Before you begin to make sourdough you need to make your starter or Levain (as it is often referred to in other recipes)
It is an easy process, BUT you need to look after it everyday during these first stages so it is best to start when you know you are going to be at home.
I LOVE the taste and it's really worth the effort it takes to make it. (it is quite time consuming - why I said in the title that it has taken over)
This recipe makes 2 loaves, You can freeze one loaf if you need to, but I rarely have more than a few slices left after a weekend. I usually make it on Friday. It makes great toast to go with poached eggs for breakfast.
It will last for about 4-5 days and keep its taste, but in our house it doesn't last that long, even though there are only 2 of us.
I tried a couple of other recipes that didn't work out and the one below has given me great results the last 5 or 6 times I have used it.
Making the Starter.
Sourdough Starter replaces yeast. Its a mixture of flour and water and it uses the natural yeast in the air.
You can change the quantities but keep the proportions the same as I have used and you should be OK.
You need 125g organic wholemeal wheat flour and 190g slightly warm water.
Mix the ingredients in a glass container until smooth and then cover with a cotton tea-towel leave at room temp undisturbed until the next morning.
The Next Day.
In the morning, give the mix a good stir and replace the tea-towel.
Day 3 - 8
The next morning pour away half of your starter and refresh with 125g organic wholemeal wheat flour and 190g slightly warm water. Repeat this everyday for a week.
When it starts to bubble then you know things are going well.
When it is bubbly with a 'yeasty' smell or its a bit frothy you can move on to the next step. If its only just starting to bubble, give it a stir, cover and check again the next day, or repeat the above step.
This could be 6 days or may even be 8 days.
Feeding the starter.
Having a starter is a little like having a pet. If you don't feed it weekly you risk it dying. Your starter can be refrigerated with a lid on the glass jar and then before you use it the starter needs to be 'fed'. Bring it out and let it get to room temp before adding 125g organic bread flour and 190g slightly warm water and leaving it for at least 12 hours. It can then be used or returned to the fridge.
Whatever recipe you choose will tell you how much starter to use. always use the starter when it is bubbly. So don't forget to revive it a day before you need it. When you have used the starter, you also need to replenish it so there is enough for the next round of baking.
Making the bread
975g of organic white bread flour
75g of organic wholemeal flour
680g of water (20c to 25c)
22g of Salt
250g of the above Levain
You can play around with the quantities of flour and water depending on the type of flour used, some absorb more water than others. You can also reduce the above amount of White bread Flour - maybe 900g to 850g and then add 50g organic Wholemeal.
I use this white bread flour...
1. 24 hours after your starter was last fed put 75g into a separate bowl and add 75g of organic wholemeal flour and 75g of organic white bread flour and 150g of water.
Mix this by hand until smooth and then cover and leave for around 7 - 10 hours.
2. After around 7 to 10 hours, mix 900g of organic white bread flour, 680g of water and mix together in a large bowl. Let this rest for 30 mins and then add the salt and 22grams of salt and 250grams of the starter.
Wet your hands before mixing as this helps to stop the dough from sticking to your fingers.
If you have the time fold the dough 2 or 3 times during the first 90 mins.
This isn't necessary, but I find it gives me a more manageable dough.
Leave the dough overnight (around 14 hours) until it’s tripled in size. You can play around with adding more starter if you find you don't get enough rise.
3. The next day divide the dough in two equal pieces. Trying not to deflate the bubbles tip the dough onto a floured surface and use a scraper to 'slice' the dough.
Shape the two pieces of dough into reasonably firm balls, and place in proofing baskets or bowls lined with tea towels. Before use, dust the baskets or bowls in flour. Put these into plastic bags and leave at room temp for around 3 to 4 hours.
4. Around 30 minutes before baking you need to preheat your oven to 245c. If you have a Dutch oven/Le Creuset put this in the oven to preheat too.
Tip your proofed loaf into your floured hands then place in your Dutch Oven. - taking care because it will be very hot. Return to the oven with the lid on.
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until the loaf is dark brown.
I have 2 ovens so I bake both loaves at the same time, but if you don't you can put the second loaf in the fridge until the first loaf is finished.
So the timetable I usually work from looks like this...
Day 1 - feed starter in the morning (10am)
Day 2 - take out amt for bread 24 hours after it was fed (10am)
Day 2 - 7-10 hours later mix bread (5 - 8pm)
Day 3 - after 14 hours split dough in half (7 - 10am)
Day 3 - 3-4 hours later bake bread.
Once you get the hang of it there are lots of other recipes you can find online that use the sourdough starter. I have eaten sourdough pizza at a Jason Atherton restaurant and it was amazing so that is on my list to try.
It takes a bit of practice to get the perfect loaf, and the right quantities of flour and starter etc but all the 'mistakes' can be eaten so its not normally a big disaster. Enjoy baking and let me know how it works out.
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