Bread made from a sourdough starter has the deepest flavour, a wonderful crust and chewy crumb. It is the best bread you can bake but also, perhaps, the trickiest and therefore a brilliant challenge for a home baker!
The loaf is made with just three ingredients: flour, salt and water. There is no commercial yeast in the dough; it is risen using a homemade, lively, sourdough starter.
Mixing time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 4 hours
Proving time: 2 ½ - 4 hours
Oven Temp: 240°C (fan – 230°C)
1. Mix all of the ingredients in a mixer for approximately 8 minutes until it’s developed and feels smooth and elastic. Alternatively this will take about 10 minutes by hand. You’ll know when the dough is developed by testing the 'window pane' effect – take a small piece of the dough, stretch it as far as you can (without splitting it) and you should be able to see day light through it.
2. Place the dough in a well-oiled, large bowl and cover with cling film, or use a plastic container with a lid. The dough will need to rest for a total of 4 hours. After each hour do a gentle half turn - fold the dough one third to the centre then fold the remaining two thirds over the first third, see diagram below.
3. After 4 hours delicately divide the dough into 2 x 500g/1 x 900g loaves and lightly pre-shape to the shape of your proving basket(s).
4. Rest the dough pieces on a table for 15 minutes covered with a tea towel.
5. Very gently shape the dough into rounds or rectangles to fit the shape of the proving basket(s). Carefully place the moulded dough into a well-floured proving basket(s) with the seam facing up.
6. Prove for 2 ½ - 4 hours at room temperature. Cover with oiled cling film so that the dough doesn’t develop a skin.
7. Gently tip the proved dough out of the proving basket (seam down) onto a heated, baking tray/baking stone heavily sprinkled with semolina. Add shallow quick cuts along the top with a serrated knife.
8. Put a roasting tin in the base of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 240°C. Place the dough on the middle shelf of the oven. Add 4 tablespoons of water to the heated roasting tin. This creates steam to help the bread form a good crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Check it is baked by tapping the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack to set the crust.
At stage 2 of the recipe, after mixing the dough, add 100g pitted green olives or 100g grated beetroot. Turn the dough as described in step 2 - continue with the folds every hour, for a total of 4 hours. You’ll see the olives/beetroot gently dispersed throughout the dough.
You can substitute 300ml water for 300ml quality, flat ale, we like to keep it local and use Adnam’s Broadside Ale – this ale is ideal for baking bread.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
500g Marriage’s Finest Strong White flour
200g White Sourdough Starter (see recipe here)
300ml Tepid water
You will need:
1 large or 2 small proving basket(s)
Baking tray / baking stone
Semolina for dusting