Sourdough bread

This period of lockdown has given me the gift of time to give making sourdough bread a go. Attempting it has been a daunting thought until my sourdough fairy godmother turned up in the form of Sanjay, our wonderful friend and neighbour, bearing a jar of sourdough starter.

You can, of course, make your own starter but with that hard bit done, and a lockdown for several weeks, I simply had no excuse!

The recipe I have followed, to the T, is Patrick Ryan’s, of the Firehouse Bakery fame. Simple to follow and a fabulous way to relax an anxious mind.

I have linked to the recipe above but I’ve also reproduced it below for easy access.

So if you have a bag of flour and some patience, here’s what you need to get cracking.

Sourdough bread

Ingredients:

  • 800g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 460ml water
  • 320g sourdough starter

Hot out of the oven and just in time for breakfast!

Method:

  1. Add the flour to a clean mixing bowl. Mix the salt through the flour. Add the water and sourdough starter to the flour. Combine all the ingredients together to form a rough dough.
  2. Turn the dough out on to a clean surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes or until the windowpane effect has been achieved. The dough should be smooth, soft and elastic.
  3. When kneading, do not worry if the dough is slightly wet or sticky. Resist the temptation to add any extra flour.
  4. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with cling film and allow the dough to prove for 4 hours at room temperature.
  5. After 4 hours turn the dough onto a clean work surface and knock the dough back. Knocking back the dough simple involves knocking the air from the dough which helps to equalise the temperature within the dough.
  6. Form the dough into a tight round ball.

To prove & bake using a proving basket:

  1. Prepare a proving basket by lightly dusting with flour. Place the dough, seamed side facing up, into the proving basket. Loosely cover the proving basket with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for another 3 – 3½ hours.
  2. Alternatively, to prove overnight for baking first thing in the morning, place into a fridge and leave overnight.
  3. Using a fridge reduces the temperature of the dough allowing it to prove slower and longer which allows for a greater development of flavour within the dough but also increasing its digestibility. As dough ferments or proves the gluten within the dough breaks down. The longer a dough is allowed to prove the more flavour it will contain and the easier it is for your body to digest.
  4. To bake, preheat your oven to 230°C / 210°C fan assisted (445°F / Gas 8). Place a shallow baking tray into the bottom of the oven to preheat with the oven.
  5. Carefully turn your dough out from the proving basket onto a baking tray dusted with flour (the domed side with the indentations from the proving basket should now be facing up and the seamed side on the baking tray).
  6. Using a sharp knife cut the surface of the dough, this is what is known as the baker’s signature. The dough can be cut up to ½ cm deep. (This isn’t just for aesthetics, scoring the bread also helps control where and how it rises while baking)
  7. Boil a kettle of water then pour the boiled water into the dish that was preheated in the bottom of the oven, this will create steam in the oven while baking.
  8. Place the baking tray with the sourdough into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Alternatively, if you do not have a proving basket, you can use a large glass casserole dish to prove and bake your sourdough.

To prove & bake using a Pyrex dish:

  1. Line a 2.5l round Pyrex dish with a clean tea towel and dust with flour. Place the formed ball of dough into the Pyrex dish lined with the floured tea towel then place the lid (the inside of the lid lightly greased and floured) on the Pyrex dish. Leave to prove for another 3 – 3½ hours.
  2. Alternatively, to prove overnight for baking first thing in the morning, place into a fridge and leave overnight.
  3. The reason for using a Pyrex dish is that it acts like a proving basket. The dish acts as a support to your dough. It encourages the dough the take on the shape of the dish and to prove up and not just to spread out flat. The dough will also be baked in the Pyrex dish.
  4. Using a fridge reduces the temperature of the dough allowing it to prove slower and longer which allows for a greater development of flavour within the dough but also increasing its digestibility. As dough ferments or proves the gluten within the dough breaks down. The longer a dough is allowed to prove the more flavour it will contain and the easier it is for your body to digest.
  5. To bake, preheat your oven to 230°C / 210°C fan assisted (445°F / Gas 8).
  6. Flip the Pyrex dish over so the bowl of the Pyrex dish now becomes the lid. Carefully remove the tea towel.
  7. Using a sharp knife cut the surface of the dough, this is what is known as the baker’s signature. The dough can be cut up to ½ cm deep. (This isn’t just for aesthetics, scoring the bread also helps control where and how it rises while baking)
  8. Cover the dough with the bowl of the Pyrex dish and place the Pyrex dish into the preheated oven.
  9. By baking the dough in the Pyrex dish there is no need to steam the oven. Baking with a lid on the Pyrex dish creates its own steam which will allow the dough to rise and open up while baking. The Pyrex is very similar to the old style of Dutch oven baking.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes then remove the lid from the Pyrex dish and continue to bake, uncovered, for a further 25 minutes until a good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
  11. Once baked remove the bread from the Pyrex dish and allow to cool.

 

Notes:

  1. I have halved the recipe for this loaf.
  2. I have tried the Pyrex dish method as well as the proving basket. Both work equally well so don’t be in a rush to buy a proving basket if you don’t have one already. Although, the proving basket does make the break look a lot prettier.

About The Weekend Baker

Weekend baker, cook book collector, gatherer of family recipes.
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