As Sourdough September comes to an end and the Great British Bake Off’s Bread Week peeks around the corner, we thought what better way to celebrate than by learning to make our very own loaf of sourdough.
Lauren from The Table 16 created her wonderful (and very moreish) grazing platter for us during the summer and we’ve been craving her delicious sourdough ever since. So we couldn’t have been more delighted when she agreed to show us how to make our own! Proceed with caution: this recipe is addictive!
This recipe might look a little long and daunting but it’s much simpler than it looks. Once you have made your sourdough starter you’ll be able to skip half the recipe too!
Before you make your sourdough loaf, you’ll need your sourdough starter. Simply put, a sourdough starter is a live culture of flour and water and it’s the starter that will make your dough rise.
A clean jar (doesn’t have to be sterilised, just clean)
30g bread flour
30g tap water
Add equal parts flour and water, 30g of each will do. Stir it well until no dry flour remains. Put the lid on, only just, not screwed tight.
Days Two and Three
Add another 30g tap water and 30g flour. Mix it all up then pop the lid back on.
You should start seeing a few bubbles and some action going on in your jar. This is the sugars in the flour and the wild yeasts making carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and lactic acid. Your starter should start to smell all lovely and yoghurty. It should not smell of vinegar.
Discard all but one tbsp of your starter into a Tupperware box and put the box in the fridge (this starter discard can be used for all manner of delicious recipes, including pancakes and crumpets!)
Feed the one tbsp of your lovely bubbly starter 30g flour and 30g water. Put the lid on and leave it.
If you want to now make bread, then great! If you’re not, do the same as Day Four.
From now on, every day that you don’t want to make your bread, repeat day four’s steps. Make sure you keep the box of ‘discarded’ starter in the fridge.
If you leave your starter at room temperature, you will always be ready to make bread, at the drop of a hat.
If you leave it in the fridge (and do so if you won’t be making bread at least once a week), then you only need to feed it once a week. When you want to use it, make sure to take it out of the fridge 3 days before you want to make bread and have it refreshed, fed every day as outlined above.
Once you’ve made your starter, it’s time to make your loaves of bread!
1 TBSP active and bubbly starter
100g strong bread flour
100g tap water
700g strong white bread flour
300g spelt flour
700g warm tap water (plus a little bit more)
20g fine sea salt
In the evening, just before you go to bed, take one tbsp of starter and feed it with 100g strong bread flour (can be white, brown, granary) and 100g tap water.
Mix it all up, cover with a tea towel and leave it out on the side.. This is your levain, which is essentially just a big starter ready for making your bread in the morning.
In a large mixing bowl. combine 700g strong white bread flour with 300g spelt flour (or granary, or just more white, or wholemeal) and 700g warm tap water. Mix this with your hands until no dry flour remains.
If it feels too dry, then mix in a little bit of water. You don’t want it to be as tough as a biscuit dough, but it needs to be drier than cake batter.
Clean down the sides of the bowl so that the dough is in a nice lump. It is important to keep the sides of the bowl clean at all times – the excess dough bits will harden and be difficult to clean. Cover with a tea towel.
Leave the dough for 2-4 hours to allow the gluten to develop.
Day Two, 2-4 hours later:
Lift the tea bowl off the bowl. It should feel much stretchier and elasticky and not so muddy. The gluten is beginning to develop – well done!
Tip all of your levain on top of the dough and using a wet hand (always have a wet hand when touching dough – have a bowl of water to dip your hand in next to you) squash and squeeze it all through. It needs to all be mixed through thoroughly. Really go at it, you can’t over mix it so don’t worry!
Clean down your bowl and put your tea towel back over it and leave alone for 30 mins to 4 hours before adding the salt.
30mins – 4 hours later…
Lift your tea towel and sprinkle 20g salt over the top of the dough. Squash and squeeze this through for 10 minutes. Clean down your bowl and cover with the tea towel, leave for 30 minutes.
Every half an hour, for roughly the next four hours, you need to wet your hand, go into the dough and perform some stretch and fold actions to help strengthen your dough. This boosts the gluten network, stretches it out and traps all the gases created though the fermentation process.
To do this, grab the dough and stretch it out, lift it up and then fold it back in on itself. You do this several times, turning the bowl a quarter turn each time. Do this until the dough feels lovely and tight. By doing this ’stretch and fold’ method, you don’t need to knead the dough, ever.
After roughly 4 hours
After roughly 4 hours (the time really depends on the temperature of your kitchen. It will be quicker if your room is warm, slower if your room is cooler – practice will make you an expert of reading your dough), tip your dough out onto your worktop and split it into two halves. Use your dough scraper to tighten each piece into a ball and then leave each ball to have a little rest for 30 minutes.
Dust the tops of your rounds of dough with flour, plain flour will do just fine, flip it over and fold it up into a sausage shape. tucking in the sides as if you’re swaddling a baby.
Dust the dough with brown rice flour, or millet flour, or bread flour if you don’t have either of those (they’re just very non stick). and pop them, seam side up into separate tea towel lined bowls.
Leave to rest for half an hour or so until it is goofy and lovely.
After your 30 minutes, pop them both in the fridge – no need to cover them, they will be just fine.
Day Three (last day!)
Preheat your oven to 245º with a lidded cast iron pot inside, with its lid on.
After 30 minutes, take your first loaf out of the fridge and flip it, top side down, into the pan, then, very carefully score the top of the dough with a baker’s lame (or very sharp knife).
Put the lid on (remember to use oven gloves!) and put in the oven for around 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, have a peak inside the pot and if the colour is what you’re looking for, then take it out and leave it to cool for at least an hour before slicing into it. If you want a darker crust, then put it back in the oven without the lid for another 3 or 4 minutes.