I’m not a hipster, nor do I run a bakery. I live in France where I’m practically tripping over good bread. But I bake my own sourdough.

 

I remember the first time I tried ‘Pain au Levain’ from the village bakery. The leathery crust and chewy dough with the slightly sour taste. I was in heaven and I wanted more. With goat’s cheese and fig jam, soaked in eggs and milk for French Toast, on the side of homemade soup, on the side of everything, hunks of it dipped in olive oil… How could I ever go back to pre sliced sandwich bread?!

 

It started on a whim but quickly became addiction. Watching the starter for bubbles, waiting for the sour smell that signalled a potentially delicious loaf. I haven’t bought I single loaf since. I’m in it for the long-haul.

 

 

Starter

Daily Ingredients:

¼ cup (60g) strong wheat flour

¼ cup (60ml) water

 

Equipment:

  1. Tupperware, mason jar or other medium sized container
  2. Plastic wrap/clingfilm

 

Directions:

 

DAY 1:
  1. Make sure your container is completely clean
  2. Mix the flour and water well in the container
  3. Loosely wrap with clingfilm then leave in a cool, dry place

 

DAY 2:
  1. Add another ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup water to the mixture.
  2. Mix well
  3. Loosely wrap and leave in cool, dry place

 

DAY 3:

You might begin to see bubbles in your starter now, that’s great! If not no need to worry, it could take a couple more days.

  1. Add another ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup water to the mixture.
  2. Mix well
  3. Loosely wrap and leave in cool, dry place

 

DAY 4:
  1. Feed with another ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup water.
  2. Mix well
  3. Loosely wrap and leave in cool, dry place

 

 

Starter Day 5: There’s no way to make this look pretty.

 

DAY 5:

Your starter should be really bubbly and sour smelling in which case it’s ready to use! If it isn’t very bubbly, you may need to continue adding flour and water for another couple of days.

 

If Not Using Today:

  1. Discard half the mixture
  2. Feed with another ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water
  3. Wrap tightly or cover with lid and refrigerate.

 

 

3 Week Old Starter

 

Maintaining Your Starter:

  1. Once a week discard half of the starter and feed with another ¼ cup flour and water.
  2. Leave loosely covered overnight
  3. Wrap tightly and return to fridge for remainder of week.

 

 

Baking A Loaf

Make sure your starter has been fed the day before You’ll need about 3 –4 hours to prepare the dough ready to leave in the fridge overnight. Don’t worry, there’s hardly any kneeding!

I have tried this with an assortment of different wheat flours and it has worked fantastically. I have not yet tested gluten free flour (that would require making a gluten free starter too) but it is next on my list so Celiac sufferers…stay posted!

 

 

Equipment:

A large mixing bowl
A Colander
2 clean tea towels
A baking stone or a Dutch oven
A knife

 

Ingredients:

3.5oz (100g) of your starter (Make sure has been fed and left at room temperature day before)
10fl oz (300ml) water
3.5oz (100g) of strong wholemeal flour (plus extra for dusting)
14oz (400g) other strong flour (white, semi-wholemeal, Farro, etc)
2 tsp fine salt in 1 tbsp of cold water
2 tbsp grain such as couscous or semolina to prevent sticking.

Makes 1 loaf

 

Directions:

 

Dough Prep – Afternoon
  1. In a large bowl mix the water and starter well, then add all the flour and combine into a large ball
  2. Dampen a tea towel and cover the bowlLet the dough rest at room temperature for around 2 hours.

 

Folding – Later Afternoon
  1. Once the dough has increased in size, pour over the salty water and poke holes in the dough to distribute it.Leave for 15 mins to soak in.
  2. Starting at 1 o’clock, lift your dough and fold in towards you.Turn the bowl a quarter clockwise and repeat again three more times until you have folded each edge.
  3. Repeat every 30 minutes 3 more times.When you have finished the final fold, leave to rest for 20 minutes.

 

Proving – Early Eve
  1. Line the Colander with a tea towel and dust with flour. Shape the dough lightly into a ball and put into the colander. Dust the top of the dough with flour, then cover with the damp tea-towel.
  2. Leave your dough at room temperature until it increases 50% in size. This could take anywhere between 30 mins or 2 hours.
  3. Once it has increased in size, transfer to the fridge and leave overnight.

 

Baking – Following Morning
  1. Place your Dutch oven (with lid on) or baking stone in the oven and preheat to 425°F/22o°C/gas mark 7.
  2. Once the oven is hot, carefully remove the Dutch oven/baking stone, sprinkle with semolina or couscous then place the dough on top. With a knife, slash the top of the dough where you want the bread to tear as it rises.
  3. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Lower the heat to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and using Dutch oven, remove the lid.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove from oven and leave to cool completely before eating (if you can manage it!). The bread is best stored wrapped in a clean dish towel.