Expert sourdough recipe
16th September 2020
Sourdough September is in full force, so we’ve asked our head chef for his best recipe that you can try at home:
Expert Sourdough Recipe
450g white bread flour
50g brown bread flour
700ml tepid water
100g active sourdough starter
10g Maldon sea salt
Method: Sourdough starter
1. To create an active starter, combine 50g brown bread flour with 50ml tepid water thoroughly and leave in a sealed container (big enough to hold three times the amount of starter) at room temperature overnight.
2. The following morning, discard all but a tablespoon of the starter and add another 50g of brown bread flour and 50ml tepid water. Leave in a warm place all day and the starter should have expanded by the evening. Again, discard all but a tbsp and add the 50g flour, 50ml water, combine thoroughly and leave overnight.
3. After a few days of repeating this process the starter should begin to behave very consistently, rising evenly after each feed as it ferments (roughly doubling in size). This is the sign that the starter is gaining strength which will help create a strong, tasty sourdough.
4. On the morning of making the sourdough, you should have a starter that was fed the evening before and is now at its maximum size.
Method: Sourdough recipe
5. To begin the bread, in a large mixing bowl combine the water and 100g of the sourdough starter, mixing gently with your fingers to disperse the starter evenly. This should leave just enough starter to feed with 50g flour/50ml water to be left to ferment and continue steps 1-3.
6. Add the two bread flours and using a wooden spoon combine well with the water. Mix until there are no visible dry patches of flour.
7. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and leave to sit in a warm place. This process allows the flour and water to combine and begin the formation of crucial gluten which will create the structure of the bread. This process is known as the autolyze.
8. After an hour of sitting, sprinkle the salt across the surface and using a grabbing action with your hands, work the salt into the dough, scrunching the dough between your fingers. The dough will appear to break up a little bit but the more it is worked it will come back to a smooth consistency. Continue with this until the salt has been absorbed (you will be able to ‘feel’ the salt when you begin as it will be rough, but as it dissolves into the dough the whole thing should become soft and smooth).
9. Once smooth transfer to a clean bowl/clear plastic container and cover.
10. The next step is known as the bulk fermentation. This is where we’re going to build the structure of the bread by encouraging the formation of gluten, whilst also beginning the fermentation process which will create the sour taste. To begin with, we leave the dough, covered, for 30 minutes to rest.
11. After the 30 minutes, we begin what’s known as coil folds. Moisten your hand with a little water then slide your hands down the side of the dough in the middle, scoop underneath and gently lift the centre of the dough up away from the container. The third of dough furthest from you should lift up also. Allow this to drop underneath the middle third (in your hands) and allow the middle third to sit on top.
12. Rotate the bowl 180 degrees and once again, lift the middle third of dough and allow the furthest third to fall underneath. In essence you should have 3 layers of dough that are coiled together.
13. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process. This is known as a ‘set’ of coils.
14. Cover the dough and leave for 30 minutes to allow it to rest.
15. Repeat 10-14 for a total of five times, or until the dough has roughly double in size. With each set of coils, the dough should feel a little firmer each time, and hold its shape a little more once turned and allowed to rest. This is the formation of the gluten happening, which is what gives the bread its structure. You should also notice the dough becoming airier as the bulk fermentation progresses. If using a clear container, this will be visible by the number and size of bubbles seen in the dough from the side. These bubbles are what gives the sourdough its open crumb texture.
16. Once the bulk fermentation is complete, the dough needs to be shaped. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch it out slightly. Take the furthest end, lift up and fold into the middle of the dough. Repeat this for the two sides and finally with the piece of dough nearest to you, creating an envelope effect.
17. Turn the dough over so the seam where the four corners met is now on the bench. Using a dough scraper, with one hand supporting the dough, pull the scraper towards you and into the back of the dough, gently pushing it along the bench towards you.
18. As the dough grips to the bench it should resist the motion of you pulling it towards you, causing it to tighten around the outside surface. This creates tension which will help the dough expand when it goes in the oven.
19. Dust the dough lightly with flour, cover with a cloth and leave to resist for 20 minutes.
20. Repeat steps 15 & 16. You should now have a nicely shaped, tight feeling dough.
21. Dust a sourdough banneton (or a mixing bowl lined with a clean tea towel) with rice flour and place the dough into, smooth side down. This should leave the seam on the top. Dust with a little more rice flour over the surface and place in the fridge overnight. This slows down the fermentation process so the bread doesn’t expand too much more, but the yeasts present in the sourdough starter will continue to ferment, creating a sour flavour. The longer it sits in the fridge, the sourer the loaf.
22. When you are ready to cook the sourdough, take a cast iron Dutch oven with lid and place in an oven preheated to its highest temperature (around 260c) for around 30 minutes to get red hot.
23. When ready, remove the Dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid and gently turn the sourdough out into the pot. Using a sharp knife score one single line from one end of the loaf to the other, around 1cm deep.
24. Put on the lid and place back in the oven for 20 minutes.
25. Carefully remove the lid and place back in the oven in the pot for a further 20-30 minutes until the base of the loaf sound hollow when tapped with a finger. Once that is achieved the loaf can be cooked until the desired level of darkness is created.
26. Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack and allow to completely cool before serving.