No-Knead Sourdough and a Few Words about Finnish Flour

Plain sourdough no-knead bread.
Plain sourdough no-knead bread.

There isn’t much I need to say about this – the result of me waking the starter up (and worrying it’d kicked the bucket), and then thankfully finding out it didn’t.  I will just let these pictures speak for themselves.  There isn’t a crumb photo because the bread is still cooling, so I haven’t cut it yet, but I will happily add that later once I have one.

This is a happy-ending post to the saga of me reactivating Gloop, my Stockholm-brewed sourdough Type 1 starter from dry state.  The recipe for this bread is exceedingly simple – it’s the newer (edited) version of this one, using the 3.25dl water, slightly lower oven temperature (as mentioned in the opening paragraph of said post), and with the lavender taken out, because I wanted a plain, plain bread dough to let me see its development and bubbles without specks of dried herb or anything extraneous in the way.

I think I can pronounce the sourdough test bake in Finland a success.

Test bake

While at it, I would like to say a couple of words about bread flour found in (just about any) Finnish supermarket.  Those words would be – it’s awesome.  The local flour goes up to 14% protein content, and handles incredibly well, creating a beautiful, smooth, elastic dough without much effort at all.  The proof is, obviously, in the tasting (coming up rather soon!), but if the smell is anything to go by, I will stand by the ‘awesome’ verdict.

Here is a photo of the developing dough during the final proof in the banetton.

Test bake

Note that the beautiful shape and structure was achieved with literally zero kneading, only two double folds after first rise, and very rough shaping.  Color me impressed.

So, with this in mind (and eye, and nose – oh, the smell in the apartment right now is amazing!), I will feed my starter again, and contemplate bread recipes old and new – perhaps something with some rye and wild blueberries (aka bilberries) or lingonberries to celebrate Finland! – to bake over the next few weeks.

P.S.  And yes, I haven’t forgotten my promise of sourdough flatbread recipe.  Now that the starter is demonstrably awake, the recipe for that is on the short-short list of things to bake and write about!

Folded Cheese Sourdough Bread (with just a touch of garlic)

First of all, let me tell you, fellow cheese freaks – you need to make this bread.

You need to make it because it turns out gorgeous, because it takes so very little effort, and because it tastes so incredibly cheesy, it borders on being hard to describe.  I’ll try though!  Have you ever bought that pretty loaf of “cheese bread” in the bakery, and then were disappointed when only the cheese-sprinkled crust tasted of cheese at all?  I know I have.  And this, in all its oozy cheesiness, this tastes like – and thus is! – the remedy for all your cheese bread disappointments.  This bread is moist, and has a beautifully open crumb with some shiny set-melted-cheese slicks in it, and is smells rich and wonderful and tastes as cheesy as I could have wished it to.

The sourdough base with a bit of wholemeal rye mixed in adds both a good sour edge and a wholesome earthiness to the flavor, and the chewy, glossy-pored texture is satisfying in the sense of you not actually needing to eat half the loaf to sate the cheese craving (hey, that’s a great way to deal with desire to snack on cheesy snacks otherwise!).  And to make it more of all the good things I love, I tossed in just a touch of garlic, too!  Now, do you feel the need to make it?  I sincerely do hope so!

The making, and specifically the putting-together method of this bread was inspired by something I had seen on the net somewhere, and, to my utter dismay and frustration, have failed to bookmark – which subsequently ended up with me being unable to find where I had seen the recipe and photos that prompted the making of this.  I looked and looked and found tons of different cheese bread recipes, but not the one I had wanted.  So, the credit for the idea goes to you, unknown blogger – and if someone recognizes the idea from someplace else, please do let me know so that I can credit the blogger for his or her idea.

The dough for this bread is a sourdough with about 1/4 wholemeal rye to 3/4 white bread (high-protein) flour, prepared by the no-knead method (see detailed instructions here).  Which is, in short – I mix the ingredients, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leave overnight at room temperature (fairly warm, Swedish room temperature – I suspect it is 19-22C in my kitchen at night), then shred my cheese and proceed to the very easy prep and proof.  And then I transfer the whole thing on a piece of baking parchment into a preheated Dutch Oven and bake it.  But, first things first!

Ingredients:  (makes one loaf)

  • ~50g live sourdough starter (I use 100% hydration) fed with some rye and some wheat flour in the past 48 hours.
  • 120g wholemeal rye flour
  • 360g white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic granules or powder (this is entirely optional but I recommend it.  If you like garlic, I heartily recommend it.  If you worry about it, no it does not give it a heavy garlic scent at all – more like a gentle hint of it in the finished product.  If you still worry, replace this with a favorite seasoning of your choice.)
  • 350ml cold tap water
  • ~2.5dl (1 cup) coarsely shredded cheese of your choice (I used a mix of aged cheeses but this is really up to what floats your cheese boat).


