UPDATE: This post is out of date. Please view this post instead.
Who is this for
If you’ve never made bread before, this is probably not the place to start. Maybe make white bread first, or 50/50 strong white / stone ground wholewheat flour, using active yeast. Also, practice makes perfect, you shouldn’t expect your first efforts be totally great.
This recipe is all about flavour. I’ve entirely ignored the cosmetic aspects. Maybe more on that when I’ve worked out how to do them. But the loaf tastes superb. It’s wide and not very deep which is fine because you get a lot of delicious crust.
Also, please note, I am only a beginner at sourdough, so a lot of this may be less than perfect. But it works for me. And it will change over time.
If you read sourdough websites, they all say don’t use chlorinated tap water. This certainly doesn’t apply in Bourne End. Tap water is fine. But if you have a water filter, by all means filter the water first.
I made this bread using Gilchester Stone Ground Wholewheat, which is a heritage grain and behaves a bit differently from Sainsbury’s Stone Ground Wholewheat. It needs quite a lot of water. The Canadian stuff I now have may be somewhere in between, so maybe needs a bit less water. Some experimentation will be required to adjust to any particular type of flour.
All the websites and recipes are very specific about the quantities and times required but I think there’s a reasonable amount of flex. However, it’s worth weighing everything to make sure you’re in the right ballpark. It helps if you have electronic scales that you can put a bowl or whatever on, and then tare it, so that you see only the weight of what you’re adding.
The process below is just what I did. It’s not a religion and you can vary it no problem. See what works.
This recipe calls for a casserole dish. I used an ancient 24cm Le Creuset. If you don’t have one, use a baking tray and put some water in a separate baking tray in the oven. In that case you can do the final rise on the baking tray, and maybe grease the tray rather than flour it.
Lots of websites and books refer to a Dutch Oven. Which is basically a casserole dish or other cast iron thingy that retains the heat when you open the oven.
Beg some starter from a neighbour, or if you’re desperate or in a hurry you can order a sachet of dried starter from here. There are a million recipes for making your own starter but I haven’t tried any so I can’t really recommend any particular method. They mostly take a week of daily feeding to get them going.
You can keep a starter in the fridge in a Tupperware type container for a month or two. There are things you can do to maintain a starter for longer periods, but frankly if you don’t bake more than once a month then probably sourdough is not for you.
Day 1, evening:
If you’ve got more than 50g if starter, discard the excess.
If you’ve got 50g of starter, feed with 25g flour and 25ml water.
If you’ve got some smaller amount of starter, because you got your sums a bit wrong, or because you gave 25g to a neighbour, or your neighbour gave you 25g, feed it with equal amounts of flour and water to make it up to 100g. Leave in a bowl in a warm place covered.
Make A Leaven
A leaven is basically a larger lump of starter to form the basis of your dough. In the morning, combine 50g of starter, 50g wheat and 50ml water. Return the remainder of the starter to the fridge for next time. If you’ve got it right, you’ve got 50g of starter in the fridge and 150g of leaven in the bowl. If you’ve not got 50g of starter, doesn’t matter.
Cover the leaven and leave to mature, maybe 3 hours or more. When it’s ready there should be bubbles in it, it should smell tangy and if you poke it, the hole remains, doesn’t spring back.
When the leaven is about ready, autolyse the flour.
Autolysing means combining the flour and water to get the enzymes started, before you start the kneading process.
Combine 450g flour and 330 ml water in the bread maker bowl (do not forget the paddle) until all dry flour is absorbed. Do not knead. Cover and leave for 20 mins (Gilchester flour). I don’t know if this step is necessary for the Canadian flour. Wouldn’t bother if it’s Sainsbury’s or any standard shop flour.
Dissolve 7g salt with 15ml water in a bowl.
Add the leaven and the dissolved salt to to the flour in the machine bowl. Run the knead only program. On my machine that’s program 15 (2h 20 mins). If you want to do this by hand, I guess knead it 3 times at half hour intervals.
Leave the dough in the machine until it’s fully risen, maybe 3 hours from when you started the machine. Test it by poking it – if the dough doesn’t spring back, it’s risen.
Empty the dough into a large floured bowl, sprinkle a bit of flour on top. Fold it over into itself a few times to make a ball shape. Cover with a damp towel. Leave to rise. When ready (poke test), heat a casserole dish in the oven at 220C for 20 minutes. Take out, sprinkle a bit of flour on the bottom, and gently ease the dough into the casserole trying not to touch the sides or to bugger up the shape too much. Cover and return to oven. After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake for a further 15 minutes. This gives a slightly burnt flavour that I like, you might prefer to turn the oven down to 170 when you remove the lid and bake the bread for a bit longer. The bread is ready if it sounds hollow when you tap the base.
If you want to bake the bread in the morning, put the the formed dough in the bowl, covered, and refrigerate overnight. Should be ready to bake in the morning. (NB I haven’t tried this yet.)