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My straightforward sourdough

Sourdough bread

Things you will need

Most important is that you either get a starter from a friend or you make one. I’d suggest you look online about how to do this, it will take a few days at least to get active and make sure it’s bubbling before you carry on. If someone gives you some of theirs then you know it works.

1. A large mixing bowl
2. Digital kitchen scales
3. A round proving basket (baneton) 22cm in width x 8cm high
4. A shower cap, clingfilm or tea towel
5. A jug to hold water
6. Two large jam jars with screw tops
7. A rubber band
8. A tablespoon
9. A plastic scraper
10. Strong white bread flour
11. Strong wholewheat/wholemeal bread flour
12. Fine sea salt
13. Rice or other gluten free flour for dusting the baneton
14. Dried Pollenta or semolina for using as a non stick baking base
15. A large heavy tray to bake the bread on, or a large round rimmed lid
16. A smaller tray to hold hot water and create steam
17. A sharp Stanley knife or razor blade

Feed your starter

1. Feed you starter once or twice a week, even if you’re not making bread.
2. Use half the quantities below if you are not making bread, and add it back to your fridge jar, mixing well, and this just keeps the starter refreshed.
3. When there’s too much starter in your Mother fridge jar, throw some away.

Refresh your starter so it’s ready to raise your bread:
(I do this in the morning sometime)

1. Take 100g of starter from your Mother fridge jar and put in a new jar.
2. Put the Mother back in the fridge.
3. Add 100g flour and about 90g tepid water and mix well.
4. Cover and leave somewhere warm, like a kitchen worktop, until it’s doubled in size, about 2-3 hours.
5. Useful to put a rubber band on the jar at the top of where the raw mix comes to, so you can see the increase in size.

Make your dough
(I do this early/mid afternoon)

1. In a large mixing bowl, on the scales, add 350g tepid water.
2. Add 150g of active refreshed starter and mix. (Put the remaining starter in to the Mother fridge jar and mix it together, discard some when the jar is getting too full).
3. Add 500g flour, you can decide what mix to use, but generally start with 400g strong white flour and 100g wholewheat. (You can play around at this stage, add some Rye, or speciality flours, but always at least 350g white as it has the most gluten and will raise better).
4. Mix together with a spoon or scraper.
5. Leave for 30mins to Autolyse - this just lets the ingredients relax.
6. Add 10g salt. DON’T FORGET THIS STAGE! You need the salt!
7. Mix everything together really well with your hands, pulling and stretching, and nipping the dough for a few minutes.
8. Optional: again, you can play around here by adding some dry ingredients....and add a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, crispy onions, herbs, lemon zest, cheese, generally whatever you like which will change the bread flavour, but not wet stuff. Just mix it all in when you’re doing all this main mixing stage.
9. Optional: you could add a couple of extra grams of salt if you prefer a saltier bread, but no more than 12 in total or it could affect the rise of the bread.
10. Leave the dough for 30mins in the bowl covered with a shower cap, tea towel or cling film.

Folding and Stretching

1. After 30mins, fold and stretch the dough, pulling it towards you and folding it over itself. Do about 10 folds and stretches, and you will start to feel the dough stiffening up and resisting being stretched. Dip your fingers in water to stop the dough sticking to you if you like.
2. Leave for 30mins in the bow, covered.
3. Fold and stretch at 30min intervals FOUR times.
4. Leave in the bowl, covered, for about 2-4 hours, it depends on the temperature, and the dough should about double in size.

(If you started in the early/mid afternoon, this stage is tea time/early evening)

1. Carefully scrape the dough from the bowl on to a floured worktop.
2. Do a final gentle fold and stretch, and shape the dough in to a ball.
3. Leave it to relax for 10 minutes or so, before a quick final shape in to a ball.
4. Place the dough ball in to a well floured baneton, use a gluten free flour as this will prevent the dough sticking. Cover with a shower cap.
5. Leave on the worktop until the dough gets close to the top of the baneton.
6. Put the baneton and dough, uncovered, in the fridge and leave overnight.

(This is done the day after you’ve made the dough, it can even be 2 days later)

1. Put a heavy baking tray, or casserole, big saucepan or baking stone in the oven.
2. Put a tray that will hold some water in the bottom of the oven.
3. Turn oven to highest setting.
4. Boil a kettle of water.
5. When the oven is hot, remove the baking tray and tip in the bread dough on to baking paper, or on to a little polenta .
6. Slash the top.
7. Put the dough in the oven.
8. Pour some boiling water in to the bottom hot tray.
9. Bake bread until dark brown, around 40/50 mins depending on the oven.
10. Temperature should be around 240c for 15mins, and reduce to 220c for the rest of the baking time.
11. When done, take out and leave on a wire tray to cool.