It is not usually a good thing to have something lurking about your kitchen for years on end, quietly fermenting, but when the item is question is a sourdough starter it is a wonderful thing indeed. It requires a little care and attention and regular feeding but pays back time and time again, adding that gorgeous sour tang to breads and pizza dough.
My starter is a relative youngster, which will celebrate its 5th birthday later this year. I sometimes use it to make”real” sourdough bread, without the need for added yeast, but that takes a little forward planning, so often, when feeding time rolls around, I take the cup of unfed sourdough starter that would otherwise be discarded and use it to add a delicious sour dough note to a conventionally made dough. Usually that is just a loaf or a batch of pizza dough but occasionally I feel like doing something different.
As I write this we’re in the middle of that cold post-Christmas stretch of January when spring seems so far away. I’m cooking a lot of soups and stews and wanted something a little different on the bread front to go with a batch of soup. Months ago I’d jotted down an idea for adding cheddar and cider to bread and now seemed like an ideal time to experiment. When I say cider, I always mean what is known as “hard cider” in the USA, i.e. the one with alcohol in it.
The recipe is similar to one I use for making regular bread but instead of water I used cider, a bottle of homemade from 2012 which was still surprisingly good, and I added a generous amount of grated cheddar. This will work best with a strong and/or aged cheddar. I used one that was a bit like me: aged and English.
I was delighted with the result. The bread was soft and delicious with both the cider and cheese coming through in the final bread but in a subtle way. It was tasty enough to eat by itself, but even better with butter or a hunk of cheese, and it made a great accompaniment to home made soup.
Apple Cider & Cheddar Sourdough Tear-and-Share Bread
1 cup unfed sourdough starter
1 cup cider
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 cups grated cheddar
Put all the ingredients in a bowl. I use a stand mixer with a dough hook but you could do it by hand of you prefer. Knead for 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave until it has doubled in size. Don’t worry if it takes a while: my dough took about 4 hours.
Place the risen dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate it and then and divide and shape into 7 equal sized rolls. Line an ovenproof skillet with baking parchment and arrange the rolls into a “daisy” pattern as shown below. Make sure the rolls are touching each other.
Just before putting the dough in the oven give the top of the bread a quick spritz of water from a spray bottle to help get a golden crust. Cook until golden brown on top and the base sounds hollow when you give it a tap, about 40 minutes.