Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread is ‘real bread’ and contributes to health and gut health rather than being an ‘anti-nutrient’ like the repulsive processed breads you buy at the supermarket and corner shop. This recipe produces a lovely soft squidgy crumb, unlike some or the harder sourdough breads you find (which are still delicious!).

Best to start with white sourdough then move on to the wholegrain loaves once you’ve mastered it. Much easier to learn to make sourdough this way. Remember it’s a living thing, with a personality. If the jet stream changes position then your sourdough will likely act differently too… Always consult the weather forecast to get an idea of the potential mood of your dough.

If you’re someone who likes things that work by the book then sourdough is not for you. Buy it instead! But if you’re creative and enjoy difference you will love and cherish making this bread. One thing is certain, you will have some failures! Keep on at it cos when that perfect loaf comes out of the oven your heart will jump for joy!
Equipment
  • large heavy mixing bowl
  • hand held non-electric whisk
  • small plastic dough scraper
  • larger plastic dough scraper
  • banneton 8in like this
  • carrier bag or cling film
  • large lidded cast iron pot – 26cm+ or a baking cloche
  • lamé or just carefully thread a razor blade on to a wooden skewer without cutting yourself!
Ingredients
Instructions
Part 1
In a large heavy mixing bowl combine the starter with 115g of tepid water using a non-electric hand-held whisk, until it looks like pancake batter.

Add 200g of flour and mix into a very rough and raggedy ‘ball’ of dough by turning the mix over on itself from the sides of the bowl using a small dough scraper – turn the bowl with the other hand as you go.

Cover the bowl with a thin plastic carrier bag, cling film or tea towel and leave on the kitchen worktop/table for between 5 and 9 hours. It basically spreads rather than rises, and ends up quite moussey and about double its original diameter. The time it takes depends on the weather, your hairstyle, and the kitchen temperature :-)

Sourdough is not really a standard thing as far as timings go!
Part 2
What you have now is called the 'leaven'.

Add 280g of tepid water to it and squeeze it in with your hands til any big lumps are broken down. I normally put a plastic bag over my hand for this bit but that's optional (I have very temperamental hands).

Add 370g of flour and, keeping it all in the bowl, turn into a rough-ish ball using your dough scraper to turn the dough over on itself, and turning the bowl as you go. Cover and leave this for 20 mins.

Add the salt and (always keeping the dough in the bowl) gently grab the sides of the dough with all four fingers and thumb, and slightly pull it out and fold over. Do this all around the dough whilst turning the bowl. Steady the dough with one hand as you stretch and fold with the other. It'll only take a minute before you feel it's lost lots of its stretch. Flip it over, cover and leave for 25 mins.

Do the same stretching and folding procedure, only a minute at a time, every 25 mins, another four times. Cover the bowl between each stretch and fold. You'll notice the dough becoming smoother and stretchier as the gluten strands align (you can't see the strands but just trust me here). This is good! Don't forget to flip the dough over at the end of each s & f.
Part 3
Thoroughly flour your banneton. Flour it too much, so that you think "This is crazy!" Get it right up to the edge of the banneton. I promise you you need to, otherwise your dough will stick when you try and turn it out, and your lovely loaf will be a weird shape. Just use the white flour you used for the bread, no need to get fancy here.

Turn your dough out onto a very lightly olive-oiled work surface using a larger plastic dough scraper. Lightly oil your hands too. Fold all its sides in to the centre all the way around as if there is a centre point and you're folding flower petals in from the  sides to the centre. Then flip it over with your large plastic dough scraper and cup your hands together round the sides of the dough as if you're scraping some coins off the work surface towards you. Pull the dough towards you from all its sides so it forms a tight ball. It's this tightness that will help your bread to spring up in the oven. This is a critical stage and is called 'shaping'. I learnt this particular technique at one of Vanessa Kimbell's fantastic sourdough workshops – highly recommended; she is the Queen of sourdough! Once you have a tight ball quickly slide your large dough scraper under it and turn it smooth-side-down into your heavily floured banneton.

Loosely cover the banneton with a flimsy carrier bag or floured light tea towel and place in the fridge (yes in the fridge, I know, it's true!). Now, this bit can take as little as four hours or as long as 7-8 hours, depending what mood your dough is in but for your first go you're pretty safe leaving it for about 7 hours, or overnight if you go to bed late and get up early. What you're NOT looking for is a great big rise where the dough puffs up over the banneton because that will be over-proved and will have done all its sexy-action in the fridge and have none left for the oven - you'll find your bread comes out of the oven like a flying saucer. No, what you want is it to rise to about the top of the banneton but no more. When you press lightly with a finger it it springs back rather than deflating.

When you think your dough is nearly ready heat your oven, AND your cloche or lidded pot, to about 270-280 degrees. You have to get the oven proper hot, no messing about here. I'm being bossy for your own good :-) To be honest I just whack mine up to its highest but I do have a whizzy oven temperature laser tool thing that tells me it's about 280 degrees and is also good for teasing my collie with.

With your lamé out and ready to slash the bread get the pot/cloche out of the oven (oven gloves obvs), no need to put polenta/semolina/rice flour or anything overly-groovy in it, just loosen the dough from the sides of the banneton lightly with your fingertips and very decisively tip it upside down over the pot or cloche so the dough tips out. Sod's law dictates it will always plop out off-centre - if it does just quickly push it to centre with a palette knife.

Work quickly now. Get your lamé and slash the dough in one swift move, holding the blade at a 45 degree angle to the dough and only cutting about 5mm deep. I usually make one long slash across one side. The way you slash will determine what shape your bread ends up as. Don't get too carried away with it just yet, no need to try and craft Picasso's Dove of Peace or anything, leave that until you're more experienced.

Put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 25 mins. After 25 mins remove the lid and bake for another 5-8 mins ish to brown the loaf.

Get it out of the oven, cool it for an hour and tuck in to a slice with lashings of real butter.
Nutrition info
Sourdough bread contains over thirty strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts which help the gut to build and maintain healthy bacteria. It's a natural probiotic food - the gut is our second brain and strongly influences overall health.
People on our healthy eating plans enjoy free online sourdough-making workshops!
Love is like bread, it needs to be made fresh every day.
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