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I was making our own bread for years before I gathered the courage to try my hand at making sourdough. It came across as something that was difficult and time consuming to make. Admittedly, it does take a little while to get your starter going, but once you’ve got that up and running it is actually really, really easy. I’d even go as far as saying it’s easier than making yeasted bread, and way tastier. If you’re lucky, you may know someone who already has a starter culture going which means you can skip this step and get started right away.
Now that many people are working from home more often, it makes it much easier to make your own sourdough loaf. It does need tending to a handful of times throughout the day, but it really only takes two minutes each time. I find sourdough much more forgiving if you forget about it and leave it to prove for too long, because the natural yeast works much more slowly than shop bought yeast. The final prove is overnight in the fridge, which means you can wake up and bake your bread. I love this because you can have a fresh loaf first thing in the morning. There is nothing in the world that tastes better than a freshly baked sourdough loaf.
I use the folding method when making sourdough, which is brilliant because it means you don’t have to knead. I use the Bake with Jack method, however I omit the pre-shaping step. I would use the pre-shaping step if I were to make multiple loaves at once but find it unnecessary for one loaf. For baking bread, I use timings from this book. All oven temperatures are on a fan oven.
Sourdough is generally a wetter dough than yeasted bread. For this reason it is best to shape it overnight in a proving basket. I would also highly recommend having a dough scraper to hand. I use this one, unfortunately it is plastic but I find it useful to have a little more flexibility. A spray bottle is useful because you need to spray the work surface/bowl/scraper/your hands with water to keep the dough from sticking. If you have a baking stone then use one, if not then use your heaviest baking sheet. A non-coated roasting tin is also needed, ideally an old one if you have one. Finally for scoring your bread, a bread lame is much better than a knife. I’ve managed to fashion one myself using a razor blade and a skewer, but I love the look of these round bread lames.
100g sourdough starter (I use white flour for my starter)
100g leftover mashed potato (if you don’t have this just boil up a small amount of potato and mash it with some butter/margarine)
400g strong white flour, plus extra for flouring surfaces (I used Canadian flour which has a high protein content to give a better texture and rise)
5g salt (or 8g there isn’t salt already in your potato)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- Mash the potato with a fork to ensure there are no lumps before adding. Combine the mashed potato with the dry ingredients and sourdough starter in a bowl and mix. Now add the water and mix thoroughly. Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes (it’s ok if you leave it longer, as long as you have enough time in the day to fit in all the other steps)
- Spray the work surface with water. Tip out the mixture onto the surface – you will need to use a dough scraper here. Spray the dough scraper with water before using. Spray the inside of the bowl and then your hands. Work your way around the dough in a circle by stretching out and folding into the middle. Do this 12 times. This video shows you how to stretch and fold if you are unsure (folding starts at 7:20).
- Carefully lift the dough into the bowl, spray the top of the dough and cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave for at least two hours. You will get a stronger sourdough flavour with a longer total proving time.
- Repeat step 2, this time folding just 6 times (making sure you at very least complete a full round with folds). Leave again for a further two hours.
- Repeat the spraying and folding process one more time, using 6 folds once again. Leave to prove for another hour.
- Prepare your proving basket by thoroughly coating with flour. Flour your work surface well and tip the dough onto it one last time. Repeat the folding process , this should again be roughly 6 folds. Turn the dough over and ensure the top is very well floured and not sticky at all.
- Carefully flip the dough into the proving basket, with the top of the dough facing down. Put in the fridge uncovered and leave overnight.
- The next morning, turn your oven on as hot as it can go, using the fan assisted setting. Put an old roasting tin in the bottom. If you have a baking stone then put this on a shelf above the roasting tin. While the oven is pre-heating, fill and boil a kettle of water.
- Once the oven is preheated, carefully (be really careful here and wear oven gloves!!!) pour the water from the kettle into the roasting tray. If you are not using a baking stone, now is the time to preheat your heaviest baking tray.
- Allow the oven to return to temperature (it inevitably cools down a little when you put the water in), then take out the baking tray, flour and turn your bread onto it. Have your scraper handy in case of any sticking. If using a baking stone turn the loaf onto a floured peel, leaving the stone in the oven.
- Score your bread as you please. Scoring is essential for a good even rise and to prevent odd shaped loaves.
- Transfer the bread into the oven for 10 minutes at the highest temperature, then remove the tray of water and reduce the temperature to 190C for a further 30 minutes. Oven temperatures can vary so you may find you need to alter this slightly. To test the loaf is baked, tap the bottom and if it sounds hollow it is baked.
- Leave to cool and enjoy! I love this loaf when it is fresh and still slightly warm.