Sourdough

Fig + Cacao Sourdough


Prep Time : 30 Minutes | Cook Time : 30 Minutes | Total Time : 18 hours | Difficulty : Moderate

Hello my lovelies! I know I’ve been AWOL the last week or so. I’ve had some medical things going on and needed some down time. Back with you now. We’re expanding our sourdough repertoire. Adding another product of fermentation to give piles of flavour. Cacao. I have been inspired to grow a part cacao starter by Vanessa of The Sourdough School in the UK and it’s bubbling along happily so far. But I thought we needed a loaf that anyone can make with their regular starter that still delivers some super cacao flavour. I’ve paired it with figs but you can add hazelnuts or apricots or anything that goes with chocolate really. The instructions are very detailed but it’s worth the reading. We are using the slightly fancier soft dried figs here – the kind that comes in a pouch and needs to be kept in the fridge overnight. In NZ Tast “Ready to Eat” figs are perfect for this. While this sourdough does contain cacao and a little honey to crumb is not sweet – it is rich and ever so slightly bitter like good dark chocolate and perfectly offset with sweet pops of fig.

Refer to this post about maintaining your starter so it’s always ready to go. This recipe makes one good sized round or oval loaf but you can easily double it if you wish to make two at a time. We are baking in a cast iron casserole dish with a lid for this and many of the other sourdough recipes that will follow it. It is a worthwhile investment if you want to make sourdough a regular part of your life. Refer to this post for more on equipment for baking breads and what to look for. I recommend one that is around 5 litres in capacity.

First up is making the pre-ferment. Just before bed mix the flour, cacao, water and starter for the pre-ferment in a large bowl. It will look like a pasty goo in the bottom of the bowl. If the weather is cold use warm water for this step to give it a head start. If it’s warm just use cold water. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight.

In the morning it will have risen up and when you look underneath there will be bubbles all through it.

Add the 230 mls of warm water and the honey directly on top of the preferment. Mix it together – don’t get too precious about it just go until it’s mostly mixed.

Measure the flour on top.

Mix everything in the bowl together to make a dough. Work it in the bowl with your hand for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to resist you a bit. This is a minimal bit of kneading. This dough doesn’t need as much kneading as the long ferment develops gluten as well. Cover the bowl and leave it for about 30 minutes.

Mix the salt and the 20 mls of hot water in a small bowl and leave it to dissolve and cool a bit.

Add the water with the salt dissolved in it and knead to distribute it thoroughly. This gives you a few more minutes of kneading to round out the process. Add the sliced figs and knead/fold the dough to distribute them.

Cover the bowl and leave it to ferment for around 2 hours in a warm place. If you leave it for 3 because you got busy that’s fine. If you leave it for 90 minutes because you need to be somewhere later that’s fine too. It will affect the final result a bit and you can experiment to see what you like over time. Err on the shorter side in warm weather.

After 2 hours is up you need to start stretching. This wakes the gluten back up and traps pockets of air in the dough so that when you bake the loaf it will have a lovely open structure. You need to do four sets of folds in all. Do them around 20 to 30 minutes apart. No one will die if you are distracted and one of them is a bit later. To do a set of folds moisten your hand and reach under the dough on the side of the bowl furthest from you. Pull a handful up and fold it down towards yourself onto the rest of the dough.

Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Go all around the bowl doing four folds in all. Cover and leave for 20 minutes and then repeat until you’ve done four sets. Cover and leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes or so.

Put the oven on to 250C (485F). Put your clean cast iron casserole dish in the oven including the lid to heat up. If you have a cane or pressed conifer proving basket then dust this liberally with flour. Rub it it well so it coats the surface. If you don’t then dust a linen tea towel heavily with flour and lay it into a medium bowl.

To shape a loaf I like to dust the bench heavily with flour and then turn the dough out onto the flour. I then use my fingers to pinch the dough together on top. This will create a taught surface on the bottom of the dough which is also well floured. Shape the loaf to fit your basket or bowl. Don’t handle the dough more than you need to. We want to retain the air bubbles that are in there so they can expand into a lovely open crumb when we bake.

