So… hoping you’ve all made a successful sourdough starter following the previous recipe… Now for the bread!
For the Levain – the base of the bread
- 1 tbsp sourdough starter (see previous recipe)
- 100g strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground
- 100ml water
For the Bread
- 1kg strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground, plus extra for dusting
- 20g fine sea salt
- 650ml tepid water
To make the Levain
- Mix 1.5 tbsp of the starter with 100g flour and 100ml water (this is the same process as feeding the starter, but you should do this in a new, separate bowl, keeping the original starter as back-up, as this is the mixture you’ll use to bake your bread).
- Leave the levain for a few hours at room temperature until it becomes active (it could take as long as 8 hours, so be patient!).
- When ready, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.
To make the bread (makes 2 loaves)
- Pour 600ml tepid water into the levain and stir with a rubber spatula to mix together.
- Tip in the flour and mix everything together with a rubber spatula to make a rough dough, ensuring all the flour is incorporated evenly and that there are no dry bits up the side of the bowl.
- Cover and leave somewhere warm for at least 30 mins, or up to 4 hrs.
- Sprinkle over the salt and add 50ml water to the dough.
- Pinch and scrunch the salt and water through the dough with your hands. If the dough goes stringy (like old chewing gum), just keep working it until it’s one smooth texture. Leave for another 15 mins.
- Wet your hands, grab the dough from one side and stretch it over itself, then repeat with the other side. This stretching technique helps develop the gluten. Sourdough is not kneaded in the traditional sense…..it is just stretched several times.
- Pick the dough up and curl it around onto itself, then cover and leave for another 20-30 mins.
- Repeat this process twice more (three in total), then leave the dough for another 2-3 hrs until it’s risen and looks bubbly and soft.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and split in two.
- Fold each piece onto itself to create a ball, then leave uncovered for 30 mins.
- The dough balls will spread during this time.
- Dust two bread-proving baskets generously with flour.
- Scrape one of the balls of dough off the work surface, then fold it onto itself to create a tight ball that’s trapped in all the air.
- Lift the ball into a basket, seam-side up, then transfer to the fridge to chill overnight, or for up to 18 hrs.
- Repeat with the other dough ball.
- Heat the oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9 and put a lidded casserole dish in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a large enough casserole dish, use a large saucepan with lid (provided it doesn’t have plastic handles!).
- Cut a sheet of baking parchment into a square slightly larger than the base of one of the loaves.
- Carefully remove the hot casserole dish from the oven and remove the lid.
- Invert one loaf onto the baking parchment, then, working quickly, score the top at an angle.
- Use the corners of the parchment to lift the loaf into the casserole dish.
- Cover with the lid and bake for 30 mins, then carefully uncover and continue to bake for another 10 mins (or longer for a darker finish).
- Carefully lift the bread out of the dish using a spatula, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool to room temperature before slicing.
- Repeat with the second loaf.
The second loaf will freeze beautifully if wrapped in greaseproof paper and then sealed in a plastic bag.
Once you’ve cracked this recipe, you’ll never look back. Good luck!