I’ve been promising a post on how to make sourdough bread for ages, but it has taken me a while to get around to it. To be honest, I just don’t want people to realise that this amazing bread is so easy to make – I want them to go on thinking I am some sort of home-baking genius! Okay, not really, but maybe a little.
Why sourdough? Well, first of all, it saves you having to buy yeast, because it uses its own natural fermentation. Secondly, it is my favourite type of bread – crunchy crust with a chewy, substantial bread inside, full of giant holes that fill so beautifully with jam. Thirdly, it is easier than most types of bread on the digestive system, which has to be a good thing too. And it’s trendy too, if you care about that sort of thing.
Anyway, this post is fairly long, but just to cover all stages of the process. Really, it is a piece of cake. Easier than a cake in fact. No kneading, only one rise, no complicated ingredients. Without further ado, I give you:
Seriously Simple Sourdough Bread
First of all, you need a starter. Mine was kindly given to me by the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. She is the guru of all things sourdough, and when you want to progress (or if you need any more information), she is the lady to go to – her blog contains pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about sourdough, and is how I learned to make it. You can also buy it online, or make it from scratch (tutorial for that by Paul Hollywood here, I haven’t tried this yet though). If you’d like me to send you some, just let me know. Your starter should also have a name. It’s tradition. Mine is called Rodney. His Mum (the starter Celia sent me) was called Priscilla. Don’t ask me why Rodney. I have no idea.
You also need a Le Creuset or similar cast iron pan, of 22cm approx.
Once you have these things, you are ready to bake!
I have a routine with my sourdough so that we have a loaf ready on a Saturday morning for the weekend. You can follow the tutorial below using my timings, or you can do them any time of day to suit you, but just use similar time frames.
So, here we go!
Remove your sourdough starter from the fridge (where he lives in a closed jar, e.g Kilner or similar).
Depending on how long he’s been in there for, there may or may not be a layer of liquid on the top, you can just stir that back in.
Give him a third of a cup of strong white bread flour, and a third of a cup of water (a “feed” in sourdough lingo), and mix thoroughly. Then leave him in a warm place for the day with the lid off.
By Friday evening, your starter should look like this:
Doubled in size, and full of little bubbles. If so, you’re ready to use him. If not, he may need a warmer location – if that fails, try another feed.
If he’s ready, pour half of the starter into a bowl and put the lid on the rest and put it back in the fridge.
Put your bowl on some digital scales, and add 10g sea salt, 500g strong white bread flour, and 350ml of water.
Stir thoroughly until there is no dry flour left. It will look something like this:
Cover your bowl with some oiled cling film (important to oil it as otherwise you’ll never get the bread to come off it!). I use a spray oil which makes it very simple and mess-free.
Then pop your bowl of bread somewhere warm, and go to bed.
Your bread should hopefully have doubled in size, and be puffy looking and full of air holes, like this:
So you’re ready to bake! Pre-heat your oven to its hottest (mine is about 230 degrees (fan) I think). Meanwhile, spray your Le Creuset dish with oil (not sure this is necessary, but it works so I always do), and pour your dough in. It may need a helping hand to break all the strands which stick to the bowl.
Proper bakers would knead the dough and shape it at this point, and then let it prove a little longer, and I did used to do that, but found I get really very similar results with this much easier method so I don’t bother anymore. #lazybreadmaker
Then dust the surface with a sprinkling (a couple of teaspoons) of semolina flour. This isn’t crucial, but gives a nice crust. At this point you can also add a slash to the top of the dough using a very sharp knife. I have never mastered this and end up just dragging the dough around so (shock horror) I just don’t bother anymore. Bread still tastes awesome. (See, I told you this was seriously simple!)
Put the lid on your Le Creuset, and pop it on the top shelf of the oven.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. Go hop back in bed with a coffee. After 20 minutes carefully open the oven, take the dish out and remove the lid. It should look like this:
Put the bread back in, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. More coffee in bed maybe?
When your time is up, remove your bread, and tip it out onto a bread board to cool. Try to leave it at least 15 minutes before cutting into it – it will be really flipping hot and the texture won’t be quite right if you cut it too soon, but I rarely last more than 15 minutes!
Serve it sliced with proper butter, or toasted with scrambled eggs, or dipped into balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
So, there – you have mastered sourdough! Your starter can hang out in the fridge until next week, or you can bake more often if you’ve got a big family (there’s never anything left of this loaf by midday Sunday and there’s only two of us). If you don’t make a loaf for a few weeks, your starter will be fine without you. I’ve been so busy and travelling so much lately that poor Rodney was ignored for about three months and he sprang back to life brilliantly. These photos are of the second loaf made after his holiday, so you can see, he’s still got it.
Now you are going to be thinking up excuses to invite people round for bread. Honestly, you actually will. I recommend inviting people for dinner and then doing a big bowl of meaty stew and serving up a couple of loaves to dip into it, or soup, or if it’s actually summer weather where you are, maybe a platter of antipasti? Oh, and leave it a good few months before you reveal to them how ridiculously easy it is and give them some starter of their own – let them think you’re a genius for just a little while!
So, who is going to give it a go? If you do, tag your efforts on Instagram with #rodneysourdough and let’s see your success! And if you’d like some starter, give me a shout on my Facebook page, though I can’t promise it’ll be sent out before the wedding (17 days and counting!)!