  • Mix all dry ingredients other than cheese and whisk to combine.  Mix water and sourdough starter in another bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Mix the liquid into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until all flour is more or less incorporated – the dough will be shaggy and somewhat sticky, and grey in color (rye flour tends to do that, don’t worry, it’ll bake up beautiful!).
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and leave overnight in your kitchen.

  • The next day, flour a board thoroughly and scrape the soft dough out on it.  Flour your hands as well and gently stretch it out using your hands into a rough rectangle.  The dough should be very relaxed and not resist at this point, so it should be fairly easy.

  • Take your shredded cheese and sprinkle it all over the rectangle, as evenly as you want to bother with.  Just, you know, avoid dumping it all in a sticky clump onto the middle of the dough, and it’ll be fine.

  • Roll the rectangle along the short edge to make a short stubby roll.  (Yes, I’ve rotated it in this photo after rolling!)  Cut the roll into three pieces and place them on a piece of baking parchment cut sides down to make a lumpy loaf.

  • Flour a piece of cling film and cover the loaf with it (floured-side down) and then with a kitchen towel, and leave to proof for 1-1.5 hours (this may take longer if your kitchen is not very warm and depending on how lively your starter is), until it is somewhat puffed up.  Because of its shape, the loaf won’t quite double in volume, but the rise will be visible.
  • While the bread is proofing, preheat your oven to 220C with the Dutch oven inside.
  • Once bread is ready to bake, remove Dutch oven from the oven, open lid, (be careful, it will be bloody searing hot!), and carefully place the bread into the Dutch oven holding it by the baking parchment edges.  If you drop it a few centimeters, it will do it no harm.
  • Cover Dutch oven, and bake for 20 min at 220C covered.  After the 20 minutes, remove lid and lower temperature to 190C and bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes until the top is properly browned.
  • Remove (carefully!) from Dutch oven – I usually stand it on a sturdy foot stool covered with a terry towel I do not mind singing for this – and cool on the rack for 2 hours or until cooled completely before cutting.
  • Once cooled and cut, wrap the cut end in aluminium foil.  The bread will keep for a few days without drying out – if it lasts long enough to be around.  I cannot say with any certainty that it would last for longer than 3 days because after that it was just gone.

Rejoyce in your cheese satisfaction!  This is one of the best ever breads to have to vegetable soup in my opinion – the earthy flavor, the substantial texture and the glorious flavor of cheese works great without any need to butter the slices – but you do as you wish, for that is between you and your cheese addiction.  Because *cough* it’s not like I have sliced thick slices of it just to have alongside a cup of tea or anything…

In hindsight, I may try to make an even fatter roll and only slice it in half to see how that works to make a shorter and thicker loaf, but that is more a matter of curiosity than a necessary instruction, and it may well not turn out any better than this in the end.  And the slices were still a good size, especially if slicing slightly on the diagonal as I did.

Submitted to Yeastspotting.

Two-Fifths Sourdough Rye, and Some Baking Myths

This week, winter has finally and properly come to Stockholm.

We have -15C in daytime, sparkling white snow everywhere – it only really sparkles when the temperature outside is way below 0C – and the city is bright and beautiful and inviting to wander out and around in, now that there is no more horrible wet and dark November muck that lasted entirely too long this year – about two months too long if you ask me.

This sort of weather calls for comfort food, but not the heavy rainy-day fare, no – this calls for satisfying textures and earthy flavors; and the fact that there is NO way to overheat the apartment (all it takes is opening the kitchen vent and the problem is solved!), it is also a fantastic excuse to indulge in baking.

Rye bread is both, healthful and enormously satisfying to eat, and I happen to adore the flavor of it – nothing, nothing beats real and heavily buttered rye bread for things like pickled herring, Skagen seafood salad, charcuterie or smoked salmon.  Unfortunately, good sourdough rye is not that easy to find in even an average Swedish supermarket (it’s easy to find average quality there, heh!), and I can imagine that in most English-speaking countries it is a specialty item, and many people consider wholemeal rye flour difficult to bake with.

I know, I have been there myself when I tried to make the 100% wholemeal Finnish rye.  It turns out great, but it is a pain in the head dough to work with, really.  Now, that one is a traditional recipe so not up to me to change (I may well come up with a better way to make a high-percentage rye bread later), but this specific recipe I came up with on my own the other day.  And, guess what?  It is easy to make.  Really really easy.

Two things which gave rise to this recipe are my incessant reading on the subject of food, and my recent experiments (the failed and the successful) with no-knead bread.  I wanted rye bread.  I have read that rye flour works far better after a long sourdough fermentation, and I have seen how well and easily gluten develops in long, sourdough no-knead method fermentation.  The difficulties with bread that has a large part of rye are normally:  1. that it does not rise very well because rye gets in the way of gluten development, so you get a brick or a doorstop; and 2. that the dough is awful to work with and even look at – it is unattractively grey, gloopy and it is sticky above and beyond all reason, to the point of resembling actual carpenter glue.  So the problem is that you really don’t want to knead rye bread – and you have to knead to get the gluten to develop… oh wait – the no-knead method… Eureka!  And so this recipe came to be.

