This is not as complicated as you think…but first you need to make a starter and get that established. To make the starter (mother) you need a jug or jar with a loose lid. In this you start off by putting one cup of white bread flour and one cup of lukewarm water. Stir it well with a wooden or plastic spoon (DON'T use metal) and leave it on the work surface. It will start to ferment and every day you have to feed it…like a pet…with one large spoon of flour and the same of water…and stir. After one week you will have a 'mother' that you just keep on feeding every day. This mother gives the bread the 'sourdough' flavour that is necessary to get the right taste.
The fermentation process of the flour and water creates lactic acid…which prevents any organisms occurring in the mixture. When it starts to ferment you will notice that it has a similar odour to beer…that is normal and what it is supposed to be like. You can keep it in the fridge…but if you do then you have to take it out a couple of hours before you need to use it.
You can make the ftira without the 'mother'…just by mixing the cup of flour with 1/3 teaspoon of yeast and half a cup of water and leaving it overnight….but the flavour of the bread will not have the same taste…but it is still good!
With the starter established the recipe for ftira is as follows:
The night before you want to make the bread you put: ONE cup of white bread flour 1/3 teaspoon of dried instant yeast 1/2 cup of the 'mother'..(that you then replace by continuing to 'feed' every day) 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
Mix this well with a plastic spatula, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave it in a warm place overnight until you are ready to proceed with the ftira. The dough will become bubbly.
The next day: Put TWO cups of white bread flour 1/2 teaspoon of dried instant yeast 2 teaspoons of sea salt 1 cup of lukewarm water about a tablespoon of olive oil
Then you mix this with the starter you prepared the previous night until it is combined well. It is supposed to be sticky..so proceed to knead it for about ten minutes adding a little bit of flour as necessary…but not too much! The dough should be sticky…but not too wet or it will not cook properly and the ftira will be stodgy at the bottom.
Then oil a bowl with a little olive oil and put the kneaded dough into it. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and a tea towel and leave it in a warm spot for an hour…but if you're busy you can leave it a bit longer and it doesn't make much difference.
Then with a spatula fold the half risen dough over…turn the bowl round 90 degrees each fold and do this about eight or nine times. Cover the dough and leave it four about a half hour …but you can leave it a bit longer than that.
Then repeat the folding of the dough with the spatula again and cover the dough and leave for about another half an hour.
If you have a bread stone..the bread will be much better…but I don't have one and I use a terracotta dish, but you can use a baking tin if you have neither.
Put the bread stone or dish into the oven an preheat it for about half an hour at Gas No.8
Meanwhile put flour on a board – or on the baking tin – and turn out the dough…being careful not to knock out the air too much. Flatten the dough a bit and tear a hole in the middle. You can sprinkle a bit of flour on it…or sesame seeds (which are very nice). Then cover the dough with clingfilm and wait until the oven is well preheated.
Then comes the tricky bit if you're using a breadstone or a terracotta dish You then have to remove the very hot dish from the oven (being careful not to burn yourself) then, with floured hands, lift the ftira dough carefully and put it onto the hot breadstone or dish and place it on the LOWER shelf of the oven.
Let the ftira bake for about twenty minutes…I turn the dish round half way through…and if it is not very brown…leave it for a bit longer. Once baked…remove it from the oven and put it on a tray to cool.
It isn't as complicated as it seems …and you get into the rhythm of it. The bread also freezes well…and it is well worth the effort!!
I've just made this and it came out AWESOME!! I did it exactly as you said…sponge and all!! I will not miss ftira ever again, cause it will become one of my kitchen staples…thank you sooo much!! I ended up with two good sized ones too:) I'll see if I can post some photos…
Hi Georgina…the recipe really works doesn't it!! I make two twice a week…and keep one and freeze one as soon as it has gone cold. When defrosted if you pop it back in a preheated hot oven for a few minutes it comes out like you just baked it. Looking forward to seeing your pics!
The only different thing I did, was that I worked it in the bread machine…only because I'm lazy though. The sponge really worked well. I can put a link to my photos…would that work you think? Not sure if you'll be able to see it…but here goes….
Thanks Georgina…I'll check it out in a minute. I think a bread machine would be a lot easier…I don't have one and the dough is very sticky to work with by hand…but the results are always good! Glad it worked for you too…and it's not complicated once you get the hang of it and it becomes part of the routine…or at least it has for me! Going to check out your link now.
I just saw your pics…your ftira looks so good…and the bread has got the holes in all the right places! I leave it in the oven to get very brown…even a little burnt…but the way yours turned out looks so nice! Why not post the pics on ilovefood?
I would've liked it a bit burnt too but I always follow a recipe perfectly the first time and then adjust it "my way":) I will definitely leave it a little longer in the oven next time. And you know what else is going to be a must now that I've found the perfect recipe??? Is a pizza stone!! I never got one before because I was never impressed by any of the recipes I've tried…they were always…ehh:( So I guess I'll be heading down to BB&B and see if they have one.
