internal light turned on.
In the morning (about 0630 if you want the bread for lunch that day) take out half a cup of the gloop (the technical term is sponge) and put it back in the cleaned starter pot and feed with half a cup each of flour and water. Put that in the fridge for your next bake.
To what’s left in the bowl (about 500g) add:
3.5 cups (525g) Strong white bread flour
1 cup (250ml) Water
3 tsp Salt. (I use Lo-Salt)
Make that into a dough and knead only for about four minutes, oil the bowl, roll the dough round the oiled bowl to coat it, cover it and put it somewhere warmish (back in the oven with the light on) to proof. It will need about two hours to double in size.
Now you’ll need:
5 slices (70g) Parma ham or similar prosciutto sliced thinly.
1 tsp (approx) freshly ground black pepper.
25g melted butter if you are using clay bakers, otherwise just grease some baking sheets, or you could use low round metal sponge tins that you would use for a Victoria sponge.
Push the dough out on the counter with the heels of your hands to a rectangle and dot 2/3 of it with 3 pieces of torn up ham and grind pepper over. Fold in 3 like you were making croissants. Dot half the surface with remaining ham and fold in two. Cover and proof for 30 mins more. Cut in four and roll each piece in to a lozenge shape and put them in pairs in the centre of the round pots and leave them to proof until they just reach the sides. This could take another hour.
Brush the tops with any remaining melted butter and grind some pepper over. Bake off at 180ºC (not higher to avoid burning any ham near the surface and creating clouds of smoke from the butter.) The bread came out fine. D didn’t realise that I’d used the sourdough starter and he loves the original version so I consider that a result.
This is a great way to use up any leftover charcuterie from the festive season. I’m sure it doesn’t have to be only prosciutto. Merry Christmas to everyone.