As the name suggests, the recipe is two-fifths rye and three-fifths wheat, although that is approximate.  I will test a half-and-half one at some point later and let you know whether that works as well, which I think it will.

The method used for this bread is simple, and is described in detail in the (successful) no-knead post.  I suggest you read that once as then you will not have to ever read it again (it makes sense).  The only things I can add that are specific to the rye bread are that:

  • I was really really generous at covering the banetton with wheat bran (fearful of the stickiness).
  • The first rise for this much rye is longer than I suggest for wheat – this bread was left for approximately 18 hours (from late afternoon and overnight till next morning).
  • The 2nd rise (in banetton after folding) can also take longer than the 1.5 hours for wheat – I left mine for 5 or so hours in a cool kitchen and then baked it.
  • The baking time after the 30-minute mark removal of lid or bowl (whatever you are using), is minimum another 20 minutes, but I watched the bread for about 10 minutes after those 20, and simply took it out when it reached the right color for my liking.  Since the ovens and baking dishes vary, so may your mileage.  My advice is that if this is your first rye bread, watch it.  It should get beautifully deep chestnut-golden brown (rye bread color), and if it is too light it is underbaked.

The recipe is even simpler – and here is where I would like to kick a few of the things you commonly read on the internet, and even in reputable baking books about baking bread, where it hurts.  Why?  Because among a lot of good and useful advice, there are also sites and books (no names or links as usual, you will know them when you see them), that tell you that unless you do X in exactly Y way, your bread will not work and it’s your own fault for being a bread sinner not doing it as the holy internet church of bread bakers preaches.

In my opinion, all four myths mentioned below (I think I will probably point things like this out as I go along, but only four of them make an appearance in this recipe) are so much of what comes out the back end of a cow.  If you do one of those and your bread does not work, something else is wrong (weak starter, wrong flour, etc.).  It is not because you have sinned against the holier-than-thou principles which are nothing but so much hot air being blown where the sun don’t shine.

So, recipe!

  • 100-150g sourdough starter, (I feed mine with mix of about 2/3 rye and 1/3 wheat flour before baking rye, half-and-half for wheat breads).  100% hydration (1:1 ratio of flours to water).  It should have been taken out of the fridge and fed at some point within the past 48 hoursMyth: a lot of baking purists say you should feed your starter every 8 or 12 hours or oh god oh god it will die and nothing will work… that’s a load of [unmentionable substance].  If you have a strong and healthy starter (one that wakes up and rises within 12-24 hours of being taken out of the fridge and fed), then it is more than fine to do like I do:  I keep my starter in the fridge, and a day or two before I want to bake, I take some and mix it up and let it rise.  It is then fine to bake with the next day or two.  No, I am not hallucinating all those well-risen breads on this blog.
  • 350ml cold tap waterMyth:  you must gather the first morning dew from the petals of lilies, or get the purest mountain spring water you can find, because the chlorine in tap water kills your yeast!  No, it doesn’t.  Your water does not need to be bottled, brought in a wooden pail from a mountain spring, or filtered unless you live in an area where it is otherwise not safe to drink (like London).  But if you can enjoy drinking your tap water, so can your starter.  People who go on about how you should use bottled water for baking bread are… let’s not go there.
  • 500g flour (200g wholemeal finely ground rye and 300g bread-quality high-protein wheat flour).  Myth:  you must always sift your flour.  No you don’t need to sift any of it for bread-baking – weighing it and dumping it into a bowl, adding salt and spices, and swirling around a bit with a dry whisk or a spoon before adding liquids is also just fine.
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  Use a measuring spoon.  Myth:  you should use un-iodized salt of one fancy and expensive variety or another or it kills your yeast!  Truth – no; regular iodized table salt is fine.  The trace amount of iodine in it is not enough to kill the microorganisms in the starter.
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds.  If you don’t love caraway as much as I do, use 2 teaspoons.  Or none, if you don’t want any.  (No, I do not feel the need to toast mine before adding it, but you can if you like.)

Method (the post linked above details it better, but here is the summary):

  • Mix starter and water.  Mix all the rest in a bigger bowl.  Mix liquid into flour mix.  Cover with clingfilm and let stand for 18-20 hours.  Dump out onto a VERY well floured board.  Fold, rest 15 min, stick into banetton to rise.  I left mine to rise for nearly 5 hours but it may have been ready before I came home from my walk, so when it is puffed up, it is ready.  May be as little as 1.5-3 hours for the rye.  Bake, cool on rack, do not cut until completely cooled (more important for rye than wheat breads for flavor development).

Enjoy.  And don’t take [manure] from those who tell you baking bread must be difficult.  It really, really does not have to be.

Submitted to Yeastspotting.  :)