At last the starter is ready so it’s time to put it to the test!
So here are the basic ingredients for the bread:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 300g sourdough starter
- 250ml tepid water
- 10g brown sugar
- 10g sea salt
As with all my recipes the measurements are an approximation, use them for guidance but don’t worry if you’re not exact, I certainly don’t (maybe that’s my problem!).
I normally put the flour in the bowl first followed by the sugar, salt and then the sourdough. At this point I start to mix the ingredients together and then slowly add the water, I never add all the water at once as this may make the dough too sticky, it’s better to add too little rather than too much as you can always add more but once added it’s much more difficult to take it out (I know I can always add more flour, but that’s not the point!).
Once mixed together into a nice firm dough take it out of the bowl and knead for about 10 minutes. Some people say that when the dough has been kneaded sufficiently you should be able to stretch the dough so thinly that you can almost see through it.
Once you have finished kneading place the dough in a well greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise. I normally put the dough back into the bowl I used to mix the dough in and often just use flour as a liner rather than oil.
Saturday was another rather busy day so I actually left the dough all day and over night before knocking it back on Sunday morning. The recommendation is to leave it for about 3 hours, although many bakers suggest that the longer you leave it the better the outcome.
At this stage you put the dough back onto a clean surface and ‘knock’ it back, that’s just a technical term for another bit of kneading. You do this to take out the air that has accumulated during the proving/rising period.
Generally a sourdough bread will not rise the same as a normal yeast based bread, so don’t me surprised if after the first couple of hours there hasn’t been much movement, like me you can always let it continue to rise a bit longer, or even overnight. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in too warm a place though as the dough may actually form a bit of a hard crust on top, dampening the towel will help to alleviate this though.
For this quantity of dough it is recommended that you divide the dough in half and make 2 loafs, however, in this instance I only made 1 large loaf.
Put the dough into a well floured tea towel and place back into the bowl and allow to rise again. Once more I left mine in the kitchen for several hours as there were lots of other things happening, shopping, gardening walking the dogs, you know all the normal sort of quiet Sunday afternoon activities!
Once the dough has risen to your own exacting requirements, or when your patients has run out, gently turn it out onto a baking sheet and place it in the oven (about 200c) and bake for 30-40 minutes. I normally put a dish of water at the bottom of the oven to help make the bread crusty.
To see if the bread is ready just give it a tap and it should have a nice hollow sort of sound.
Take it out of the oven, leave to cool on a wire rack, of course if like me you are just a little impatient you could just cut off the end, butter it and taste.
The outcome was acceptable, if not brilliant, the loaf is quite a lot denser than I would like so there is a long way for me to go before I’ll be reaching that panacea that we all strive to achieve. Anyway I hope that you have all enjoyed the 14 day sourdough tale and that it has maybe even encouraged some of you to have a go and not be put off by the potential pitfalls and the sometimes overstated difficulties.
Happy baking to one and all.