Ciabatta and Coming Home


“Mummy are we in Kenya now?” Lucas asks as we balance our way down the aeroplane steps and feel a lovely welcome of 20°C.  Its dark, night time, and suddenly my wool dress and boots seem out of place! Another world.  Lucas is happy spotting the airport tractors, “That’s a Kenya tractor, it’s got no cab on it”.

The next morning, We peer out of our Nairobi hotel window, “Its Richard, I can see Richards car!! squeels Lucas. We pack up Richard’s matatu and we are off.

We arrive back in our flat with a lovely welcome of watermelon, mangos and avocado…ahhh I cant stop eating the water melon! Lucas works his way through a few mangos.  Kat and her mum (Chris or Mama Kat) have been staying in the flat whilst we are back in the UK and we are greeted with some yummy crisp breads  and fresh bread.  Thank you!

We are continually amazed at how flexible Lucas is especially after all our nomadic living in the UK, doing our usual sofa surfing. During our time in the UK I went on a sourdough course at the E5 Bakehouse (  They were extremely kind and gave me the day course for free as their support for the bakery here in Nakuru.  A fantastic bakery with great ethics by London Fields in Hackney, I’m jealous of anyone living close by!  The course (which I very much recommend!) was just great and thats where I learn’t this ciabatta.  Thankfully my sourdough starter had survived in the fridge the month away and so it was possible to make these the first Sunday back.  Amongst other things we have been looking in more depth at the possibility of renovated equipment brought from the UK which we could ship, initially after all the slit lamp hassle, customs and shipping costs we decided the local option was best, despite being more expensive. After seeing what we could get for our money in the UK it seemed initially like a good idea but there is more risk  of equipment breakdown and not being able to get repairs done. We came to the conclusion that we need to minimise risk to secure a sustainable bakery and came round in a circle that although expensive, buying new equipment in Nairobi is the best option.

Sourdough is the term used for bread made with natural yeasts.  In the right moisture, temperture and food source (flour) conditions the natural yeasts on flour are cultivated into a sourdough starter that can be regularly fed or kept in the fridge if you are away.  It really improves the taste and texture of bread but also due to the slower and hence longer fermentation of the dough, the bread is more easily digested and has lower phytate levels which means vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed making it a “healthier” bread.

I slightly adapted the e5 bakehouse recipe to use 60g of millet flour a more common grain here and reduced the white flour by 60g and also substituted 40g white flour for 40g wholemeal flour as millet flour has no gluten and we are unable to buy white strong flour easily and have to use the all purpose flour (a mixed protein flour).  It is a semi-sourdough as it uses dried yeast as well.  I know all the folding may seem a faff but its worth it, well I think so!


2 weeks ago:

“Hi Madeleine, how was the sourdough course?”

“Amazing – I learnt loads and have a bag full of ciabatta, bagels and bread loaves… oh and the course teacher/baker and owner is up for coming to Kenya to train the staff!”

Most people come back from a course like this with a bag full of bread, not also a baker! We plan now to have everything in place in time for Ben’s arrival in 2014.


Recipe – Ciabatta (Slightly adapted e5 bakehouse recipe)

Ingredients: Leaven (Pre final dough)

Sour dough starter 20g

Strong white flour 100g

Water 100g

Ciabatta dough ingredients:

Water 250g

Leaven (above) 130g

Olive oil 20g

Malt powder 3g

Dried yeast 3.5g

Strong white flour 230g

Wholemeal strong flour 40g

Millet flour 60g

Salt 8g


1. Mix the leaven together and leave in the fridge for 12-18 hours

2. Weigh out the four

3. Weight out the white leaven

4. Weight out lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil and malt powder then mix them together with the leaven, squidging it all through your fingers.  Mix in the flour.

5. Leave for 20mins in the bowl

6. Sprinkle salt on the top and mix and leave for 30mins

7. Drizzle some olive oil around the sides of the dough in the bowl and use the dough scraper to release the dough from the bowl

8. Stretch and fold 1, leave for 30mins

9. Stretch and fold 2, leave for 30mins

10. Stretch and fold 3, leave for 30mins

11. Final fold – oil the work surface, knock back into an oblong, fold over itself into thirds, turn 90C and repeat. Put back into the bowl and leave for 45mins.

12.  Heavily flour the work surface.  Spread the dough out evenly, using tips of fingers to stretch.  Don’t flatten too much or you will knock the air out.  Cut into 4 or five strips.

13. Flip onto a floured baking non-stick sheet and allow to prove for 60mins before baking.

14. Bake for about 20mins at 220ºC


3 thoughts on “Ciabatta and Coming Home

  1. Pingback: Lemon Tractor Wheel Biscuits and a trip to Kitale | Eye Bake - Kenya

  2. Pingback: Chocolate log and the poo explosion | Eye Bake - Kenya

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