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I've started so I'll finish - sourdough bread

By January 03, 2015 , , , , , ,

Sourdough, always seemed a great mystery, but I never realised it was so simple.

Inspired by a friend of mine who by her own admission is not a prolific baker.

Said friend kicked off a starter dough where the end point will be a sour dough bread and the fact that she did it inspired me to try it out myself.

What is a starter dough, I hear you ask?
It is a simple mixture of flour and water, normally 1:1, left to accumulate natural yeasts from the air,  you add similar amounts to the original mix on a daily basis (feeding it) and it can be used to make a sourdough bread without having to use yeast. The starter acting as the yeast component.

This requires patience as the starter takes a week to get going, you need to remember to feed it with equal amounts of flour and water on a daily basis. As the natural yeasts penetrate the starter, it will start to bubble and it will give off a certain odour ( in the case of mine, like pure alcohol), another indication that it is active is that it will almost double in size.

So here are a few tips I picked up while making mine, I had to do two attempts as the first never really took off.
  1. Start with small amounts of water and flour as you will add to it each day (50g:50ml)
  2. Use plain flour not self raising, it doesn't matter what kind of plain flour
  3. Make sure the room doesn't get too cold, this will kill the yeast and it won't take (mine now lives in my airing cupboard)
  4. Use a large bowl as the dough will get bigger in time, using a too small bowl will result in you having to remove starter from worktops with a blowtorch ( ok, I exaggerate) as it sticks to everything.
Once you've established the starter, you can keep it going, it can then be fed every other day if need be and can also be shelved in the fridge, should you wish to take a baking holiday.

Sourdough is very different to normal yeast breads in that it rises very slowly, so a normal loaf can be made, kneaded, proved, knocked back and proved again in a few hours, for the sour dough its at least double that, as it's natural yeasts. 
You do need to remember, bread is not hard work, it takes 5 minutes to mix the dough, 10 minutes to knead it and the the rest is time.

I must say it is worth the wait, the bread has an individual flavour all of its own.

The recipe for the bread I used was from Paul Hollywood's classic sourdough recipe

375g/13oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
250g/9oz sourdough starter
7.5g salt
130-175ml/4-6fl oz tepid water
olive oil, for kneading

Combine the flour, starter and salt in a large mixing bowl. 
Add the water, a little at a time, and mix with your hands to make a soft dough (you may not need all of the water).

Coat a chopping board or work surface with olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Tip the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. 
Leave to rise in a warm place for five hours, or until at least doubled in size.

Knead the dough until it’s smooth, knocking the air out. 
Roll into a ball and dust with flour.
Tip the dough into a well-floured round banneton or proving basket and leave to rise for 4-8 hours.

Put a tray half filled with water on the bottom oven shelf and preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7
Gently tip the risen dough onto a lined baking tray. 
Bake the loaf for 30 minutes at this heat, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. 
Cool on a cooling rack.

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