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Basic sour dough bread

Before bedtime, make the 'sponge'.

500g white organic stong flour. Shipton Mill No 4

650ml warm water

Ladle of sourdough starter

Mix all three ingredients together with a whisk, ensuring all the flour is well mixed in. Cover with a tea towel.

The following morning...

To make the bread:

600g white organic stong flour flour. Shipton Mill No 4

25g salt

the 'sponge'

Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl of an electric mixer (I use a Kenwood Chef pro). Using the bread hook, mix at a low speed for a couple of minutes and then slightly faster for another 8 -10 minutes. By this time the dough will have come together into an homogenised lump - this is what you want. Place this dough, which will be sticky, on to a floured work surface. A plastic dough scraper is ideal to scrape the dough out of the bowl. Knead briefly and place into a clean bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel. During the day, every couple of hours or so, take the dough from the bowl and briefly knock back (squash the air out of the dough), knead briefly and return to the bowl. No exact science here, but a couple of knock backs will do, but three or four seem to be better.

In the early evening, flour a couple of bannetons, remove the dough form the bowl, divide into two and place into the bannetons. Cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm (ish) place. Before bed, put the bannetons with their dough, into the fridge. Leave over night.

In the morning, put the oven on as hot as possible. Most recipes say 250C, but most domestic ovens do not go this high, so just go as high as you can - probably 200C. Put a baking sheet into the oven (for the bread) and another on the bottom (for hot water). Boil a kettle.

When the oven is up to heat, take the bread from the fridge, take the baking sheet from the oven and tip, carefully, the proved dough onto the hot baking sheet. Quickly slash the dough a couple of times with a very sharp knife (this allows the bread to rise well) and put in the oven. Before shutting the door, pour a little boiled water into the baking sheet at the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door. This creates steam which theoretically benefits the cooking of the bread. Whether this actually works in a domestic oven I am not sure, but I do it anyway!

Cook for 10 minutes at full heat and then turn the heat down a little, no lower than 180C, for another 30 minutes or so. The bread is cooked when it is a nice darkish brown and sounds very hollow when tapped on its bottom. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Unless you have a large oven, you will then have to turn the oven up again, and repeat with your second loaf.

After the bread is fully cold (it is important to leave your bread to cool completely before eating). You will need a sharp bread knife to cut your sourdough. Enjoy.

'Starter recipe'

Day One

150g wholemeal flour (many people specify rye flour but wholemeal works for me)

250ml warm water

Put these ingredients into a food mixer and beat with the whisk for about 10 minutes. Pour into a Kilner jar or a small lidded casserole dish and leave somewhere warm.

When fermentation begins you will see lots of bubbles on the surface. This indicates it is now time to feed your starter. Remove half of the starter and throw it away. Then add 150g wholemeal flour and 250ml cold water. Mix well and leave somewhere cool. For the next six or seven days, repeat this process. You are then ready to use your starter for your first loaf of sour dough bread! A word of warning. Your starter will have a distinctive smell ranging from pear drops to ripe bananas. Yours will have its own unique smell, which changes when it needs feeding or is in need of a rest! Treat this well and it will be with you for many years.