Someone called Ben in Llanberis emailed me asking if I had any tips for making sourdough Bara Planc (sounded like he was doing all right without my help already).
Bara Planc is a traditional Welsh yeasted griddle bread, “planc” meaning bakestone in some parts of the country. Just to confuse you further, a bakestone is generally made of cast iron.
Enquiries like this can be really useful for getting you off your arse. So first off a bit of personal research. Pull out the Black Book. The first date in the Black Book is 15 November 2002, the last, a hundred pages later, 26 February 2008 – a couple of months after I started baking for sale. Twenty years on there is a story to be drawn out of all this – but not just yet …
So flick through and on Page 62, 11 June 2006:
I’m sure it’s immediately clear to you what this means. First attempt at a sourdough Bara Planc based on a yeasted recipe from Elizabeth Luard’s “European Peasant Cookery”. I also have recipes from from Bobby Freeman’s “First Catch Your Peacock” and S. Minwel Tibbott’s “Welsh Fare” – they’re all pretty similar Flour, Milk, Fat, Yeast, Salt. Take it from me, the squiggles above translate to the table below:
Hand mixed as usual, a stiff dough. Fermented for three hours, shaped and proved for two hours (room temperature).
The dough was cooked on a gas hob in a magnificent 26cm Le Creuset skillet. It’s 40 years old, bought with wedding present money at what was then Barkers of Kensington on High Street Ken. It’s not that it’s Le Creuset – we’ve got lots of that, mostly bought cheap as seconds over the years and a lot of it no better than cheaper brands. It’s just one of the most perfect cooking machines when you want an even sustained temperature.
Cooked for 30 mins either side, pretty low temperatures once the heat was in the pan. Has to be a bit scorched but regular turns to stop it really burning.
Then according to the blog I baked it again five years later: https://thepartisanbaker.com/2011/10/14/bara-planc/. And it says I baked it in the oven.
Look, no scorch. (But maybe less character.)
Which brings us to the present date, another 10 years on. I looked at the formula and wondered why I had used so much starter and why I had used shorter fermentation and proof times than my usual (which is normally 4 hours + 3.5 hours). I also wondered if it should be a wetter dough as is fashionable these days, but I decided a stiff dough was appropriate for a traditional skillet bread.
So I reduced the percentage of starter to just under 30%, edged the liquid up a bit to compensate for reduced starter and arrived at this:
Increased the fermentation to four hours and the proof to three and a half. Cooked for an hour with lid on a low heat turning frequently. Internal temperature 99.7C.
Don’t know what to say except maybe you make bread this because you don’t have access to an oven. The bakestone is still good for flatbreads, Welsh cakes, pancakes, tortillas, etc., but ovens are best for loaves.
Still, you have to keep on trying and testing. I notice Elizabeth Luard says press the dough out to about one inch thick before proving and to bake 20 minutes per side. She also says, split and eat hot with butter – much better eaten fresh. Way forward?