There is an alternative to a sourdough starter and this loaf uses it: a preferment or ‘sponge’. The method is quicker and more reliable plus gives a deeper flavour than yeast normally can. The recipe below is, in part, from ‘The Hairy Bikers’ Big Book of Baking’ 2012. I’ve modified it to make it, erm, work…

Begin this bread a day before you want to eat it: I find 18-20 hours is needed to get full on tasty results.
For the starter sponge:

  • 150ml warm water
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tsp fast action yeast
  • 125g strong white flour

(The original recipe calls for three teaspoons of yeast – way too much IMO)

 For the bread dough:

  • 200ml warm water
  • 1tsp fast action yeast
  • 300g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g wholemeal rye flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tbsp olive oil

(The original recipe calls for another 225g of white flour at this stage. It is not enough: the dough will be a shaggy mess and very difficult to knead by hand. Also, strong wholewheat flour is asked for but I use rye for better flavour).

Okay. Mix all the starter ingredients together in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight (10 hours minimum). When the sponge looks frothy and smells a bit boozy, you’re ready for the next stage…

Frothy and boozy. As promised.

In a jug measure out the water, add the sugar and yeast then leave it all for 20 minutes or so to activate. Weigh the white and rye flours then mix in the salt. You’ll notice the frothing of the yeast: when you do, it’s time to make bread.


Tip the flours on top of the starter mixture then add the yeasty slurry you’ve just made. Bring it all together in the bowl making sure there are no pockets of dry flour hiding away.

The adventure begins! Turn out the dough and begin kneading. At this point I will say ‘if the dough sticks too much, add oil to the work top rather than more flour‘. Extra flour will toughen the dough but oil won’t. Look at this example…

Oil is required…

I nearly always use a bench scraper to bring this dough to attention. After ten minutes return the dough to a clean bowl and leave it, covered, for as long as it takes to double in size.

From here-on-in it’s stretching and shaping the dough to get what the Bikers call ‘a rustic Spanish torpedo’. To do this, stretch/roll the dough out to 45cm then fold one third to the middle. Fold the other end over the first so you get a rectangular shape…

Fold one end to the middle, then repeat with the other end…

Now repeat the stretching and folding once more. This process helps trap air pockets in the dough improving the texture of this finished loaf. 

Final shaping: this pan rústico is similar in appearance to a bloomer, but without the finesse of multiple folds a bloomer requires. So get an oven tray and transfer your dough to it…

Dust the top with flour, put the tray and dough back in poly bag you used earlier and allow to rise once again (about an hour). Meanwhile get the oven as hot as it will go – 220°c in my case. Just before baking, slash the dough a few times to help oven spring. Don’t be precious with the design, three cuts diagonally and three in the reverse will do: it’s rústico. When ready bake at the high temperature for ten minutes then reduce heat to 180°c for another twenty.

The aroma from the oven is delicious. I expected it to be. The sugar in the recipe has helped give the dark chewy crust. A really good loaf of bread.

So is this Hairy Bikers bread worth a page in the book? Yes, but my concern is the quantities of yeast and flour. As written up, the dough would require a stand mixer to handle it well – fine if you own one, not so if you don’t. Worth doing never the less.

Thanks for reading BBBB and see you again soon.

5 thoughts on “Pan Rústico (Spanish Rustic Bread from The Hairy Bikers)

  1. I’m an amateur baker of seven years. Totally agree with your analysis of the Hairy Bikers’ ingredients and method, far too much fluid was my take, but not enough flour is the same view really. Baked this this passed weekend. I decided to stick to their process against my better judgement, and it came out a sticky mess, but I’m experienced enough and saved the day. Other than that, a nice crumb and crust (I add water to the oven and baked throughout at 200 fan) and it tasted fine with Spanish tapas on Saturday evening. Final comment – The Hairy Bikers are of a breed who don’t necessarily road test their own recipes – I’ve been burnt before!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your adaptions a lot. I have another book of the Harry Bikers & also there, I needed to make modifications. Well done….the bread looks stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

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