I've never worked with a starter where you had to feed it before, so I'm not sure if I'll know how to do that…I guess I will find out:)
I've tried to post the photos here, but not sure how…I'll see if I can do it on my other computer. Linda, you're the best!! You've ended a 20 yr search!! Yes, that long:)
Hi Georgina…the starter is dead easy…put equal amounts of flour and water in a jar or jug with a loose lid so that the air can get in a bit. Whisk it up with a wooden spoon handle or a plastic spoon (don't use metal!). Then everyday feed it with one spoon of water and one spoon of flour and whisk up again. After one week it will be ready to use…and you just keep on adding to the remainder. I started my mother about two years ago now (but some bakers are very proud to have mothers that were started a hundred years ago!).
When you first make the starter it might smell a bit like beer fermenting…but don't worry if it does…it's supposed to! The older it gets the better it gets after that. And don't worry if you forget to feed it one day…when you do it the next day it will start fermenting again. If you want to get the 'real' taste into the ftira then you need the mother I think. But it still tastes pretty good if you do it with the quick overnight thing!
You can even divide the dough into two round loaves if you like…as sometimes a ftira is too big if there aren't many of you at home. Unless I'm expecting family for dinner..I make just two loaves and freeze one…rather than forming the dough into one large ftira.
I haven't been able to find a bread stone/pizza stone in England…but after some experimentation I found that if you heat up a terracotta or even pyrex dish until it gets very hot…about half an hour at Gas No. 8…you get much better results than you do with a baking sheet – and no danger of it sticking as there is with the baking sheet.
It took me some time to get it right…but it doesn't matter if you leave it in the oven a bit longer. I check it and if it isn't brown enough, turn the dish around and leave it a bit longer until it looks well done. You can test if it's done by turning the bread out of the dish onto a towel and tapping the underside…it should sound hollow…if it doesn't leave it a bit longer – and if the bread is very brown on top, just turn the oven down to No. 7 for five minutes longer.
To post the photos you go on to the ilovefood wall and at the top you click on 'photos' and then you can download them onto the wall…but I haven't yet figured out how to download a pic next to a recipe post on the discussions page…but will ask Tony.
Wow! Twenty years you've been looking for a recipe that worked!! This one will get better the more you practice..!
Yes Chris..I use the 'mother' to give the bread flavour, but also add the yeast too. You can make bread with just the 'mother', i.e. sourdough, but it takes hours to rise and it is not as light…so it is a good idea to add some yeast!
Your welcome! Chris, I wondered if the next time you see the baker if you could ask him if he uses any shortening in hobz malti…i.e. a bit of vegetable fat or butter?? I've read various recipes where it includes the use of this…and I've been experimenting with using about two teaspoons of vegetable fat to three cups of flour…and the two loaves I made seemed lighter…but that may be just a fluke and have nothing to do with the addition of the fat! Thanks
Hi Natushka…no, you don't use plain white flour for bread as it doesn't have enough gluten…you have to get bread flour made specifically for the job…and it should have a gluten (protein) content of at least 12.5u0025 (check the packet before you buy). Ordinary plain white flour, the type you use for pastry, doesn't work for bread.
You can make the bread without the mother…but first make a biga…i.e. one cup of strong bread flour, one third of a teaspoon yeast and half a cup of water….mix that together in a bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave it overnight. This will give the bread a better taste. Then in the morning add the rest of the ingredients…two cups of strong bread flour, half a teaspoon of yeast, one and a half teaspoons salt..and about one cup of lukewarm water…depends on the flour…but you want quite a sticky dough…then mix it together and let it rest for a few minutes…then start kneading…it's sticky but try not to add flour if you can. Even try putting a bit of olive oil on your hands and that helps…then when he starts to become elastic..put it in a bowl and cover it and leave for about an hour…or until almost doubled in size…then you do the eight or nine turns with a spatula (as written in the recipe I posted above)…leave for half an hour or so…then repeat the turns (try not to knock the air bubbles out)…then leave for another half hour or so. Then it's ready to shape on a floured board (but be careful when you press it down not to knock out too much air) and cover again and leave it to rest until the oven is really very hot. It takes about 20 mins to bake…but I leave it a bit longer as I like it to go very brown.
But you can still get a nice texture even without the biga…sometimes I forget to set it up the night before and the bread stil comes out good…but just not with the same flavour and I don't think bread lasts any longer when its been made with sourdough. It's only takes a minute to set up the biga before you go to bed…you just stir up the flour water and yeast till it's mixed, cover and leave it overnight…in fact you can leave it for 12-18 hours if you like….then just add the rest and continue.
Lol! I tried only once making the dough in the food processor…and that was a total disaster!! The dough got stuck inside the workings and it sounded like it would blow up any minute. The bits of dough eventually dried out inside the workings of the machine, but now when I switch it on these little hard bits of dough fly out of the insides like shotgun pellets!!