This is my most basic sourdough recipe. By basic I mean, the simplest. This is a good every day recipe or could be a go-to recipe. As usual I don’t stick too much with measurements as bread making is sensory. In saying that, I didn’t mean to ditch the recipe completely but to use it as a guideline. This is especially true when it comes to adding water to make the dough.
So this recipe uses 100% bread flour. Bread flour gives structure to bread and that strong, chewy crumb with a crispy crust we love. So I recommend, using a strong flour (with a higher gluten %) if you want good results.
If you use all purpose flour, you will end up with slightly varying results. The bread will have a much softer crumb and the crust won’t as crusty as you would expect. But it will still be a decent loaf.
First things first! Lets get the starter ready, shall we. So if you keep your starter in the fridge like me, the process has to start the day before you intend to make your bread. Get your starter out in the morning and let it come to room temperature and let it get activated for a few hours. If you have been neglecting the starter, give it a feeding(1:5:5) and observe! If your starter doubles in 6-8 hours(or sooner in warm temperatures) then it is active.
Ratio starter: flour: water eg: 1:5:5 means 1 part starter 5 parts flour and 5 parts water 10g starter : 50g flour : 50g water (20% starter in this case)
So you can give it another feeding(1:10:10) in the night and let it sit in a cool place for about 10 -12 hours and this would be ready to use in the morning. The starter to feed ratio will decide the time it will take to ripe.
How to know when starter is ripe? You can clock your starer using a diagram. To do this, feed your starer with 1:5:5 ratio and place it in a tall transparent container and mark the height. Place in a warm place and observe. Your starter will start to grow. Take the height measurement every hour or half an hour and mark it on the chart below. Do this a couple of times for accuracy. And by looking at the chart, you can now tell the exact time it takes for your starter to ripe. Marked in read id the ideal best stage to use a starer for optimal results. But in real life it is heard to do this every time and it is absolutely okay to use a starter when it is visibly ready ( bubbly, active and doubled in volume is good enough)
If your kitchen is warm, you might want to be creative here. I usually place the fed stater in the fridge for couple of hours before setting it on the counter-top. That way, it slows down a bit and would be ready by morning. When you know your starter, this process becomes second nature. You would be able to predict the activity and the exact time the starter would be in it’s peak.
Using a fresh starter is the key to reduce or eliminate strong sour flavor in the final product. And by using the starter at it’s prime stage, we get the maximum activity and hence a good rise to the loaf later.
The rest of the process it easy. Follow the steps. I have mentioned key things to remember in each step. And when adding water, do it gradually. If you think the dough is tough(dry), it is okay to add more water, but make a note of how much you added, so you know next time.
To make the starter (at least 8 hours prior to making bread/preferably previous night)
Use a clean jar
Mix flour and water until it resembles porridge. Add the culture, mix well again and loosely cover
Set aside until ready. This ratio will take 8 -10 hours (or longer if it is cold) to ripe. If you want it quicker, increase the amount of culture. Read the post above for details on how to do this
For the bread
In a large plastic container weigh flour and salt and set aside.
In a separate container weigh 200 g water and oil.
Then add the 1 cup of starter. Starter should be floating over the water like a sponge and this is a good way to know if your starter is active.
Mix wet ingredients and add straight into the flour mix.
Start mixing with a spatula or a spoon until water is absorbed. If it is dry, add the remaining 50 g water. (I have tried this recipe with 60% hydration, so 300 g water, and it still produced a manageable dough)
Wash your hands and start mixing with your hands now. This way you can tell if the dough needs more water or not. The dough should be easy to work with, not too tough and a bit sticky.
Make sure all the flour and water are combined, and that there are no traces of dry flour in the dough
Now leave this covered for about 5 minutes
Then give another mixing for about 5 minutes. Mixing should involve stretching and folding action. With every stretch and pull, you are making the gluten stronger.
Leave aside for another 5 minutes
Repeat this process twice more
You would notice the dough changes every time. It will become less sticky and much easier to work with. You will also notice it is a lot more “elasticy” now.
At this point its ready for bulk fermentation.
Cover the container and place in a warm draft free place. I usually use my oven (turned off of-course :D) for this. Place a cup of steaming water in the oven to make the environment warm and moist. Or your can use a big plastic tub with lid on or even one of your kitchen cupboards.
After 45 minutes, we will give the dough a fold. So take the container out. With wet hands, stretch and fold and tuck the dough from all four sides like you are wrapping something with it. The idea is to strengthen the gluten even more. Then leave it just as before for another 45 minutes.
Repeat the folding once more and now its time for the final bulk fermentation
This will depend on your starter activity, room temperature, humidity. So check your dough every 30 minutes. What we are looking for is the dough to have bulked in side and possibly with some few visible air pockets. Usually it will be ready in about 1.5 hours to 2 hours
Its time to shape the loaf now.
Remove the dough on to a lightly dusted surface. Fold it to make a big dough ball. This will be bouncy. This folding and shaping will remove some air but not all of it.
Leave it covered for about 10 minutes to relax.
Then it is ready for the final shaping. Follow some videos to learn how to do the final shaping.
Place in a proofing basket or in any container. Make sure to lay a flour dusted tea towel or flour the basket well.
Cover it completely and place in the fridge. The bread will now go in to a slow proof overnight. It will be ready for the oven in the morning
On the following day,place the oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 260 °C/ 500 °F.
If you have a pizza stone, a ceramic tile, cast iron skillet or a dutch oven, place it in while the oven heats up. Place another deep tray at the bottom most rack of the oven and fill it with boiling water. This will produce steam. But this is of no use if you use a Dutch Oven.
Check if your bread has risen. If you think it need some more time, you can pull it out and leave out for about half an hour or so. You can test this by gently poking the dough with a finger and if it springs back but not all the way back, it is ready.
Once the oven is hot enough, slash the bread and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. And then take the tray of water out, bring the oven temperature down to 230 °C/ 450 °F and bake for a further 20 minutes. If using a Dutch oven, take the lid off at this point.
Once the bread is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
When the bread is cool enough to handle, you can slice it with a serrated knife.
If you want to preserve, slice the loaf, store in an air tight container and freeze.