Following on from the recipe for an active, living, breathing sourdough bug, this recipe below for a standard sourdough bread could change your life.
First and foremost: Place a bowl of hot water under the bottom rack in your oven, and heat the oven to 50 degrees celsius. This will create a lovely, warm, moist environment for your bread to grow in.
Into 1 cup of warm water dissolve half a tablespoon of sugar, and over the surface of this sprinkle 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. Leave it to sit and begin working for about 10-15 minutes as you organize the remainder of your ingredients. Traditionally sourdough bread is made without the use of yeast, however, after numerous trial and error practice runs, and several months of making this bread, I found that using this small amount of yeast reduces the proving time by about 6 or 7 hours, gives a softer texture to the body of the bread and simply makes the process more practical.
Sift into a large bowl 750 gm organic white flour, 1 and a half heaped tablespoons of sugar, and 1 and a half level tablespoons of fine sea salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, into which, pour the yeast mixture, two cups of your sourdough starter, and two generous tablespoons of olive oil. Using a fork and stirring well, gradually bring the dry ingredients into the wet, trying to keep an even consistency as you work.
Once it is as combined as much as the strength of your arm will allow, turn out onto a floured bench. Begin by simply bringing all of the loose ingredients into the body of your dough, continually sifting extra flour over the bench and your dough as you work, to prevent it from getting to sticky. Knead, punch, roll, and fold your dough into and over itself for about 10 minutes, until it resembles a soft, pliable, elastic ball of dough. Rinse out your bowl, which will need to be able to hold roughly three times the volume of dough as you have now. Place the dough into the bowl and oil liberally also coating the rest of the inner surface of the bowl, then cover with a warm, damp tea towel.
Place inside the oven and reduce the temperature to approximately 30-35 degrees, and leave undisturbed for between 2 and a half and 3 hours, give or take, or until at least doubled in size. Remove from the oven and knock back the air from inside your dough, but without over doing it.
Again turn out onto a floured bench, flouring the top of the dough as you do. At this point you can get brave and creative in shaping your loaves, but I would suggest maybe for first timers a loaf tin would assist ones confidence in getting a good result. This particular recipe can either make two quite large loaves, or as I prefer; three good size loaves, or of course several baguettes or alike if you wish. Shape as you please, remembering as you do that these will again double in size. Gently place your shaped dough into oiled and floured tins or onto well floured baking trays. Score the tops of your loaves with a small sharp knife if you’d like to, (this will encourage growth in particular directions according to where you cut). Now place in a warm spot like the hot water cupboard, but not back into the oven, and leave to prove again, this time for anywhere between 1 and a half and two and a half hours, or until they have doubled in size. Once they have reached their desired size turn your oven on to 180 degrees celsius, and leave your loaves as they are until it has reached that.
Bake your loaves one or two at a time, (remember to be very gentle at this point as not to bump them or slam closed the oven door, as you’ll bang all of the air out of your loaves, which is really not fun after all the hard work). Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly coloured, remove from the oven and either brush the surface with water, or even better, with a spray bottle spray the tops with water, and don’t be too shy. Return to the oven for a further 12-15 minutes until they’re golden brown, have a thick hard crust, and sound hollow when you tap it. Lay out on racks to cool, or eat hot with lashings of butter or good quality olive oil.
Once cooled, store in recycled bread bags in your pantry or bread bin. These loaves can last for weeks and weeks without going moldy, if it ever lasts that long. Old off cuts make marvelous crostini or bread crumbs, among other things at the end of their lives. But, for the first couple of weeks having it simply toasted, or pan-fried with good olive oil and sea salt, might just be the encouragement that will have you beginning to structure life around your baking days, and everything else then just has to fit in.
To make further batches, repeat the sourdough starter recipe, adding the remainder of the last batch of starter to the new one before putting back into your jars. But please proceed with caution, as this process becomes addictive yet at the same time life affirming. It brings joy, accomplishment and outright triumphant confidence in mastering a standard loaf. Don’t be afraid to talk to your starter as you nurture it, smell it often, and remember to feed it.
After 10 months of learning from and growing with my starter, its producing the most marvelous loaves of bread two and sometimes even three times a week. However, seeing the enthusiasm emitted from my very alive starter, I’m becoming rather concerned that one day I may just hear it knocking from inside my fridge, at which point I hope it has something rather profound to say.
Begin with the most simple form of this bread as above, and keep your eyes pealed for interesting and unusual variations on this recipe to follow.
Katies Kindred Cook,