Lift it gently into the proving basket or bowl and lay it flour side down. You will be inverting this later so the smooth side that is on the bottom now will become the top later.

Cover and leave to rise for between 40 minutes and an hour. It shouldn’t double in size but will be about half as big again. You will get to know what this looks like with practice. I know that a loaf this size is ready to bake when it crests out of the basket I use by about an inch.

Cut a piece of baking paper big enough that as several inches clearance in either side of your unbaked loaf. You need room for handles. Lay the paper over the top of your dough.

Support the dough with one hand and use the other to gently tip the basket/bowl over. Do this near the bench surface so the dough doesn’t fall.

You will feel the dough release from the surface of the basket/bowl. If it doesn’t just give it a few seconds to let go. Don’t pull on the basket or tea towel.

If you wish to slash your loaf you can. It helps control how the loaf will rise and adds some flair. We could all do with some flair. Use the very sharpest serrated knife you have or a razor blade with a sticking plaster on one side. I have tried all sorts of other craft knife and Stanley knife blades and they aren’t a patch on a razor blade. Please keep a dedicated container out of reach of small hands to store them in.

Right now we need to quickly do a thing. Put a wire rack on the bench next to the oven. Open the oven door and take out your pan and set it on the rack. Remove the lid and set that on the rack next to it. Quickly lift your loaf by the baking paper and lower it gently into the pan.

Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven and shut the door. Bake for 15 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and behold your beautiful well risen loaf.

Bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes with the lid off. I always go for the longer time to get a good heavy crust.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. You should let the loaf cool completely before slicing. I know I know. Cooking is still happening in the middle of the hot loaf. Cutting it while it’s warm can squish the crumb and let excess moisture escape so the un-eaten part will be drier.

Now go make some toast.

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Fig + Cacao Sourdough


Prep Time : 30 mins | Cook Time : 30 mins | Total Time : 18 hours | Difficulty : Moderate

Makes : 1 medium loaf

Soft aromatic cacao scented bread studded with figs – an indulgent slice of toast.

Ingredients:

For the preferment:

  • 100 grams strong bread flour
  • 50 grams raw cacao powder
  • 165 grams tepid water
  • 50 grams sourdough starter

For the dough:

  • All of the preferment
  • 230 grams tepid water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 380 grams strong bread flour
  • 12 grams fine salt
  • 20 grams very hot water
  • 4-5 soft dried (ready to eat) figs, sliced

– If using metric cups, reduce volume measures by 1 tablespoon for every cup of dry or liquid ingredients – 

Equipment:

  • Bowls and spoons
  • Electronic scale
  • Large cast iron casserole dish with lid (approx. 5 litre capacity)
  • Proving basket or bowl lined with a linen tea-towel
  • Baking paper

Directions:

First up is making the pre-ferment. Just before bed mix the flour, cacao, water and starter for the pre-ferment in a large bowl. It will look like a pasty goo in the bottom of the bowl. If the weather is cold use warm water for this step to give it a head start. If it’s warm just use cold water. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight.

In the morning it will have risen up and when you look underneath there will be bubbles all through it.

Add the 230 mls of warm water and the honey directly on top of the preferment. Mix it together – don’t get too precious about it just go until it’s mostly mixed.

Measure the flour on top.

Mix everything in the bowl together to make a dough. Work it in the bowl with your hand for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to resist you a bit. This is a minimal bit of kneading. This dough doesn’t need as much kneading as the long ferment develops gluten as well. Cover the bowl and leave it for about 30 minutes.

Mix the salt and the 20 mls of hot water in a small bowl and leave it to dissolve and cool a bit.

Add the water with the salt dissolved in it and knead to distribute it thoroughly. This gives you a few more minutes of kneading to round out the process. Add the sliced figs and knead/fold the dough to distribute them.

Cover the bowl and leave it to ferment for 2 hours in a warm place. If you leave it for 3 because you got busy that’s fine. If you leave it for 90 minutes because you need to be somewhere later that’s fine too. It will affect the final result a bit and you can experiment to see what you like over time. Err on the shorter side in warm weather.

