Saturday, 20 July 2019

Perfect Hobza Sourdough bread

This is the closest I got to a Maltese loaf of bread... a crunchy bottom and crispy top with that sourdough flavour.  I am from Qormi, the village known for the best bakers in Malta,  and I can still remember the streets filled with scents of baked flours from my childhood!  We had three wood oven bakers in our street alone baking fresh bread from early in the morning till late at night.  Sundays was the best! as around 11.00am the smell will be mixed with that of baked potatoes and fennel seed! Nearly everyone took dishes of meat and potatoes to the baker, to save energy and improve the flavour! Follow the steps carefully but once you repeat it will become as simple as anything!
Quantities are enough to make 1 large loaf or 2 medium loaves.

600g strong plain white flour
11g salt
80g Levain
365g Water (filtered)

  1. Put water and levain together in a large glass bowl and whisk until levain has completely dissolved
  2. Sift flour into a size smaller glass bowl, add salt and mix dry ingredients well
  3. Tip flour into water and levain mixture then using one hand make circular movements until the flour absorbs all the liquid.  Keep hand in the form of a crab all the time, do not knead at this stage.  Clean the dirty hand with the clean hand and cover the scruffy looking mixture with the small glass bowl.  ( large bowl at the bottom holding the dough, smaller bowl used as a dome cover on top). Stand for 10 minutes in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
  4. After 10 minutes, uncover and take a small portion of the dough from outer edge and pull it to the centre and press. Turn bowl slightly clockwise and repeat pulling the dough from out to the centre until you do a complete circle.  Should take from 8-10 pulls and push movements.  Gather the dough and turn upside down.  Cover again and stand for 10 minutes
  5. After 10 minutes repeat the pull from outer dough and pressing to centre of dough process.
      Always using the imaginary 8 -10 sections of the dough, turning the bowl clockwise to the next section.  Turn the ball of dough upside after you finish with the pulling and pushing. Cover dough with the smaller glass bowl again and rest for 10 mins.
  6. Uncover dough, and you should realise that now, gluten has relaxed and the dough is becoming more silky and smooth. Repeat step 5 again, turn dough upside down and it should be smooth and lump free.  Cover and let it prove for approximately 6 - 24 hours depending on the room temperature.  ( if dough is still lumpy, then wait another 10 minutes, and repeat for the 4th time the pulling and pressing process of step 5)
  7. When dough doubles in size, turn it onto a floured surface, divide into two portions  or more for smaller baps, and knead to form round loaf.
  8. Line baking sheet with baking paper.  Arrange loaves on the baking tray leaving enough room to grow.
      Sift over some flour then cover first with a plastic sheet, then with a cloth and leave to prove till double in bulk. (process may take from 2.5hours to 6 hours)
  9. Heat the oven to 220C.
  10. Uncover loaves, then score tops with sharp knife, and transfer to pre heated oven.  Close oven door and turn temperature down to 210c
  11. Bake until turn into dark golden colour and sound hollow when tapped from the bottom. (Approx 30-45 minutes)
  12. Cool bread on wire rack and enjoy warm with olive oil or butter! 
Note:  To manage fresh bread making in a very busy schedule, I always prepare steps 1-6 in the evening, then steps 7-12 in the morning.  Or else, I delay the second proving by transferring the formed baps to the fridge for a slow proving (6-8 Hours) and take out just 1 hour before I bake.