Alongside my quest to cook my mother’s recipes, I have also been baking a batch of sourdough loaves each weekend. I have had varying degrees of success… over proved, huge air bubbles, dense, heavy, no salt (I forgot to put it in!), undercooked… you name it, it’s happened. Sourdough by nature takes time…. the starter needs to become alive, then the ‘polish’, then the proving… it really is a 2 -3 day labour of love. But its become a weekend habit, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that the bread I eat at home just contains flour, water and salt. I always use the same recipe (Dan Lepard Sourdough) but play with the flour – white, brown, rye. I find that half white and half brown is best for me.
This weekend I thought that as we had friends staying, I wouldn’t have time for my bake, so I started earlier and fitted it in amongst my working week. The starter came out of the fridge on Wednesday night and I fed it (100g flour, 100ml water). I came home from work on Thursday and made the ‘Poolish’ – phase 2… 400g brown bread flour, 300g starter, 500ml warm water. I whisked this together, covered it with clingfilm, and so that it didn’t prove too fast, left it on my windowsill. Friday night I came home from work and it was huge… doubled in size! So before we went out for dinner, I added in the remaining 500g white bread flour and the all important teaspoon of salt. I kneaded this in the kitchen aid for about 6 minutes and then again covered with clingfilm and left it on the windowsill.
Saturday morning I woke up to find the dough had doubled in size – this had never happened to me before, except when using commercial yeast. I knocked it back and kneaded it by hand for 5 minutes, then back into the bowl and covered with a damp cloth. At lunchtime, it was almost double again so I took it out, kneaded it gently, divided it into two and placed half into my proving basket and half onto the silicon lined baking mat. Two hours later, they were ready to go…. into a hot oven at 240 degrees with half cup of water thrown onto the bottom to create steam.
And oh how they rose… evenly and magnificently! I resisted temptation and left them for almost an hour until the crust had turned a deep brown…. then i took them out to cool on a rack.
Breakfast on Sunday morning was sourdough toast with avocado and bacon. I knew it was good just by that slightly chewiness and the crisp crust. Having it simply toasted with butter this morning confirmed it… best sourdough i have baked yet.. dare i say, pretty perfect! So the secret must be to take the time…. not to rush… let it fit in with your work, going out and daily chores. It really is worth it.
NB: I’m not particularly scientific… My starter was originally 250g white flour + 250ml water. Mix together and leave uncovered for a day or two until it starts to bubble. I then fed it with rye flour and water, left it another day before using it. I only ever use half of the container and always feed it as soon as I’ve used it. Its my variation on the Dan Lepard recipe, and it works for me.