Sure, you could use your lovingly maintained starter to bake sourdough loaves (like you did earlier in the quarantine), or you could attempt a kind of fermentation that’s not as ubiquitous: naturally fermented loaves using yeast water starters. Instead of relying on flour, water, and the natural yeast swirling in your kitchen, baker Paul Barker wants to get you invested in submerging plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables in water to ferment, which creates a natural starter for breads and yeasted pastries that reflect whatever flavors you’ve included. Like a traditional/flour-based? sourdough starter, this botanical water raises dough slower than packaged yeast, producing not only a flavorful bread, but also one that’s better for your gut.
Paul’s cookbook “Naturally Fermented Bread” dives deep into this concept, showcasing the beauty and ease of botanical baking. Once you’ve gotten the hang of brewing your own starter, you can follow Paul’s recipes for a number of breads and leavened items, like apple and clove buns, root vegetable loaves, and cucumber burger buns. This technique not only highlights the versatility of ingredients, but also prevents waste, allowing you to repurpose certain wilting produce that otherwise would have been tossed into the trash.
Naturally Fermented Bread: How To Use Yeast Water Starters to Bake Wholesome Loaves and Sweet Fermented Buns, $26.53 on Amazono
Ahead, Paul shares one of his most popular breads from his bakery Cinnamon Square in Rickmansworth, England. He calls it the Church Street Sour, a nod to the street where his bakery stands. This bread is wonderfully sour, thanks to seven ounces of a wheat sour culture, plus the marbling of dark rye flour and white and whole wheat flour. To shape it, you’ll roll part of the dough into a ball, dunked in seeds of your choice, before it’s wrapped in another disk of dough, the top scored into small petals. Once the dough has proofed, all that’s left to do is toss it in a hot oven and wait until it has emerged as a crackly, crusty boule.
Award-Winning Church Street Sour Recipe
I developed this loaf as a tribute to the hometown of my bakery, Cinnamon Square in Rickmansworth, England. Its name comes from the street the bakery resides on, Church Street. The sour culture used within this bread was born in the shop in November 2005; therefore, it has strong provenance in the town.
The Church Street Sour is a moist, flavorful loaf and has an attractive floral appearance due to the special wrapping method detailed in the recipe below. The scored petal cuts obtain a crunchy finish and are great to break off and use with a dip for a snack.
When introduced, this loaf was received favorably by our customers and was subsequently bestowed the title of United Kingdom’s best loaf at the 2017 Baking Industry Awards, which was a fantastic accolade from my peers in the baking industry. So, instead of keeping this under lock and key, I would like to share my recipe.
Chilling the dough after a three-quarter proof will make the task of scoring the dough simpler.
Award-Winning Church Street Sour
- 380 g (131/2 ounces) white bread flour
- 50 g (13/4 ounces) whole wheat bread flour
- 50 g (13/4 ounces) dark rye flour
- 10 g (1/3 ounce) salt
- 195 g (7 ounces) wheat sour culture (100 percent hydration: fed twice daily for 3 days)
- 300 g (101/2 ounces) tap water
- Flour, for dusting
- Vegetable oil
- Seeds of choice, for topping
- Flour or ground rice, for dusting
- Weigh the dry ingredients separately and then place them into a large plastic bowl in the following order: the three flours first and then the salt.
- Add the wheat sour culture and tap water and combine until a dough starts to form and the sides of the bowl are clean.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a dry work surface until it becomes smooth and elastic, approximately 15 minutes.
- Use the windowpane test (see page 36) to check if the dough is fully developed.
- Divide the dough into two 350 g (121/2 ounce) pieces and two 130 g (31/2 ounce) pieces and gently shape into round balls.
- Place the dough balls into a lidded plastic container and leave to bulk ferment for 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough balls from the container and gently reshape.
- Place back into the container for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough balls from the container and once again gently reshape.
- Place back into the container for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough balls from the container and, using a rolling pin and flour to prevent sticking, gently roll out one of the smaller pieces of dough into an approximately 6-inch (15 cm) round disk. Brush the top generously with vegetable oil (leave the edges clear).
- Take one of the larger balls of dough and gently reshape and then dip the top into a bowl of seeds.
- Place the seeded top face down onto the oiled disk of dough and start to encase the ball of dough by pulling up from the unoiled edges. Repeat with the other large and small dough ball set.
- Place the wrapped dough into a flour and ground rice-dusted proving basket with the collective folds facing upward and place into a large, lidded plastic storage box to reach three-quarter prove.
- When three-quarter proved, turn out the dough onto a baker’s peel covered with ground rice. Use a very sharp knife to carefully score the outer skin with 8 petal cuts (see page 40).
- Place into a preheated oven, preferably on a baking stone, and bake at 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7) for approximately 30 minutes.
Header image courtesy of "Naturally Fermented Bread."