Easy(ish) Sourdough bread how-to

Apr 30, 2020

I've not got much experience with this and if you are looking for the secrets to a perfect sourdough loaf of bread then maybe look elsewhere. I have been making decent enough bread though with consistent results.

Step 1 (prep the starter)

9am
You have a jar of sourdough starter that's been in the fridge. Take it out and bring it up to room temperature for half-an-hour.

Dormant state

9:30am
Now you need to feed it ...
Use equals parts of starter, flour, water.
I recommend 4oz to 6oz of each.
Water from the tap is fine unless you have a high level of chlorine in your area, in which case, leave it to stand for 30 mins (I don't do that). Any kind of flour should work, but using some Rye seems to work well for me, or maybe a mixture of strong white and Rye. Just try what you have.

If you have had your starter in the fridge for 3 days or longer, you might need to feed your starter again (two feeds) after 4 hours before carrying on to the next stage.

Stir it all up well and put the mixture into a Jar (big enough jar to half-fill it with the mixture. The mixture should be the consistency of thick-porridge. Place the jar somewhere warm with a loose fitting lid. Ideally the room tempearture wants to be above 70 Degrees if possible but keep it out of direct sunlight.

approx 2pm
By now the starter should have doubled in size (or more) and be nice and bubbly. It will smell a bit tangy and fruity too.

IMG_8529

Step 2 (pre-fermentation)

Sometime in the afternoon
For a large loaf:
Mix 100 grams of starter with 200 grams of flour (white, brown, a mix, whatever you prefer) and 300 grams of water. Sitr it all up in a large bowl. Leave the bowl somewhere warmish and cover with a tea-towel. It will probably take several hours for this part. (I had to wait about 10 hours), so I recommend leaving it overnight and it should have grown and gotten bubbly again. The slower the build up of this mixture the more flavour you should develop. If you don't want your dough to be too sour then keep the mixture in a warm place and go for a shorter fermentation; perhaps 4 hours. The photo below shows the starting state.

Before

Step 3 (The Dough)

The Next morning
Check your bowl is in a nice warm place for the morning : Airing cupboard, conservatory, under the dog?

Sometime around noon or earlier.
Your mixture might look a bit like this photo. Bubbly on top and increased in size from what you started with.

Ferment

Now we make the dough
800 grams of flour (strong white, wholemeal, a mix .. whatever you like)
320 grams of room temperature water.
3 tsp salt

Add all of the above to a large bowl, stir it all up with a big spoon. Now leave it to rest for 30 minutes in the bowl. After the rest, add the ferment and the salt and mix it all. Leave to rest for a few more minutes.

Stretch and Fold
This is a bit easier than kneading and works well for a wetter dough. This recipie should give you a medium hydration dough which is easy to handle but still produces a good holey crumb.

Keeping the dough in the bowl, wet you hands a little and stretch the dough out and fold into the middle. Do this 4 times (from each corner) and repeat every 30 mins for a couple of hours. You will know when it is ready as it will be springy and smooth. Cover with a damp tea towel and put it somewhere warm. Doesn't have to be a warm place but will take longer to rise in a colder place. Slow rise is meant to taste better and improve the texture but it's up to you how much time and patience you have. It will still taste great. Mine is in a room that is about 20 degrees and I expect it to take at least 4 hours to rise.

1:30pm
Left dough to rise ...

Your dough should double in size.

kneaded dough might look a bit like this

3:30
Two hours (room is about 23 degress) later it is looking like this:

Step 4 (knock it down)

6:30pm
After 5 hours, looks like my dough has risen enough so time to go to the next step.

After 5 hours

Knock the air out of it, squash your dough down and give it another short kneading and pre-shaping on a floured surface.

Leave it to rest for a few mins again before coming back to work it into your desired shape.

On a floured surfacew shape the bread how you want it and to keep the dough tight, try pinching it in from the corners into the middle over and over again to sort of tie it up and keep the tension helping it to rise upwards and not outwards. See photo below.

IMG_8546-2

Caress it into a nice smooth ball.

Now it needs to rise again for probably a couple of hours (again depends on the room temperature, might need longer). If you have a banneton then flour that up and put your dough in it. I don't have one, you can just put it in a bowl lined with a tea-towel. I found an old place-mat, not sure what it is made of but seems to work well if I sprinkle a quite a lot of flour on it. Be liberal with the flour, make sure the towel is really well covered. The bowl needs space for the dough to rise. Now cover with cling-film or a damp tea-towel.

If the day is getting late and you don't want to bake it today then put your bowl in the fridge and let it proove overnight. A longer prooving time might mean more flavour and perhaps make it a little more sour. Chilling the dough before you bake it can also help it to hold it's shape.

Step 5 (get the oven on)

Sometime about 9pm or the next morning
After about 2 and a half hours my dough had risen well. If the dough has pretty much doubled in size then it's probably ready to bake.If you press the top gently with your finger and it leaves a bit of an indent then you should be good to go. If you have used a bowl or banetton then you need to carefully slide the dough onto a lightly floured baking tray or pizza stone if you have one. Take care and try not to squash the dough.

For easy handling and best results I recommend baking it in a large cassorole dish (dutch oven). Heat the pan in the oven at 240 degrees for 30 mins before baking. You can easily transfer the dough from the bowl to the pan. Place some baking paper over the top of the bowl and place a baking tray over the top (back of tray). Turn it over and remove the bowl.

Slash the top of the dough with a very sharp knife or razor blade. You can slash one, twice, or thrice.

Place the dough with the paper still attached into the dutch oven. Replace the lid and get it in the oven.

Cook for 20 mins with the lid on at 220 or even 240 degrees and then another 20 mins with the lid on at 200 / 220 degrees.

Step 6 (get the jam ready)

10:30pm
Check it at 40 mins and if you tap the base and it sounds hollow, it's probably ready. If the first time you under or over-cook it a litte, just adjust next time.

Put it on a wire tray to cool and get the jam and butter prepared (or hummus if you really have to).

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