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Homemade Sourdough – My Method

It all begins Thursday evenings when I get the starter out of the fridge. My recipe calls for 500g of starter, so I prepare about 130g of the strong white flour and add it to the starter, together with an equal amount of cold water.

Made using a mix of flour from Bacheldre and Doves Farm

Then stir it in and leave it till the morning, when I’ll repeat the process.

Friday night, I will then start to prepare the sourdough by mixing the following ingredients:

Taking a large stainless steel bowl, I mix all the ingredients beginning with the starter and water, which is mixed thoroughly before adding all the flours. I leave the salt out and only bring it in later.

Once it is mixed up, I put a ‘Tea Towel’, or ‘Drying up Cloth’ over the top of the bowl and leave 10 minutes.

Then, I remove the towel, dip my hands in cold water and pull the dough up with my hands, turn the bowl and repeat. I do this for a turn or two and then leave 10 minutes.

Next, I remove the dough from the bowl, and put on the counter. Before I do this, I add some olive oil to the counter top to prevent it sticking. Then I spread the dough out, and push my fingers in so it looks like a Focaccia bread, and then turn over and do the same on the other side. Back into the bowl for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the bowl and spread again using the same method as before, then spread the salt into the dough before rolling the dough up, and putting it back into the bowl for 30 minutes this time.

After 30 minutes, take the dough out, and lift and fold about 2-3 times. Replace into the bowl, cover and leave 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes, take the dough out, lift and fold and repeat 2-3 times. Leave again for the final 60 minutes.

Now the dough should be ready to split into 3 x loaves, so I measure each so that they are approximately 680g each. I sprinkle Rice Flour onto the counter to help prevent sticking and roll, shape, manipulate the dough until it feels ready. Then I do the same with each, shaping 2 x into a long bannetons and the last 1 into a round banneton. Before the dough goes in, I ensure that I’ve liberally spread rice flour into the banneton to prevent sticking.

Now, cover and leave for 60 minutes.

Now the bread is ready for the overnight ferment, this time in the fridge. Usually at this point it is about 10pm.

First thing the following morning I put the oven onto 220c for 30 minutes to warm the oven up. I will have already put the pizza stone and cast iron griddle into the oven plus a tray for a cup of boiling water to go into, to create the steam. I’ll have prepared the oven the night before, so that all I need do in the morning is switch it on.

Once the oven is up to speed, i.e., after 30 minutes or so for my oven, I’ll put the mug of boiling water in the tray at the bottom of the oven, then quite quickly with each loaf, slash 3-4 lines using a ‘Lame’, and put the loaves into the oven. You want to work quickly here, so ensure that the loaves go into the oven in the same order, then reverse the order when you take them out. I.e. FIFO – first in, first out..!

Halfway through the bake I will open the oven door and quickly turn each around. Though I have a fan oven, I still find that this helps create an even bake.

After about 23-24 minutes in total, my bread is ready and looks like this:

There are many steps here, but each one takes less than a minute, so it doesn’t add up to much time. The more you do, the quicker you’ll get, but this process was perfected during ‘Lockdown’, when, let’s face it, there wasn’t much else to do. So this has become a regular weekly routine in our house, with the kids enjoying the finished bread and occasionally helping to make it.

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