Sourdough Starter & Baking Recipe

I trialled a few kitchen experiments to make a sourdough loaf,  as I was a bit daunted by the time involved and was looking for short cuts... Could I produce the dough in a bread machine?...  Could I  bake the sourdough loaf in the bread machine?  Short answers = no!

However it's not as time consuming as I'd feared, and I found the dough rising/proving quite easy to pop in around my evening activities.  E.g. I make the dough when I get in from work, allow it to rise whilst I'm out at bootcamp, prepare it for proving when I get back home, allow it to prove overnight before baking in the morning.  Obviously I don't do this daily... I am not going to attempt to bake bread before heading off out to work!... but working from home twice a week does mean that I have 2 mornings where I can bake a fresh sourdough loaf.

Sourdough starter (takes about 5-8 days)

Day 1: Mix 100g strong bread flour with 120ml lukewarm water to make thick sticky dough.  Cover with clingfilm  and leave somewhere warm (I put mine on top of the fridge).

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Day 2: You should see a few small bubbles here and there.  This means that the wild yeast are making themselves at home... they're eating the sugars in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide (bubbles) and alcohol.  Bulk up and feed the starter... add 100g flour and 120ml water and mix together.

Day 3: Bulking up... Feed the starter... add 100g flour and 120ml water

Day 4: Bulking up... Feed the starter... add 100g flour and 120ml water 

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Day 5: Bulking up... Feed the starter... add 100g flour and 120ml water Day

6: Bulking up... Feed the starter... add 100g flour and 120ml water

Day 7: Discard half the starter, as your bowl is likely to be quite full now and we're moving on to maintenance stage.  If your starter is bubbling well, you can use the discarded half to bake with.  Feed your remaining starter with 100g flour and 120ml water. 

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Baking a sourdough loaf

Ingredients: 500g strong flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp honey, 300g sourdough starter

Method:

  1. Tip flour, 225ml warm water, salt, honey and sourdough starter into the food processor.  Combine (add a little flour if it's too sticky or little extra water if it's too dry).  Knead for a few minutes until soft and elastic.  The dough is ready when it bounces back when gently pressed with a finger.  Place dough in large, well oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm.  Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hours.  (You may not see much movement as sour dough take much longer to rise that a conventional yeasted bread)... {I start this when I get in from work in the evening, and revisit it after my evening meal/activities}
  2. Line a medium sized bowl with a  clean tea towel and flour it well.  Tip the dough on to your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles.  Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust with flour.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave for 6-8 hours... {I leave mine longer to prove overnight}
  3. Place large baking tray in the oven, set to 230C/210Cfan/gas8, to heat up.  Fill a small roasting tin with water, and place in the bottom of the oven to create some steam.  Remove the baking tray and sprinkle with flour.  Tip the dough onto the tray.  Slash the top with a  sharp knife.  Bake for 35-40 mins until golden brown, and hollow sounding when tapped.  Leave to cool on wire rack before serving... {I bake my bread on a home-working morning, grabbing my shower whilst the loaf's in the oven.}  


Maintaining your starter

If you're going to bake bread every day or two, maintain your starter using the discard half, add flour and water method detailed above... keeping it at room temperature.   If you want to keep it longer between bakes, keep it in the fridge for a week without feeding.  Bring back to room temperature and give it a fresh feed to get bubbling and active again.  Apparently you can even freeze the starter, and it will reactivate on thawing (but I haven't tried this yet).