We'll be honest, this recipe is a labour of love but once you've made your first sourdough starter and loaf, you'll never look at bread in the same way again.
For the starter
- 1kg Stone ground organic wholemeal flour should be enough to make your starter
For the loaf
- 350g Strong white bread flour
- 150g Stone ground organic wholemeal flour
- 300g Water
- 10g Salt (dissolved in 10-15g water)
- 100g Your sourdough starter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Making your starter
It will take around a week to make your starter and all you'll need is a bag of good quality, stone ground organic wholemeal flour and some water. Don't worry if you prefer a white loaf you can always convert your starter later, wholemeal flour just tends to have been less refined so should contain more natural yeasts.
Take 75g of flour and mix in a glass bowl with 75g of warm water, (it's odd to weigh water but it's the easiest way to get equal parts) and whisk until you have the consistency of a thick milkshake, this is where you're trying to get as much air into the mix as possible so do it until your arm hurts!
Transfer to a glass jar and cover with a tea towel or cheese cloth or anything clean that's going to stop things getting into your starter but also allow it to breathe (not so important at the moment but once your starter begin to take hold it will be bubbling away and doubling in size!)
Add 75g of flour and 75g of water, stir well replace cover.
Remove about half the mixture and discard, then top up with a fresh 75g of flour and 75g water and mix well, hopefully by now you will notice that after you've fed the starter it will rise a little bit over the next few hours. This is a good sign as it means the yeast is starting to colonise in your jar.
Now you need to move onto feeding your starter twice daily. In the same way as before, discard half the mixture then top it up with 75g of flour and 75g of water then mix. You should aim to do this about 12 hours apart, so maybe when you get up in the morning and before bed. Continue to do this for the next few days until you can see your starter quickly doubling in size (under 4 hours). Once this is the case you're ready to bake!
Baking the loaf
- This is a basic bread recipe - once you've got this try adding other ingredients. We love adding dried oregano, basil, thyme and a large handful of sliced olives to make a Mediterranean inspired bread.
- Before you can start making your dough, you’ll need to feed your starter a few hours beforehand and wait for it to get going.
- Then add 100g of your start into a mixing bowl (don't forget to re-feed your starter).
- Add all the flour and water and mix together until it forms a ball, cover your bowl with a damp tea towel and leave for 1-2 hours.
- Next, make indents in the dough ball by pressing your fingertips into it, and pour in the salt water, leave for about 15 minutes.
- Now you need to fold the bread. Imagine the bowl as a clock, go to 12 o'clock and lift the bread up and fold it back on itself at 6 o'clock
- Next do the same process from 3 o'clock to 9, then go from 6 and fold to 12 and finally from 9 across to 3. After you've done this cover the bread again for 30 minutes.
- Then repeat this step 3 more times letting it rest 30 minutes between cycles (note how the bread starts to change texture and look in this time).
- You then shape the bread, there are many YouTube videos on different styles and shapes of bread but we did a simple round banneton.
- For this, simply shape the bread into a ball, do this on a floured work surface and try to turn the bread round and round on the spot, the bottom tends to stick a bit, pulling the top tight across like a skin.
- Dust your banneton basket with flour, if you don't have one of these, cover your second tea towel in flour and lay that in your bowl, pop your freshly shaped loaf inside, dust the top with more flour then cover with your damp tea towel.
- You now want to prove your bread by leaving it on the worktop for a couple of hours (until you're ready for bed) then pop it in the fridge overnight ready to bake in the morning.
- In the morning, turn your oven on to 200 degrees Celsius and allow it to warm up. Meanwhile, get your dutch oven out and apply a thin smear of olive oil all around the bottom and sides of the pot (some people dust with flour, others use baking paper to line the bottom but we found oil works best).
- Take your bread out the fridge and lay it straight in your dutch oven, you then need to score the top several times, again, people get very creative and artistic with this but basically as the bread rises it wants to tear as it's expanding, by scoring the top we are giving it a relief point which will make it look neater than a torn crust. We normally just go for three diagonal lines across the top a few inches long, the sharper the knife the better, we used a bread lame but a razor blade works just as well.
- Pop on the lid, this keeps the moisture in the pot and around the bread, and bake for about 50 minutes, then open the oven and remove the lid, leave the pot in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the crust is a good colour.
- Remove from the oven and hopefully your bread won't have stuck and will be easy to remove from the pot.
- Leave on a cooling rack until cool, then slice and enjoy your first chewy, flavoursome homemade sourdough loaf.