So far I have covered making & caring for your starter, plus how to do an intermediate refreshment & some trouble shooting should things appear to be going a bit pear shaped! You should now be ready to make your first sourdough loaf, (if you haven't done so already!)
Firstly you will need to make a "production sourdough" from your starter. Remember, if it's too acidic, which it may well be if it's been sat in the fridge for a few weeks, you will need to do an intermediate refreshment first. The instructions for this are in my previous blog.
Take 50g of your starter & mix with 140g of warm water. Next add 185g of strong wholemeal flour. Mix well, cover & leave to ferment for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon the room temperature. The production sourdough will be ready to use once it has doubled in size. You will now have 375g of production sourdough. 300g will be used to make your first loaf & 75g will be replaced into your starter & left to use another time.
500g strong white flour.
300g production sourdough
250g warm water
10g of sea salt
In a large bowl, mix the water & production sourdough together first. Next add the rest of the ingredients. Get your hands in to the bowl & give the contents a good mix about until they are all well combined & have formed a rough, wet dough.
You can now cover the bowl with a damp cloth or a plastic bag & leave it to rest. After about half an hour go back to it & placing a damp fist in the centre of the dough, use your other hand, also damp, to stretch the outer edges of the dough into the centre. Work around the edge of the dough & try to do this about 10 times. You will feel the dough start to resist & this is the strands of gluten in the flour starting to coil & contract. Cover & leave the dough for about another half hour & repeat this process. In all, the dough will need to be stretched like this about four times during the proving process. You don't have to do this every half hour, if you are busy you can just go back to the dough when you get chance.
The dough will need to be allowed to prove in total for about six to twelve hours, including the stretching, depending on the ambient temperature in the room.
Once proved, this is the time to add any extra ingredients if you wish. With a light dusting of flour on the work surface, empty the dough out of it’s container &, if you are doing so, add your extra ingredients & work through until well dispersed. Shape your dough in to the desired shape, dust your proving basket generously with semolina or polenta, (this gives a nice crust on the finished loaf plus it won't be absorbed back into the dough & cause it to stick to your proving basket), & place into your proving basket seam side up. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag & leave in a warm place to rise for approximately 4 to 6 hours. I tend to leave my doughs in the fridge for up to 24 hours, which slows down the fermentation process & gives the lactobacillus chance to work it’s magic & resulting in that lovely sour flavoured bread.
When your loaf is ready to bake it will have risen appreciably & be quite firm & springy to touch still. If it has risen too far if will not spring back when pressed & collapse. If this happens, take it out of the basket, knock it back, reshape & go ahead & bake. It will still rise in the oven but not as much that’s all & better than wasting it.
Once ready to bake, gently turn your loaf on to a pre heated baking stone. Give it a quick couple of slashes with a sharp knife to allow it to rise further in the oven. The loaf will be baked in a pre heated oven, 220 degrees celsuis, (200 if it’s a fan oven) for about 40 minutes. Make sure to leave a large tray of hot water in the base of your oven to give you a nice crust on your loaf. I always check after about 25 to 30 minutes, in case it needs a quick turn to ensure an even colour all over. Once baked all the way through, the loaf will make a hollow sound when tapped on its bottom.
So there you have it. A simple, delicious sourdough containing just 3 ingredients, flour, water & salt. This loaf will keep for a good week & will actually improve it's flavour as it ages.