It's always wonderful to have guest blogs from an expert in their field. Elaine Boddy is a fully self taught sourdough baker who has made it her mission to unravel the complexities of making sourdough. She explains the process in plain English! In this article she shows how to fit sourdough into your life and gives some great advice on how to get started with her master recipe so that we can all enjoy making sourdough at home.
Her book, "Whole Grain Sourdough At Home" (available in all good book shops) digs deeper into using different flours and I heartily recommend her web site with a wealth of FAQs, some wonderful recipes and the opportunity to book a course with Elaine.
Over to you Elaine!
Welcome to my master recipe
This is the standard recipe that I use every week to make sourdough loaves for my household.
The key to my process is simplicity, and not having to plan your life around the dough, but being able to fit making sourdough into your home and family life.
The process for making a single loaf can encompass up to 24 hours, but the actual hands on input required is very little, 30 minutes at most. Before you begin, I suggest reading through the process to best plan your bake. I have full tips plus timetables on my site and in my book.
Top Tip: flours are not all equal and the flour that you use to make sourdough can make a huge difference to the outcome. Using a good quality, dependable, strong white flour is a perfect partner for making sourdough, especially if you are new to this type of bread making. I regularly use and recommend using a good quality strong white flour as it works perfectly with my recipe and process and is a joy to use.
Things you’ll need:
- Your starter
- Great flour
- Digital scales
- Large mixing bowl
- Bowl scraper
- Helen Round bowl cover
- Banneton, or bowl
- Rice flour, for dusting
- Enamel pan or other baking pan with a lid
- Parchment paper
- Lame or razor blade
When you want to bake a loaf, take your starter from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Feed your starter with 30 grams of strong white bread flour and 30 grams of filtered, or boiled and cooled, water, and stir it all together well. It does not need to be smooth, you do not need to stir it excessively, a few lumpy bits are fine.
Cover the bowl again firmly and allow it to become fully active and ready to use. This can take two to three hours in temperatures well over 20°C, it may take four hours or more in temperatures lower than 20°C, it all depends on the activity of your starter. If your starter needs longer to be fully active, build that into your time planning.
NOTE: I typically start making my dough between 4-5pm. You could easily start early evening too after a working day.
However, if your starter is ready to use later, or you get home from work later than that, there will still be more than enough time to create the dough.
- 50g active starter
- 350g water
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 7g salt, or to taste
Makes 1 standard loaf
Step 1: In your large mixing bowl, combine the bubbly starter with the water and loosely stir them together. They do not need to be perfectly mixed, just swished around to stop the starter from sitting on the bottom of the bowl.
Next, add the strong white bread flour and salt. I tend to use less salt than other bakers; if you would prefer to use more, please do.
Mix it all together roughly. The dough does not need to be handled very much at this point, it does not need to be kneaded, and it does not need to be smooth. The only aim here is to loosely mix the starter and water through the flour whether you use your hands, a spoon or a bowl scraper.
Cover the bowl with your Helen Round bowl cover, and leave it for an hour or so on the kitchen counter.
Return the rest of your starter to the fridge until next time, with the lid firmly fitted.
Step 2: After an hour or so, perform the first set of pulls and folds. This process gives the gluten a workout, stimulates the wild yeast and builds up the structure in the dough.
Literally pick up a handful of dough from one side of the bowl, using your thumb and two forefingers to grab a portion, lift it, stretch it and fold it over the rest of the dough to the other side of the bowl; you do not need to pull it too tight. Then, turn the bowl a few degrees and repeat the process—lift and fold, turn the bowl, lift and fold, turn the bowl— and continue until the dough comes together into a smoothish ball. Then stop.
At this point, the dough will be at its stickiest. As you work with it, the stickiness will typically start to reduce.
Cover the bowl again with the bowl cover and leave it out on the kitchen counter. You can now leave the bowl again for an hour, or half an hour, whatever works for you.
Step 3: Over the next few hours, perform 3 more sets of the lifting and folding action, exactly the same as before, just enough to bring the dough into a ball; this is the dough telling you when it is time to stop. It will probably take only a few pulls and folds to form it into a ball. Again, these do not need to be done at fixed time periods, as long as you fit in sufficient sets during that time to build up the structure of the dough, which is the key. After each set, cover the bowl and leave it on the counter.
Do the final set before going to bed.
Step 4: Spray the inside of your linen bowl cover with a fine mist of water to prevent the dough from drying out. Use it to cover the bowl and leave it on the counter overnight to prove. I typically let my dough prove, untouched, for 8 to 10 hours at temperatures of 18-20C. If it is colder where you are it may need longer; if it’s warmer, you will need to make amendments to the dough at the start of the process.
Step 5: Next morning you should have a bowl full of grown dough, look for it to double in size. There may or may not be bubbles across the top of your dough; it all depends on what flour you have used, but it is not a requirement.
Next, get out your prepared banneton (mine is 22 cm diameter and 8.5 cm deep) and liberally sprinkle it with more rice flour. Alternatively, line a similar sized bowl with a clean, dry tea towel dusted with rice flour.
