In England last week I happened across a book for sourdough bread bakers (“Do Sourdough – Slow Bread for Busy Lives” by Andrew Whitley who runs, quote, one of Britain’s leading organic bakeries). What’s nice about it is that the methods are born of real life commercial practice with a healthy leavening of serious science and plenty of explanations for why things happen. This is not always as common as one would like in the sourdough world.
I was pleased to find that the method I have evolved by myself – which I know makes terrific bread – is not far from the author’s proven techniques … however, I have been experimenting today with the book to hand to try and improve on what I have been doing for some years now and have come up with the following recipe. It’s a bit different but it does seem to have produced an excellent loaf. If you would like to try it you should note that it creates a high-hydration (ie: wet and sticky) dough that is better suited to making a tin loaf than a free-form cob. I would probably reduce the amount of water a bit if making cobs using a basket in which to prove them.
So … the following really easy method makes a standard 3lb weight loaf. The book, being European, uses weights rather than cups as a measure – somewhat more accurate anyway.
1. Mix together 200g of flour and 120g of water and leave to stand for half an hour.
2. Add 150g of your sourdough starter, knead thoroughly and leave to work for 4 hours in a warm place
3. Add a further 500g of flour, 300g of water and 6g of salt. Knead very well. Put it into a bread tin of a suitable size – it should about half fill the tin – and leave to prove for some 3-5 hours depending on temperature of the room. As it is November I allowed my bread to rise in a hot box … my hot box being simply a large cooler chest with a jug of hot water alongside the bread tin to warm the air and the rise was completed in 4 hours.
4. Bake for 10 minutes (fan oven – add 25 degF if you have a non-fan oven) at 400degF and then reduce to 350degF for 20-25 minutes until baked.
And that’s all there is to it. Start the process at 8am and you have a loaf for the evening meal.