It seems everyone and their mother has taken up baking in 2020 and we fully support it! There is something poetically romantic about waiting for fresh loaves of bread, leavened with a lovingly-tended sourdough starter, to rise —especially when the world around us feels so chaotic. After waiting patiently for a marvelously proofed dough, we are then blessed with the glorious aroma of crusty bread baking to perfection. What could be better than that?
When entertaining during the holidays, we do our best to put our loaves in the oven close to when we anticipate guests will arrive to ensure our homes smell nostalgically inviting and our guests are greeted with welcoming warm bread. And no bread is more enticing than this goats' cheese and honey maslin by Nicola Willis. The spicy tangy earthiness of dark rye is complemented by sharp salty goats' cheese and ribbons of sweet honey. In addition to it's beautiful flavour profile, the maslin loaves take on a stunningly deep color that allows for impressively high-contrast decorative scoring designs. Served with fresh figs, this bread makes a memorable addition to any holiday table.
Recipe by Nicola Willis included in "Slow Dough: Real Bread: Bakers' Secrets for Making Amazing Long-Rise Loaves at Home" by Chris Young.
Nicola said, “This loaf brings it all together: using time and the best local ingredients to make great Real Bread. The richness of the Welsh honey we use contrasts with the sharpness of the Ragstone cheese, all balanced by the light texture and gentle taste of the sourdough.” Ragstone is an unpasteurized lactic goats’ milk cheese, made in Herefordshire’s Golden Valley, and you should look for an artisanal chevre or something similar when you make this loaf.
FROM MIXING TO OVEN: overnight plus 6–8 hours
BAKING TIME: 35–40 minutes
FOR THE PRE-FERMENT
90g/3¼oz/6 tbsp rye sourdough starter
60g/2¼oz/¼ cup water
120g/4¼oz/¾ cup plus 2 tbsp white bread flour
FOR THE DOUGH
270g/9½oz/scant 2 cups white bread flour
150g/5½oz /scant ⅔ cup water
60g/2¼oz/½ cup wholemeal/wholegrain (dark) rye flour
20g/generous 1 tbsp honey
5g/1 tsp fine/table salt
80g/2¾oz/⅓ cup soft goats’ cheese
20g/generous 1 tbsp honey, for drizzling
semolina or polenta/cornmeal, for dusting
Mix the pre-ferment ingredients together, cover and leave at room temperature overnight, or refrigerate overnight and bring it out 2 hours before needed.
Mix the pre-ferment and dough ingredients together, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Instead of kneading the dough, give it four separate single folds, with rests of 10–15 minutes after each fold, then leave the dough to prove for a further 1 hour.
Shape the dough carefully into a square about 1cm/½in thick. Break the cheese into pieces, distribute them evenly over the dough and gently press them in. Drizzle with honey.
Fold the 4 corners of the dough into the middle to cover the cheese, form the dough into a ball and seal the seams tightly.
Dust a proving basket well with semolina or polenta/cornmeal, shape the dough to fit and place it in, seam-side up. Cover and leave to prove for 4–6 hours at room temperature (alternatively, prove in the refrigerator overnight again, and remove 1 hour before baking).
Heat the oven to 240°C/220°C fan/475°F/gas 8–9, with a baking stone or baking sheet in place. Dust a peel with semolina or polenta/cornmeal, turn the dough out onto it and slash along the middle of the top with a sharp knife, or if you feel confident, slash a pattern into the dough. Slide the loaf onto the baking stone. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the crust is golden, or darker if you prefer.