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Sourdough raisin bread

100g strong white bread flour

100g granary/ brown flour

200ml warm water

To make the starter (Optional - to be prepared 3 days in advance)

Using your hands mix both flours with the warm water to form a batter. Make sure to scrape away all the flour from your hands and store the batter in a plastic or glass see-through container at room temperature.‘Feed’ your starter roughly every 24 hours, at the same time of day if possible. Here you’re trying to train the starter into a predictable living and breathing entity. Feed it by removing and discarding half the original batter, then replacing this with 50g white flour, 50g brown flour and 100ml water.On the third day the starter should be ready. The longer you leave the started between feeds the more acidic and vinegary it will become, this is what will give your bread its ‘sour’ character. Once the starter is trained you can use the discarded batter for your bread and maintain the starter with the flour and water for future bakes. Once trained you can also slow down the feeding process by keeping your starter in the fridge and feeding it every 3 days.

100g starter (if not using, substitute with 25g of white and 25g of brown flour)

350g strong white bread flour

150g granary/ brown flour

30g dried, fast action yeast

25g salt

700ml warm water (around 40°C )

50g raisins

50g pumpkin seeds

To make the bread

Combine the starter, white flour, brown flour, yeast and salt in a kitchen mixer with a dough hook attachment. On a low speed add the water and bring to a dough. Knead for 7 minutes on a low speed, then 3 minutes on a medium to high speed. The dough should look and feel elasticated.Add the raisins and seeds and mix again on low for 1 minute.Remove from the mixer and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour. Once proved, on a lightly floured work surface place the dough and knock back with your hands, shaping the dough from the outside to the centre. By doing this you are helping to create a surface tension which helps the dough keep its shape. Place the dough with the smooth side up onto a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to be able to lower the bread into a cast iron ban.While the dough proves heat the oven to 200°C and place your cast iron pan and lid inside.Once the dough has doubled in size gently flour the surface and, using a sharp blade cut a slit across the side of the bread. (Depending on how you cut your dough the bread will behave differently as it continues its rise inside the oven.Carefully remove the pan from the oven and gently lower the bread resting on the parchment paper into the pan being sure to not knock any air out. Place the lid on so that no steam can escape and bake for 25 minutes. By trapping the steam you are mimicking the effect a baker makes by adding water to the oven to create steam. This helps develop a beautiful crust.After 25 minutes remove the lid and continue to colour the top of the bread for a further 25 minutes, until you have a rich brown crust.Carefully remove the bread from the pan, place on a wire cooling rack and remove the parchment from underneath.

To Serve

Either serve from the oven while hot, or allow to cool. When ready to eat, heat the oven to 200°C and place the bread inside for 10 minutes. This will help give the bread a wonderful crips crust.

The point of the starter

A starter dough would have been essential in early bread making. It is the natural yeast in the air and on the hands that a baker is attempting to cultivate and grow into a predictable rising agent. I use bought yeast in addition to a starter to increase the reliability of my bakes. The main purpose of the starter therefore is to achieve the depth of flavour and acidity which you cannot get from freshly mixed flours.

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