East Finchley’s Margot Bakery was founded by Michelle Eshkeri. A self-taught baker, she would make bread at home for her family in North London and so she decided to turn it into a business of her own. She published her first cookbook Modern Sourdough in 2019 which features recipes not only for her trademark loaves of the good stuff, but also sourdough pastry and other innovative ways to use a sourdough starter (think cheese scones). We’re lucky enough to share a few of Michelle’s recipes on Another Pantry, and she’s also given us her guide to shaping sourdough which will help you make The Margot. Once you’ve made it past the hurdle of mixing and folding the dough for your very own sourdough loaf, here’s how Michelle guides you to shape it before you leave it to proof…
Very lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough over onto the flour using a dough scraper to help you lift it cleanly. The top ‘skin’ side should now be downwards and in contact with the floured work surface and you should have the sticky side facing upwards.
“Gently, and without pulling at the dough, fold the bottom third up to the middle like you are folding a letter. Fold in the left edge to the middle and then the right side and finally the top down so all four sides have been folded in, creating a neat parcel.”
You now have a roughly square piece of dough in front of you. Starting on the right side. ‘Stitch’ the dough down its length three or four times towards you so that you have knitted the left and right side together by taking some dough from each side and connecting them in the middle. It’s like doing up buttons on a baby’s cardigan! You will have a rectangle of dough in front of you with the short sides at the top and bottom.
For a batard loaf roll the dough away from you from the bottom of the rectangle as if you are rolling up a Swiss roll. You are aiming to have an even piece of dough, uniform in size.
For a round loaf fold the dough on itself towards you, more or less in half, and then turn it over onto an unfloured surface so the seam-side is down on the work surface. Flour your hand and lightly flour the top of the dough then repeat the pre-shaping technique, using a dough scraper, turning the loaf around in a single position until it forms a uniform round shape with some tension. This is quite a tricky technique to master and it takes practice – the first few times you do this you may have the dough sticking to your hands.
Dust the shaped loaf in a mixture of white rice flour and whole wheat flour and place seam-side up in a banneton dusted with rice flour or into a bowl lined with a tea towel generously dusted with rice flour. Proof according to the recipe.
Michelle Eshkeri’s cookbook Modern Sourdough explores so many innovative ways of incorporating sourdough into both sweet and savoury bakes, featuring recipes from her home kitchen and her much-loved North London-based Margot Bakery. £22, White Lion Publishing. Photography Patricia Niven. Click for the full sourdough loaf recipe.