To place the dough into the banneton, do a series of lifts and folds on the dough, just once around the bowl, a maximum of about 10 actions, to bring it into a ball again. The dough should be bouncy and happy, and you will feel a resistance in the dough. You literally could not squash it flat if you tried, but do not try! Do not be heavy handed but do be firm. The aim at this point is to create a slight tension in the dough to create a ball, without crushing the dough completely.
Once you have pulled it into a ball and you feel that you can handle it successfully, transfer it to your banneton, smooth side down.
Once the dough is in the banneton, gently ease it away from the sides with your fingertips and sprinkle extra rice flour down the sides of the dough, between the dough and the banneton and sprinkle some rice flour all over the top of the dough, too, to prevent it from sticking to the parchment paper later.
Cover the banneton with the same bowl cover that you previously used for the dough, and put the banneton in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours, and up to a maximum of 10. The longer you leave it, the more the flavor will develop and the dough will firm up. This means you can leave it there all day while you are at work, if you need to, or if you are out for the day, and you can then bake it on your return. Again, it means that making sourdough can fit in with you and your life; it does not have to dictate or dominate your day.
This time in the fridge is often called the final proving and helps the dough to firm up so that when you turn it out from the banneton into the pan to bake, it does not spread and lose its shape.
Step 6: When you are ready to bake, you have two choices: to preheat the oven or bake from a cold start.
Baking bread in an oven that has not been preheated may sound like a crazy idea; we are so used to the notion of preheating ovens, it seems impossible that it would work. But I am here to tell you that it does, and it works brilliantly. I bake all my loaves from a cold start. But if the oven has been on already, I bake them from a preheated start.
You do not need to preheat the pan.
If you choose to preheat the oven, preheat it to 220°C fan assisted or 240C non fan.
For either method, have an enamel roaster pan ready, mine is a 26cm diameter enamel pan, or the pan of your choice, with a lid, as well as good-quality parchment paper.
Step 7: To bake remove the cover from the banneton, place your parchment paper over the top of the banneton and place the pan upside down over the top of them both. With one hand under the banneton and one hand on top of the pan, turn it all over together to turn the dough out of the banneton and into the pan. Do not tip the dough into the pan.
You should now have a lovely dome of dough, which holds its shape, decorated with a pattern of concentric flour rings from the banneton.
Step 8: With a lame or a clean razor blade, score the top of the dough cleanly and firmly, at a depth of 0.5 to 1.0 cm. Always score from the outside toward the middle of the dome, to encourage growth.
Step 9: Bake!
If you preheated the oven, bake for 50 minutes, keeping the lid on for the entire time.
If you are baking from a cold start, place the pan in the cold oven, turn the temperature to 220°C fab or 240C non fan and bake for a total of 55 minutes from the time that you placed the pan in the cold oven, with the lid on the entire time.
Note: If you have an older oven that takes a long time to come up to temperature, you may need to bake the loaf for longer to ensure that it is fully baked.
After the 50 to 55 minutes, remove the covered pan from the oven. Open the lid to check the loaf, if you feel that your loaf is looking pale, place it back in the hot oven, in its pan, minus the lid, for 5 to 10 minutes to brown the loaf to the color of your choice.
Once the loaf is golden brown, carefully remove it from the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom, place the loaf to a wire rack.
Step 10: Leave the loaf on its rack to cool completely. Whichever route you took to bake your loaf, once it is cooling, wait at least 1 hour before you slice into it. If you cut into the loaf too soon, it will still be cooking, plus steam will fill all those carefully crafted holes and make the bread gummy.
For more details and hints and tips, visit foodbodsourdough.com
Post lockdown sourdough making:
If you began making sourdough during lockdown and are wondering how it fits in with life as restrictions lift, this post is for you….
Your starter can sit in the fridge unused for weeks at a time, it does not need to be fed or used unless you’re going to use it.
If you make sourdough once a week, your starter will be fine; I only use my starter once a week.
Batch baking is a great way to remain stocked with sourdough; I always make sourdough in batches.
Sourdough freezes perfectly; I batch bake and always have stocks in my freezer.
Sourdough defrosts perfectly; to defrost, place your loaf, or rolls, or whatever you made, uncovered on a wire rack until defrosted. They defrost as crusty as they bake.
Change up your making and baking timetable to fit in with life and work.
Find a selection of baking timetables on my site, you will find the link from my main page, and others in my book. I also have same day recipes and timetables in my book you might find useful.
A huge thank you to Elaine for her sourdough recipe and for some very straightforward advice about how to fit sourdough into all our lives. Do visit her site for loads more advice, hints and tips.
Our linen bread bags, baguette bags and bowl covers, are great for making and storing sourdough and can all be purchased at www.helenround.com.
If you have any sourdough tragedies or triumphs, we'd love to hear from you. Post your pictures on our social media pages. You can find us at Facebook or Instagram.
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