I have been baking bread now for the last decade. For the last 3 years I have been baking sourdough loafs; at least 3 a week. So I am pretty good at them. Back in August 2013 I wrote about how to make a sourdough loaf, but I thought I would expand on that given what I know now.
There are two methods that I use for making sourdough bread depending on whether I am at home or out and about on the day of baking.
If I am going to be away from the house during working hours then I will use the kneading method as mentioned in the previous post. However if I am going to be in the house I will use my preferred method which is the no-knead approach. This gives a more holey, slightly chewier textured loaf, and is outlined below.
In the morning pour 200g of your sourdough starter, 520g of bread flour, 270g of water and 10g of salt into a large mixing bowl. For my bread flour I always use organic. You don’t have to of course, but do make sure it is ‘strong’ flour. How much of each flour you use can be varied as much as you want so long as it all adds up to 520g. I typically use about 260g of strong white and then make the rest up with either strong wholemeal or wholemeal spelt, or a mixture of both. Of course for a stronger flavoured, but slightly denser loaf you could use less white and more wholemeal.
Give it a mix and then cover the bowl with cling film. About an hour or so later (no need to be precise) take the cling film off, stretch and fold the dough four times (once in each direction), put the cling film back on and give it another hour or so.
Repeat 3 times.
After the last lot of folds you can put the dough straight in a floured proving basket and then let it prove for 3 hours.
Put it in the oven for 45 minutes at 230 degrees and you will have the perfect tasting and looking loaf.
Note that it might sound like it has been lots of work, but if you add it all up its 3 minutes of mixing the ingredients together, and 1 minute of folding 4 times. That’s it. What could be easier?
I use a baking cloche nowadays so I put the cover on for the first 35 minutes in the oven and take it off for the final 10. If you don’t have one, keep an eye on it in the oven getting too coloured. If need be turn the oven down a bit.
A quick note on the starter. Loads of people will tell you about feeding and cossetting your starter. Ignore them. I leave mine permanently in the fridge. I take it out to use some of it in my mix, and just bung some more flour and water in to replace the 200g that came out. Then it is straight back into the fridge. It can be left completely alone in there from a few days to a few weeks without coming to any harm, and comes straight back to life after being mixed with some fresh flour.