A simple sourdough bread

This is rapidly becoming our standard, always-have-a-loaf-around, bread. The recipe is very simple, the result is tasty; with a crisp crust and a chewy, flavourful interior.

You’ll need:

  • 350g unbleached bread flour
  • 150g rye flour
  • 15g kosher salt, ideally 10g smoked, 5g plain
  • About two tablespoon full of highly active sourdough starter
  • About 250ml water

If you don’t have access to sourdough starter instant yeast can be used. If you use yeast, mix 200 g bread flour with 200 ml water (this is called a 100% hydration sponge) and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The flavour of the bread will improve immeasurably. Add the yeast to the remaining flour and proceed.

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Sourdough starter.

Mix all your ingredients together and knead, either in a mixer or by hand. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and knead on speed 2 for about five to ten minutes or until a shiny dough develops that clears the walls of the mixing bowl. You might add a little water if the mix is too dry.

Put the ball of dough into an oiled bowl and let it rest for three to five hours. If you want, you can even let it rise very slowly overnight in the fridge. The longer you’ll give the bread to rise, the lower the temperature needs to be. Accepted wisdom has it that bread should rise in a warm spot, and while that does get the yeast activated it also keeps it lazy, feeding on the simple sugars present in the mix. The longer you’ll leave it to rise, the harder the yeast has to work, breaking down the actual wheat and creating deliciousness in the process.

Once risen, take dough out of the bowl and put it on  a floured surface. Stretch it gently, then fold it over onto itself. Turn and repeat about six times. I proof my bread in a heavily floured banneton, or Brotform, a little basked made from reeds. It helps to create a lovely pattern on the bread and shapes it as it rises.

Preheat your oven to 500º. I use a cloche, a cover made from earthenware, to bake bread. It simulates the environment in a steam injected bakery oven and makes for a lovely crust. I highly recommend buying one of these, they changed the way I bake for the better. If you don’t have access to a cloche, you might want to use an unglazed flower pot, on top of a pizza stone with the drainage hole plugged by aluminum foil. Be careful that the pot doesn’t contain any nasty glazes not intended for human consumption.

After a second rise of 60 minutes, bake for about 10 minutes at full temperature, then reduce to 450º and bake until done, about 30-40 minutes. Check the core temperature, if it reads about 200º the bread is done. Enjoy.

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