Although I bake sourdough a few times a week the satisfaction it gives never seems to diminish. Whereas as so many bakes are little luxuries, bread is an everyday staple so it’s totally justifiable to bake it all the time.
There are a thousand and one recipes out there for sourdough, many of them I’ll freely admit will probably give you a better loaf however, the recipe below is one that I find relatively simple and thus I can fit around work and family life. If you want to spend hours or even a couple of days making a more complex loaf then google away but if you want to make a decent day-to-day loaf then read on.
The first ingredient is the starter. I was lucky enough to get this from a local baker and have kept it going for a couple of years now. There are recipes and instructions online for making your own or you can buy it online or best of all, get some from someone who has a nice, well established starter. I keep my starter in a take-away plastic curry pot in the fridge. It normally contains about 70g of starter.
On the day of making (not baking – we’ll come to that!) add 100g strong white bread flour to the starter pot along with 100g cold water first thing in the morning. This mixture is now known as a levain.
At about 6pm put 500g strong white bread flour and 127g wholemeal flour in a mixing bowl along with 250g of the levain and 415ml of cold water warmed up in a microwave for 1 minute. Put in Kitchen Aid with dough hook and mix for 3 minutes on slow. Vaguely cover it (I wrap a plastic bag around the mixer bowl and paddle) and leave it for about 30 minutes. Then add 14g fine salt. Mix for 3 minutes on slow and then another 3 on medium. Whilst it is mixing away add 25g of strong white flour and 25g of cold water to the starter pot. Mix it all together and then put it back in the fridge.
Meanwhile prepare a large tupperware box: put about 1tbsp olive oil in and grease all over the base and sides of box. Put the dough in there. Just dump it in, put the lid on and set your timer for 30 minutes. After the time is up press the ‘repeat’ button if yr doing it on an iPhone! Oil your hands with some olive oil. Take one end of your dough in the box, pick it up, stretch it and then fold it on to the other end. Take that end and then fold it back again. Twist the box through 90 degrees and repeat this folding – it’s known as a North, South, East, West fold. Put the lid back on. This first time the mixture will probably be quite soft and look rather unpromising but stick with it – each time the gluten will have developed and it will get tighter. Repeat the NSEW folding for about 3 hours.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Stretch it out into a square then bring the opposing corners together into a very rough ball. Turn it over and then roll it and pull it tight on itself into a tight smooth ball. Leave for 10 minutes.
Pull the ball tight once more. Then put it into your banneton to prove. Put that into a plastic bag and then into the fridge overnight.
Next morning turn the oven to its maximum setting with your baking tray inside. Once it has come up to temperature sprinkle the tray with fine semolina and then turn the loaf onto it. Quickly put the tray and loaf in the oven whilst putting a very shallow tray of water on the shelf below the loaf. Bake at the highest temperature for about 20 minutes before turning down to 200C. Bake until nice and golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 127g strong wholemeal bread flour
- 250g levain
- 400ml water, slightly warmed
- 14g fine sea salt
- olive oil for greasing
- fine semolina for baking tray
A couple of favourite variations… Rosemary: three sprigs of finely chopped rosemary mixed in with the dough. Also fig & fennel: 4tsp of freshly ground fennel seeds with 150g finely chopped dried figs. Add the fennel at any stage but add the figs near the end of the final mix in the mixer. Otherwise keep the basic recipe the same.