There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that miraculously rises from some water, flour and salt. When you explain to someone for the first time how it’s made they never quite believe that it’s possible or for that matter just how easy it is. Sure the process to make sourdough takes some time and some patience, but in terms of actually doing something to make it the time taken is less than 20 minutes. Once you have a starter that works and get into the cycle of feeding it and making a loaf you will soon become addicted to baking what is rightly known as the king of loaves.
Being the good social media user that I am I of course post photos of these wonderful loaves when I bake them at the weekend just to make sure folk know exactly how awesome I am. Over the past month or so this has resulted in a few people asking me for the recipe so they can have a go at baking a sourdough loaf themselves. I happily obliged and wrote up my method and recipe to share because what can be better than spreading the sourdough love? Unfortunately they are now doing their best to upstage me and make better sourdough than I do, but I shall try not to hold a grudge.
The recipe is mostly based on one from the Fabulous Baking Brothers (of Hobbs House bakery, makers of truly amazing bread) with a few tweaks I’ve learnt along the way. I thought it would be useful to share the recipe here also rather than sending it out on email each time. There are a few approaches to making sourdough but some seem a lot more complicated than this and this simple, straightforward approach seems to work well so why make things harder?
If you ever wondered about sourdough and the mystery of how to make it please do give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make something so tasty. There is definitely no better time of year to start either, as the days get noticeably shorter and colder a warm slice of sourdough with butter on is just the tonic! If you do decide to have a go please do share the results, I’d love to see them. Always happy to answer any questions you may have too.
Before moving onto the recipe I thought I’d share some photos of the loaves others have made with this recipe, if this doesn’t convince you to have a try I don’t know what will.
Making the sourdough starter
- You’ll need a jar with a secure lid, something like a Kilner jar is ideal and needs to be around 1 litre in size.
- Mix 75g of strong flour (any kind is fine, I particularly like Rye flour to give a nutty flavour) with 75g tap water. Give it a good mix with a fork so it’s all combined, close the lid and put it on your kitchen worktop.
- 24 hours later add another 75g of flour and 75g of water. Give it a good mix and put it back on the worktop.
- Repeat this ‘feeding’ every day until you start to see bubbles forming, usually takes 4-6 days. Once you get to day 4 you’ll have quite a lot of starter in the jar which just isn’t needed. You can tip half away before feeding it. This gets rid of the excess and also helps make the starter stronger. You can do this whenever there is too much, the key is to ensure you feed every 24 hours and always an equal mixture of flour and water.
- Once you see bubbles forming you can test if it’s ready to use by putting a teaspoon full in a glass of water. If it floats it’s ready. If not keep feeding it a few more days.
Making the sourdough loaf
Ideally you’ll prove the bread in a proving basket, it’s a very wet dough so needs something to support it. They’re fairly cheap on Amazon but if you don’t have one then you can use a mixing bowl but I would line it with a well floured tea towel or piece of linen
- 460g strong white bread flour
- 300g sourdough starter
- 10g salt
- 230ml tepid water
- I normally start making the dough between 6pm and 7pm to then bake the loaf the next morning (perfect to do on a Friday evening)
- Put all ingredients in the kitchen aid or mixer (can weigh the water also) and mix with dough hook for 10 mins. If you don’t have a mixer clearly you can do by hand, just takes a bit more effort!
- Take bowl off kitchenaid, cover with a plastic bag and leave to prove for 2-3 hours in the kitchen
- Give the proving basket a good coating of flour
- Tip dough out of bowl onto a floured surface, loosely shape into a ball and place into the proving basket with the smooth side of the ball facing down.
- Cover with a plastic bag again (leave plenty of room between top of dough and the bag) and place in the fridge to prove overnight.
- In the morning, any time after around 7am turn the oven up to the max and put a big saucepan with a lid in it.
- Once the oven is hot take the pan out, tip the dough in so the dome of the loaf is facing up. Cut the top in a cross (or any pattern you like), put the lid on and put it back in the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid on the pan, turn the oven down to around 220 degrees and cook the loaf for another 10-15 minutes when the loaf should now be crisp and brown on top.
- Remove the pan from the oven and tip the loaf out. Leave to cool on a rack then eat!
Looking after your starter
- The key rules are that if it’s out of the fridge you need to feed it every day, in the fridge it can go a few weeks without feeding.
- My routine is to take the starter out of the fridge on a Friday morning, feed it, make a loaf Friday night and feed it again after making the loaf and then put it back in the fridge.
- To feed the dough you need to add equal amounts of water and strong bread flour.
- I add 75g of water and 75g of flour every time I feed it. If you’ve fed a couple of times and not made a loaf you should tip half the starter away and then feed the remaining amount. If you don’t it won’t be enough feed for the amount of starter.