I’ve wanted to make a sourdough loaf for a long time. We tried to get a starter going a while back but as Henry arrived it got overlooked and had to be binned.
I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to give it another go so I had a look through a few books and found a starter recipe in James Morton’s book, Brilliant Bread. I chose this one it wasn’t very complicated and he explained the process very well.
Very simply, you start with 100g strong flour and 100ml of tepid water in a large jar. I used some raisins as a “starter-aid” which helps to kick start your starter. You cover it for 24 hours at room temperature than you add another 100g flour and 100ml water. A further 24-72 hours later, once you’ve got plenty of bubbles, you need to tip away about three quarters of the contents of your starter. After this it’s a matter of feeding every 24-48 hours with at least the same volume of flour and water as you have in the jar. I tend to use 1 cup (250g) of flour and half a cup of water.
Here’s how it looked yesterday after I’d taken some out and fed it.
As I’d used James’ recipe for the starter I thought it best to use his recipe for “staple white sour dough”.
I started off by following the recipe as best I could – 400g bread flour, 200g sour dough starter, 10g salt and 175g cold water. I mixed it all together and it was really wet. I don’t like a wet dough but James insisted that it would be a very wet dough.
After 30 minutes you get to kneading. The recommended method for this is the “slap and fold”. James has an explanation of this in the book but I found it easier to take a look on YouTube for a video demonstration. There are loads so pick one that suits you.
After the kneading it was still really wet. I was still a little worried but again, I followed the wisdom of the book and left it to proof for 6 or so hours.
When the dough had risen enough to move on to the next step: shaping. As I don’t have a banneton the suggestion was a heavily floured tea towel. I formed my dough into a loose round loaf shape, covered it and left it for another 3 hours.
Towards the end of the 3 hours the instructions say to put your cooking surface into the oven to get up to 240 degrees Celsius so I popped a heavy flat baking sheet into the oven at top temperature.
The dough rose again well so i turned it put onto a chopping board covered in fine cornmeal then from there onto the hot flat sheet. As I turned it onto the chopping board it went as flat as a pancake and my fears that it was too wet were confirmed. I pushed on and baked it any way. After all, I’d invested some 10 hours in preparing this loaf of bread so I may as well finish it!
I’m so glad I did. It may be really flat but it’s got the texture, the flavour and the smell of a sour dough loaf.
There are definitely lessons learned with this one; the main one being make sure you get your measurements for wet ingredients absolutely spot on!
It takes ages to bake sour dough but it’s worth the effort. I know I’m going to be making more!