I’ve heard and read a lot of info that SourDough is apparently really difficult. Personally I’ve found it pretty easy, even living on a boat and without a fridge or warm cosy place, it just requires a bit more patience!
My last few loaves have been made in winter, so the process can take 3 days before baking (and it has a bit more of a sour flavour). Otherwise in the summer, it happens a lot faster.
Makes 1 regular loaf
For the leaven:
- 2 tablespoons living sourdough starter
- 40 grams flour
- 40 grams water
For the dough:
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 200-300 grams water
- 300-400 grams wholemeal flour
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Make sure your sourdough culture is active: I feed mine whenever it looks / smells like it’s hungry, and try not to feed it too much. I keep it in a large pot, with a bit of waxed fabric as a lid, and then check it daily. In the winter, this means I normally feed it 1-2 tablespoons of flour with a bit of water every 1-3 days (depending on the outside temperature), trying to keep the consistency about the same wetness.
- Make the leaven and leave overnight or longer: The afternoon or night before you plan to make the dough, combine a tablespoon of active sourdough culture with the flour and water for the leaven. Mix thoroughly to form a thick batter. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight, ie for about 8-12 hours.
- Test that the leaven is ready: Generally, if the surface of the leaven is very bubbly, it’s ready to be used. To double check, drop a small spoonful of the leaven in a cup of water; if the leaven floats, it’s ready.
- Dissolve the salt: Combine the salt and 25 grams (1 Tbls) of the water for the dough in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring every so often to make sure the salt dissolves.
- Mix the leaven and water: Combine the leaven and the remaining 220 grams (1 cup) of water for the dough in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a spatula or use your hands to break up and dissolve the leaven into the water. It’s OK if the leaven doesn’t fully dissolve and a few clumps remain.
- Add the flour: Stir in the 300 grams of flour into the water and leaven with a spatula until you see no more visible dry flour and you’ve formed a very shaggy dough.
- Rest the dough (30 minutes, or up to 4 hours): Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. This is the autolyse stage where the flour is fully absorbing the water and enzymes in the flour begin breaking down the starches and proteins.
- Mix in the salt: Pour the dissolved salt over the dough. Work the liquid and salt into the dough by pinching and squeezing the dough. The dough will feel quite wet and loose at this point.
- Begin folding the dough (2 1/2 hours): To fold the dough, grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four times, moving clockwise from the top of the bowl (or giving the bowl a quarter turn in between folds). Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then repeat. Do this a total of 6 times, every half hour for a total of 2 1/2 hours. The dough will start out shaggy and very loose, but will gradually smooth out and become tighter as you continue folding.
- Let the dough rise undisturbed (30 to 60 minutes): Once you’ve finished the folds, let the dough rise undisturbed for 30 to 60 minutes, until it looks slightly puffed. This dough won’t double in size the way regular, non-sourdough breads will; it should just look larger than it did when you started.
- Shape the dough into loose round: Sprinkle a little flour over dough. Use your pastry scraper to shape each one into a loose round — this isn’t the final shaping, just a preliminary shaping to prep the dough for further shaping. Shape them into rounds by slipping your pastry scraper under the edge of the dough and then scraping it around curve of the dough, like turning left when driving. Do this a few times to build the surface tension in the dough (it makes more sense to do it than to read about it!). Flour your pastry scraper as needed to keep it from sticking to the dough.
- Rest the dough (20 to 30 minutes): Once both pieces of dough are shaped, let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten again before final shaping.
- Prepare bread proofing baskets, colanders, or mixing bowls: Line bread proofing basket, colander, or mixing bowl with clean dishtowels. Dust them heavily with flour, rubbing the flour into the cloth on the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. Use more flour than you think you’ll need — it should form a thin layer over the surface of the towel.
- Shape the loaf: Dust the top of the ball of dough with flour. Flip it over with a pastry scraper so that the floured side is against the board and the un-floured, sticky surface is up. Shape the loaf much like you folded the dough earlier: Grab the lip of the dough at the bottom, pull it gently up, then fold it over onto the centre of the dough. Repeat with the right and left side of the dough. Repeat with the top of the dough, but once you’ve fold it downward, use your thumb to grab the bottom lip again and gently roll the dough right-side up. If it’s not quite a round or doesn’t seem taut to you, cup your palms around the dough and rotate it against the counter to shape it up.
- Transfer to the proofing basket: Dust the tops and sides of the shaped loaf generously with flour. Place into the proofing basket upside down, so the seams from shaping are on top.
- Let the dough rise (3 to 4 hours, or overnight in the fridge): Cover the basket loosely with plastic, or place it inside clean plastic bags. Let them rise at room temperature until they look billowy and poofy, 3 to 4 hours. Alternatively, place the covered basket in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly overnight, 12 to 15 hours. If rising overnight, bake the loaves straight from the fridge; no need to warm before baking.
- Heat the oven to 260°C: Place the Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pots with lids in the oven, and heat to 260°C.
- Transfer the loaves to the Dutch ovens: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Tip the loaf into the pot so the seam-side is down.
- Score the top of the loaf: Use a lame, sharp knife, or serrated knife to quickly score the surface of the loaves. Try to score at a slight angle, so you’re cutting almost parallel to the surface of the loaf; this gives the loaves the distinctive “shelf” along the score line.
- Bake the loaves for 20 minutes: Cover the pots and place them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 230°C and bake another 10 minutes. Resist the temptation to check the loaves at this point; just reduce the oven temperature.
- Remove the lids: At this point, the loaves should have “sprung” up, have a dry surface, and be just beginning to show golden colour
- Bake another 15 to 25 minutes. Continue baking until the crust is deeply browned; aim for just short of burnt. It might feel a bit unnatural to bake loaves this fully, but this is where a lot of the flavour and texture of the crust comes in.
- Cool the loaves completely: When done, lift the loaves out of the pots using a spatula. Transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely. Wait until they have cooled to room temperature before slicing.