After 2 hours is up you need to start stretching. This wakes the gluten back up and traps pockets of air in the dough so that when you bake the loaf it will have a lovely open structure. You need to do four sets of folds in all. Do them around 20 to 30 minutes apart. No one will die if you are distracted and one of them is a bit later. To do a set of folds moisten your hand and reach under the dough on the side of the bowl furthest from you. Pull a handful up and fold it down towards yourself onto the rest of the dough.

Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Go all around the bowl doing four folds in all. Cover and leave for 20 minutes and then repeat until you’ve done four sets. Cover and leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes or so.

Put the oven on to 250C (485F). Put your clean cast iron casserole dish in the oven including the lid to heat up. If you have a cane or pressed conifer proving basket then dust this liberally with flour. Rub it it well so it coats the surface. If you don’t then dust a linen tea towel heavily with flour and lay it into a medium bowl.

To shape a loaf I like to dust the bench heavily with flour and then turn the dough out onto the flour. I then use my fingers to pinch the dough together on top. This will create a taught surface on the bottom of the dough which is also well floured. Shape the loaf to fit your basket or bowl. Don’t handle the dough more than you need to. We want to retain the air bubbles that are in there so they can expand into a lovely open crumb when we bake.

Lift it gently into the proving basket or bowl and lay it flour side down. You will be inverting this later so the smooth side that is on the bottom now will become the top later.

Cover and leave to rise for between 40 minutes and an hour. It shouldn’t double in size but will be about half as big again. You will get to know what this looks like with practice. I know that a loaf this size is ready to bake when it crests out of the basket I use by about an inch.

Cut a piece of baking paper big enough that as several inches clearance in either side of your unbaked loaf. You need room for handles. Lay the paper over the top of your dough.

Support the dough with one hand and use the other to gently tip the basket/bowl over. Do this near the bench surface so the dough doesn’t fall.

You will feel the dough release from the surface of the basket/bowl. If it doesn’t just give it a few seconds to let go. Don’t pull on the basket or tea towel.

If you wish to slash your loaf you can. It helps control how the loaf will rise and adds some flair. We could all do with some flair. Use the very sharpest serrated knife you have or a razor blade with a sticking plaster on one side. I have tried all sorts of other craft knife and Stanley knife blades and they aren’t a patch on a razor blade. Please keep a dedicated container out of reach of small hands to store them in.

Right now we need to quickly do a thing. Put a wire rack on the bench next to the oven. Open the oven door and take out your pan and set it on the rack. Remove the lid and set that on the rack next to it. Quickly lift your loaf by the baking paper and lower it gently into the pan.

Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven and shut the door. Bake for 15 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and behold your beautiful well risen loaf.

Bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes with the lid off. I always go for the longer time to get a good heavy crust.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. You should let the loaf cool completely before slicing. I know I know. Cooking is still happening in the middle of the hot loaf. Cutting it while it’s warm can squish the crumb and let excess moisture escape so the un-eaten part will be drier.

Cook’s Notes:

  • Practice practice practice. You will learn what your dough looks and feels like when it’s right for the loaf you want. Every loaf will be delicious on the way.
  • If you don’t like or don’t have figs, mix in anything that chocolate loves like chopped hazelnuts, dried apricots, prunes or even candied peel.
  • To bake this dough in a loaf pan, grease a large loaf pan with refined coconut oil and shape the loaf and place it in the pan. Cover and prove and then bake in the tin at 240C for approx. 25 to 30 minutes until well browned on top.

 – Keep your sourdough loaf in a cloth bag or wrapped in a tea towel inside a paper bag. If you aren’t going to eat it in 5 or so days freeze the loaf whole or sliced for toasting later – 

Adapted from all the bread books ever.

© 2018 Wellington Bakehouse. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

 

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3 thoughts on “Fig + Cacao Sourdough

  1. This bread is dangerously good Kearin!! Have made it twice this weekend, the first time with figs (delicious) and the second time a very decadent version with chunks of dark chocolate through it. Divine!!! Love your sourdough recipes.

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