Saturday, 23 July 2011

Recipe: Sourdough Bread

Meet Sidney!  Sidney is a new family pet that needs nurturing and feeding but provides us with a yummy reward once a week or so.  Sidney is technically not singular though - in reality he (or they) is a symbiotic ecosystem consisting of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria.

Sourdough Starter

Sidney is a sourdough starter - a combination of flour and water left to ferment.   Its how we all used to eat leavened bread before a byproduct of the brewing industry called Barm and subsequently industrially produced yeast allowed us to take shortcuts.  

I have to say - it is a massive faff.  The end-result is particularly satisfying but you really need to start thinking about making this bread 2 days before you need it.  

Recipe for Sourdough

1.  Make a starter.

First Mix 100g of Strong Bread Flour with enough warm water in a bowl to make a thick batter (like pancake batter).  I used Wholemeal Bread Flour.  Give it a good whisk with a whisk or fork then cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place.

Keep checking it every few hours - you should see the magic begin to happen.  The yeast that lives in the flour will start to create some bubbles.  For me this took about 12 hours but it could be quicker - or even longer for some starters.  It all depends on the environment of your kitchen.

Next whisk in another 100g of Strong Bread Flour and enough cold water to maintain the consistency.  Every day for at least 1 week you need to throw away half the starter and add 100g of Bread Flour and enough water to keep the consistency consistent. 

After a week it should smell quite sour (but not unpleasant).  I even used to find a layer of brown liquid on top - this is called Hooch and can be stirred back in.  At this point you COULD put the starter in the fridge - once a week it needs to be taken out and 'fed' - including spending 24 hours at room temperature.

2.  Making the dough

The morning of the day before you want a loaf combine 100ml of your starter with 250g Strong White Bread Flour (organic if possible) and 275-300ml of warm water.  This is called a 'sponge'

Cover with clingfilm and leave all-day.  It should be seriously bubbling by the evening.

The morning

The evening - definitely fermenting

Now you need to add 300g of Strong White Bread Flour to the sponge and mash everything together with your hands - you're looking for the dough to be slimy to the touch so more water may be required.

Flour a surface and knead the dough for a good 10 minutes.

When you've kneaded out any lumps and dough feels quite smooth and silky then place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm.  Leave overnight.

Dough pre-rise.

Risen dough

The following morning that dough should have risen/expanded considerably.  Now you want to knock the dough back by vigorously punching it to get rid of the air.

Shape the dough into a round ball and place it into a bowl lined with a floured tea-towel.

Pre-heat your oven to 80c then open the door for 30 seconds.  Place the bowl into the oven for 3 hours and close the door.

Dough after secondary rise

Baking the loaf.

Preheat a backing tray in an oven to 250c or as high as it will go.  When it hits temperature place a roasting dish of boiling water on the bottom of the oven to create the humid atmosphere you need.  At the same time remove the backing sheet, apply a liberal sprinkling of flour and dump your dough upside-down onto it.

I didn't do this but its worth scoring the top fo the dough with a bread knife so it cracks gracefully!

Let it bake for 15 mins at 250c followed by 25 minutes at 200c, allow to cool then slice and enjoy.  Sourdough last considerably longer than most bread before going mouldy or stale.  In fact I have just enjoyed the last two slices for breakfast 6 days later.


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