the sourdough diary

sourdough-loaf-24sourdough-loaf-22Grab yourself a cup of tea because this is gonna be a long one.

So I knew sourdough was not going to be a ‘knock it up in a few hours’ job. But oh. my. days. One loaf of bread basically took me a week to make.

Granted, the raw ingredients are cheap and easy to find. All you need is flour, water and salt, and to make something as satisfying as a loaf of fresh bread bread with just those ingredients is a feat in itself. It’s also worth noting that your actual ‘hands on’ time is minimal, even though the start-to-end process takes so damn long. sourdough-loaf-26The thing that differentiates sourdough bread from conventional bread-making is that you don’t add yeast. This isn’t to say that yeast isn’t used, but the yeast is wild i.e. you just have to make a little home for it and it moves right in of its own accord. sourdough-loaf-25Let’s get to know Larry. Larry was my sourdough starter, made by combining equal parts water and flour. You have to ‘feed’ your starter every day with more flour and water to encourage those little wild yeast dudes to go forth and multiply, and in between meals it just needs to sit somewhere at room temperature, loosely covered with clingfilm or a tea towel.sourdough-loaf-11After five days of feeding your new pet you end up with a vinegary, bubbly gloop that is weirdly perfect for making a loaf of bread with.

And y’know – that part I could deal with, my friends, but there is still so much more to do 😛sourdough-loaf-23Now you’ve got the starter to make your bread, things kick up a gear, to like, 2nd. You add a shedload more flour and water, there’s some kneading, some folding and hours of proving. I had a look at a few recipe books and I think the quickest you can get this stage of the process down to is 11 hours.

A bit more shaping, then baking happens, which again is a step not to be rushed. The bake is long and hot; the oven is on max., and now is definitely not the time to burn your fingers as I did 😫sourdough-loaf-9However, after all this, you get a proper loaf of bread that tastes and hopefully looks like sourdough. If you’ve got the energy, you can top it with cherry tomatoes on the vine, bacon, avocado, and egg à la hipster café, or just eat it hot with a little butter and have a sit-down. Trust me, you’ve earned it.

PS. Some step-by-step photos at the very end!

Sourdough Loaf

This recipe comes from the Kitchn’s Sourdough Series.

Ingredients

Sourdough Starter:
  • 575g plain or bread flour
  • 575ml water
Sourdough Loaf:
  • 1 tbsp sourdough starter
  • 425g plain or bread flour
  • 340ml water
  • ½ tbsp salt

Method

Sourdough Starter:

Day 1: 

Stir together 115g flour and 115ml water in a 2l container until smooth; cover loosely with some clingfilm or a tea towel and leave at room temperature.

Day 2:

Your starter should already have a few bubbles; a good sign that your tenants are moving in! Add another 115g flour and 115ml water to yesterday’s mix and stir until smooth. Cover again and leave.

Day 3:

Add another 115g flour and 115ml water to yesterday’s mix and stir until smooth. Cover again and leave.

Day 4:

Add another 115g flour and 115ml water to yesterday’s mix and stir until smooth. Cover again and leave. By now it should be bubbly and smelling strong and sour.

Day 5:

Add another 115g flour and 115ml water to yesterday’s mix and stir until smooth. Cover again and leave.

Your starter is now ready to go* – let’s bake some bread!

Sourdough loaf:

Day 6:

Take 1 tbsp of the starter and mix it with 75g flour and 75ml water in a clean small bowl. Cover and leave overnight or longer.

Day 7: 2pm

By now the mixture should be very bubbly and a small amount will float if you drop it in a glass of water.

Mix 75g of this with 240ml water in a large mixing bowl. Add 350g flour and mix together with a spatula until there is no more dry flour visible. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix 25ml water with the ½ tbsp salt, encouraging the salt to dissolve as much as possible.

4pm: Pour this salt water over the rested dough and squish with your hands until it’s incorporated. Knead gently a few times in the bowl, by picking up one bit of dough and folding it over the rest. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

4:30pm: Knead a few times more, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

5pm: Knead a few times more, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

5:30pm: Knead a few times more, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

6pm: Knead a few times more, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

6:30pm: Knead a few times more, cover and leave for 30 – 60 minutes, until the dough has poofed up a bit. I ended up leaving it for 90.

9pm: Liberally dust a proofing basket or a tea-towel lined colander with flour. I mean, LOTS of flour. Tip the dough out onto a clean surface and shape it into a ball with your hands. Transfer the dough into the basket, with the untidy side facing up. Cover with clingfilm, and put into the fridge.

Day 8:

After 12-15 hours more proving in the fridge, retrieve the dough. It should look billowy and poofy.

Preheat your oven to 260*C {or as hot as it will go} and put a heavy-bottomed casserole dish or pot with a lid in there to heat up too.

Once the oven has preheated, take out the dish/pot.

Tip the dough into the pot so that the tidy, smooth surface is now on top. If the dough sticks to the tea towel, curse a little, then pinch as much of it away as you can. Score the dough a few times with a very sharp knife, dust it with a little more flour, replace the lid {remember that both the lid and pot will still be screaming hot – this is when I burned my fingers} and put the whole thing back into the oven.

Bake at this max. temp for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 210*C. Bake for another 10 minutes before removing the lid.

Bake for a further 40 minutes at 210*C, until the loaf is very dark. You’re aiming for just shy of burnt.

You’re done! Cut yourself a slice and wonder how many times you could’ve walked to Sainsbury’s and back and bought a sodding loaf in this time 😉

*your starter can be kept indefinitely – you can keep feeding it daily at room temperature {chucking some away each time to keep the volume constant}, or keep it in the fridge and feed it weekly, or dry it out on a silicon mat and crumble the dry pieces into a jar to be rehydrated at a later date. Much more info at the Kitchn’s guide.

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