Sourdough bread is notorious for taking a long time and being a very slow process, which is kind of true, but most of the work is done by the sourdough starter, and you can just leave it to do most of the work for you! This loaf is a perfect example of a light, fluffy loaf with a thin but crisp crust and that flavour that only sourdough can give! I use Shipton's Organic untreated No. 4 white flour for this loaf, it's the perfect starting point for so many breads, with just enough protein to withstand the longer sourdough processes, and bakes with a lovely warm coloured crust too.
For the perfect sourdough sandwich loaf, mix in a large mixing bowl:
(numbers in brackets relate to the step-by-step image attached)
(1) 240g starter
(2) 680g No.4 Untreated Organic White flour
(3) 75g Shipton Mill's '5 seed blend'
(4) 360g water (Baker's Percentage: 60% hydration)
(5) 14g salt.
(6) Mix well with a wooden or plastic spatula (or get your hands in!).
Next is the bit that's going to take you the most time - about 10 minutes! :-)
(7) Kneaded for 10 minutes or so (maybe a little more).
(8) Once the dough is feeling quite 'tight'...
(9) ...Place your dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover to bulk-ferment for about 4 hours… (at room temperature, ideally around 24C), but you could put it in the fridge and leave it for anything up to 48 hours if that suits you).
(10) After about 4 hours the dough should be bigger and quite airy, so it's time to shape the dough, all this needs is to get the dough out of the bowl (be heavy handed with it to knock some of the air out of the dough), I stretch the dough out and fold it over itself, folding left hand over right, then three more folds over itself to make a tight sausage shape.
(11) Place the dough in a loaf tin (mine is a 2lb loaf tin), oiled with a little Fry's Spray Oil and a little dusting of flour/semolina mix to stop the loaf from sticking. Place the tin somewhere suitable to prove for a further 4 hours (ish!).
(12) After 3 1/2 to 4 hours the dough should have risen nicely and when pushed with a fingertip the indent shouldn't bounce back too quickly, that's when it's ready to bake!
(13) Score with a knife (I use a proper old fashiioned safety razor to shave with and have a lot of these double edged razor blades which I've pushed a wooden chop-stick through to make for a very cheap and effective 'Lame'). Slice into the dough at an angle and go in about half an inch or so. I also spray the toop of the dough with a little water and dust with a little flour too (the water spray helps the flour stay on the bread and helps the crust form nicely too).
(14) This part is something I started doing when I first sstarted making my own bread a couple of years ago; my oven is terrible, it just has 'hot' and nothing else, so I read somewhere on a forum that someone used cheap foil rosting trays to make a Dutch Oven or 'Cloche' and it helped them regulate baking times in their dodgy oven, and it really works! My loaves are so much better now! The crumb is lighter, the crust is thinner yet still crisp and tasty! For 50p at my local Robert Dyas shop, I've now got first class loaves!
Bake for about 40 minutes, maybe! Everyone's oven is different, so just keep an eye on things.
For my 'cloche', I bake the loaf in there for 30 minutes, then I take it out of the foil trays and back in the oven for a further 5 minutes, then I take the loaf out of the loaf tin and back in the oven for the last 5 minutes to brown the whole of the loaf's crust (no soggy bottoms here!).
Remove from the oven, leave on a rack to cool for at least an hour or two - good luck with that! It smells (and looks) amazing!
This is a practical loaf, not your usual 'Artisan' fayre with overly chewy crumb that's more hole than crumb! And it's tasty, with the seed blend giving a white loaf a nutty flavour that compliments sourdough perfectly. And all-in-all, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes of your day!