Poppy seed and saffron sourdough

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The combination of poppy seeds and saffron make a wonderful combination in a cake, but they are fabulous in a bread such as this.

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Saffron and poppy seeds really do work marvellously well together and I love making sourdough loaves using them both. However, I have given the adaptation to make this as a non-sourdough bread ie) using commercial yeast.

If you are new to making sourdoughs, my earlier post shows how to make sourdough starters and using it for sourdough bread, along with general tips. The post can be found here

Kneading or stretch-and-fold method for the dough?

As with other sourdoughs, you can do the kneading in the food mixer for about 20 minutes in one go, but what often happens is with the long final proving the dough can lose stability as the gluten weakens and when you turn it out prior to baking, it can start to spread out.

The stretch and folding of the dough every now and then – which I go for here – develops the gluten more effectively, gives a dough that is easier to handle, creates a more stable dough structure, and gives the best oven spring.

A non-sourdough version of this bread

Instead of using the sourdough starter, use 500g strong plain white flour, mixed with 2 level teaspoons on instant dried yeast and increase the water content to about 430ml: adding more if needed so that it comes together to form a soft dough.

Knead for about 15-20 minutes (by hand or using the dough hook attachment to the food mixer) and prove for a couple of hours at room temperature until about double in volume. Knead to knock out the air and shape as either one large loaf of two smaller loaves: these can be popped into tins to prove a second time before baking: about 30 minutes for smaller loaves to 45-50 minutes for larger ones.

Recipe: poppy seed & saffron sourdough – makes one medium loaf

  • 300g strong white plain flour
  • 75g strong wholemeal flour
  • 100g sourdough starter, fed the night before
  • 240ml water at room temperature
  • 6g fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands, crushed and soaked in a little warm water
  • 30g poppy seeds
  • fine semolina for dusting the bannetons

(1) Mix the flours, saffron and poppy seeds together in a large bowl and add the water, mixing to form a loose, shaggy dough.

(2) Cover with a damp cloth and leave at room temperature for 20 minutes.

(3) Sprinkle over the salt and mix well.

(4) Cover with a damp cloth and leave for about four hours, with “stretch and folding”* every 45 minutes or so: with later foldings you will see the dough become more stretchy and elastic as the gluten has developed. I tend to go for 5 sessions of folding.

*stretch & folding: with lightly wet hands, grab a handful of the dough and lift it right up above the bowl before slapping it back onto the dough below. Turn the bowl a little and repeat several times within a minute or two.

(5) Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight (or for 48 hours if you like your sourdough to be tangier).

(6) Give the dough a couple of gentle stretch and folds (which will tighten up the dough again) and turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.

(7) Shape it* and put into a large banneton that has been liberally dusted with fine semolina.

*for shaping I flatten out the dough to a rough rectangle, then roll it up like a Swiss Roll before popping it into the well-semolina’d banneton(s), with the seam upwards.

(8) Cover and leave at room temperature until risen a bit (around half of the initial volume). This can take 4 hours on a warm day or several hours longer if it is cooler.

(9) Heat the oven to its highest setting and put a solid roasting tray near the bottom (for water to create steam) and a solid baking tray or baking stone near the top to heat up (onto which the dough will bake).

(10) Remove the very hot baking tray/baking stone and place parchment onto it. Invert the dough carefully onto it, slash the dough quickly with a razor or sharp knife to score it (one slash down the length is fine!) and pop in the oven. Pour cold water onto the solid roasting tray that is now hot on the bottom of the oven and close the door..

(11) Bake for about 40 minutes, reducing the heat to 200C after about 10 minutes.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

4 thoughts on “Poppy seed and saffron sourdough”

    1. I assume you add the starter in the first step – with the flours, saffron, poppy seeds and water. When you say strong whole meal flour, do you mean whole wheat or spelt, or ??? Not a term we use in the States. I’m looking forward to trying this. Thank you. I thought I’d have to create the recipe myself from scratch. I wouldn’t have put the poppy seeds in. I love poppy seeds.


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