Sourdough 2.0

Sourdough is all about time. As time has passed since my last post about sourdough, I’ve patiently and diligently continued on my quest to make fantastic sourdough. I’ll reiterate that regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread.

Dave is all grown up, well, fourteen months old at the time of writing, and I’m feeling far more proficient in my yeast husbandry. Interestingly, this craft feels quite like parenting in the sense of becoming more and more unconsciously competent as time goes by; I’ve almost stopped thinking about the details and just get on with it. 

Lots of great questions have been coming my way recently so I think it’s the perfect time to take stock and get my latest methodology down for posterity.  

For my best sourdough loaf, I currently do the following (based on my equipment and environment): 

  1. Make sure the starter is on top form and recently fed and watered – if it’s been chilling out in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process then give it a 50/50 organic flour and water feeding, a good mix to aerate it and at least a day at room temperature. You’ll know that it’s good to go if a spoonful of the starter floats in water. 
  2. Before going to bed, mix 80g of the starter with 80g of organic white bread flour and 80g water. This is your sponge. Cover it with a cloth or a shower cap (it’s your yeast-farming duty to liberate them from hotel rooms at every opportunity). 
  3. The following morning, start the autolyse process by mixing 50g organic white rye flour and 450g organic white bread flour into your sponge with 300ml tepid water. Leave it (covered with a shower cap) for an hour or so. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the water, start the fermentation process, and ultimately make it much easier to knead. 
  4. Add 15g salt dissolved in a splash of water and knead your dough for 10 minutes until it’s beautifully smooth and elastic. There’s some real technique to be developed in kneading and shaping your dough, especially when it’s wet, but it isn’t hard to get the hang of it and if you’re like me, you’ll eventually find it more therapeutic than stressful.
  5. We now venture into bulk fermentation. Leave your dough covered for an hour and then lovingly ‘stretch and fold’ with wet hands a few times to incorporate a touch more water and increase hydration à la ‘eau de bassinage’.  This technique will help to develop the gluten further and improve the crumb. Repeat this each hour and then after four hours, shape the dough. To help it keep its shape, you want to stretch the gluten to wrap around itself tightly. I do this by drawing the dough towards myself (google/youtube it). 
  6. Pop your dough into a well dusted banneton (wicker bread proving basket). I use rice flour for this as it’s anhydrous and prevents the dough sticking. Sprinkle some semolina over the top and cover it with your trusty shower cap. 
  7. Put your dough to bed in the top of your fridge and leave it until the following morning. This is the retarded method – it will slow the fermentation down, leading to a more digestible loaf. 
  8. Pop a large cast iron pot into your oven and turn it up as high as it will go. After 30 minutes everything should be stinking hot. 
  9. Take your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. 
  10. Score your dough with a lame or a razor blade in confident, even strokes. This will not only make your bread look good, but it will also help it expand in the oven. 
  11. Being both quick and unbelievably careful in the process, remove your cast iron pot from the oven and lower your dough into it, give it a tiny spritz of water, pop the lid back on and then slip it back into the oven.  
  12. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to about 210° and bake it for a further 50 minutes. 
  13. Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.  

I’ve recently started doubling up on my ingredients to make two loaves at the same time – especially worthwhile given that sourdough bread keeps in perfect condition for such a long time. 

Good luck, godspeed and look out for future updates on my preferred method here and on instagram @foodfitforfelix  

perfect sourdough

#YeastFarmer

Baking Bread

April challenge #3 for the Food Revolution Ambassadors: Family cooking time for Easter.

We’ve been making bread, and this little helper just loves getting her hands dirty. Basic bread is super simple and a great basis on which to build your bread-making skills. There’s so much rubbish in everyday loaves – why not just make your own satisfying loaf. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be knocking out stunning bread whenever you need it. Did I mention that it’s unbelievably cheap?

I’ll admit that I’d migrated to a machine for a few years (obsolete Panasonic), but now the younglings are big enough to get involved it’s just gathering dust in the cupboard.  They find it so much fun and I never fail to get a “Wow!” when the oven door opens.

So, basic bread consists of just a few core staples – the Olive Oil is optional to be honest.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong Bread Flour
  • 320ml Tepid Water
  • 15g Fresh Yeast (or 7g dried)
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sugar

Method:

If you’re using fresh yeast, mix it with the sugar and it will magically turn into a liquid.

Making a well in the flour

On a nice clean surface (or in a large bowl), mix your dry ingredients together, make a well in the middle and pour in the water/liquid. Bring it all together and then knead it for 5 – 10 minutes. You want to have a nice silky and elastic dough.

Winter kneading dough

Leave the dough to rest in a warm place under a damp tea towel until it has doubled in size. I put it in a lightly floured or oiled bowl and pop a disposable showercap over the top. The first prove should take about 30 minutes.

Once it’s doubled in size, ‘knock it back’ by giving it another knead or a bit of prodding for a few seconds. Shape it and pop it onto the tray you intend to bake it on.

Cover it again and leave it for its second prove which will take about an hour to double in size.

Bread dough ready for baking

Gently slide your dough into a preheated oven (180°C/350°F/gas 4) and bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until beautifully golden. The bread should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Pop it onto a rack and allow it to cool down.

Standard Loaf

Winter was particularly taken with her miniature loaf which she shared with Felix as soon as he got home from school.

Miniature loaf We’ve been baking all sorts of bread and I’m starting to feel the benefits of all the exercise!

Standard Loaf of Bread

Must dash, more dough needs my attention.