I’ve been excited about today for quite some time, as it meant I might finally be able to crack the sourdough game. I first made a woeful looking thing way back in May, and I’ve been periodically trying ever since to get a decent loaf. It’s been so frustrating as I’m fairly good at making different styles of bread and handling dough, but there’s something with the sourdough that fails me every time. Bread Ahead a London bakery and school that offered Instagram Live classes during lockdown (and will do during the UK’s second lockdown beginning later this week!) and do more extensive 2-hour online courses on different topics. I’ve done a couple including an Italian style one where I made grissini, and my favourite, a babka and challah one. Today I joined their sourdough class, where as well as covering starters and a white sourdough loaf, they’d also make something called Borodinsky bread – today’s new thing.
With anything sourdough, you need to plan ahead a little. Most bakes take a little while for the yeast activity and flavour to develop, so can sometimes take around 3 days start to finish. The Borodinsky bread didn’t need quite so much time, but I did need to make a pre-ferment the night before, which I added to the main mix the next day to give it a bit of a kick-start.
Borodinsky bread is a popular Russian rye loaf, slightly sweetened with treacle or molasses and flavoured with caraway and coriander seeds. I’d never seen or heard of this type of bread before, but I was really intrigued to see how it turned out. I never normally bake rye bread, but since moving to Germany I’ve become a fan of this dark, moist bread, and love how they taste with a simple spread of butter and cheese.
During the course, Matthew, the founder and head baker at Bread Ahead instructed us to roll the bread into a thick log in some white flour. He made this look effortless, lightly rolling the dark bread backwards and forwards, before deftly picking up the loaf and placing it in a tin. It will not surprise you that mine did not quite so smoothly! The dough was so sticky that I could barely roll anything without it getting stuck behind. I formed a rough shape and stuck it in my tin, hoping for something edible at the very least.
It worked! The top was a little messy, but it didn’t matter at all once I tore into it. The bread had a wonderful combination of sweet and sour, thanks to the molasses and caraway/coriander mix. It was beautifully moist inside and had a big punchy flavour, perfect for pairing in a simple open-faced sandwich or just with a layer of butter on top like I did.
I’m so glad I did this course as I would never have discovered the Borodinsky bread otherwise. Not only did I get to create a new style of bread, I finally, finally, managed to make a decent loaf of sourdough – I actually did a little happy dance when I cut into it!
I’m hoping the sourdough success wasn’t just a one-off and is something I can actually repeat, but for now I get to eat my way through two delicious loaves of very different bread.