Lazy leaven

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The inspiration for this was twofold. First, Zoay recently sent me a recipe for how to make bread from leaven in a breadmaker, and second, I saw a video on the New York Times website of how to make quick bread using commercial yeast. This is even more lazy, it doesn’t use commercial yeast at all, only leaven.

Let’s say you have people coming for Sunday lunch, You want some decent bread, but you’re really pushed for time. This is for you.

150g leaven
400g strong white bread flour
50g rye flour
10g salt
310g water
one tsp of honey
25g good olive oil
a cast iron pot with a lid

On Saturday evening take the leaven and place in a large bowl. Add the water, honey (if you use solid honey you need to dissolve it in the water first) and oil and chop through the leaven, giving it a good mix. Add the flours and the salt and mix thoroughly until fully combined.

Cover tightly and leave in a cool place overnight (not the fridge)

In the morning, put your pot (lid on) in the oven, and set the temp to 240c

When the oven reaches temperature, generously flour your work surface and gently turn out your dough. Form it into a ball but don’t overwork it. It should only take you a maximum of 10 seconds. All you’re doing is giving it some shape, not kneading it – you want to keep as much air in it as possible. If you’re not sure about how to form it into a ball, look at the video “shaping” on the basic recipe, it’s the first 20 seconds or so you’ll need to take a look at.

Once that’s done, carefully take your pot from the oven, place on the top of the stove and remove the lid. Make sure you don’t do this with a hangover (like I did recently) or you fingers will end up resembling red zeppelins.

Take your dough and place it gently it into the pot, smooth side up. slash a cross into it with a razor blade (if you can be arsed) going in about 4-5 mm then give it 5 sprays of water then quickly put the lid on the pot and place it back in the oven. Don’t hang about.

After 30 minutes open the door and remove the lid, then close the door, turn the oven down to 200c and give it another 30 minutes. Hey presto, the easiest bread you’ll ever make. Assuming you’ve made loaves with your leaven, you may find that the crumb of this one is a little more dense due to the lack of kneading but there has to be a trade-off somewhere for your lazy-arsed-ness.

If you like, you can replace the 50g rye with the same weight of say, spelt flour, or malthouse flour, or wholemeal, or maize flour – anything you fancy really. You could add rye flakes or seeds, it’s totally upto you. This loaf has a slightly more dense texture than others since you’re not working the dough at all – that doesn’t detract from the taste though. It’s brilliant toasted with scrambled egg, and the total work involved? a maximum of 10 minutes.


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