Making sourdough bread at home can be really simple.
There are many methods for sourdough baking which are complicated to the point of being too scientific and this scares away most people from attempting to bake these healthier bread at home that is better for you, but quite expensive to buy.
Over the years of trying various methods and recipes, we have come to love this adapted method that works in our home. This is a back to the basics recipe that uses just one large mixing bowl, a spoon and your hands. No kneading required. The instructions may look long and complicated but once you understand the concept, it is really a simple process that is repetitive. It is wonderful for those days when you have a lot of time at home and totally satisfying that you can make your own sourdough bread with little equipment and simple ingredients of flour, water and salt.
The most important thing to remember in baking sourdough bread is to use an active starter at its peak or just before, for the best results. But we have also used starters that has passed its peak stage and while the resulting crumb may not be as airy, it still works and the bread is just as delicious. (See previous post on How to make and maintain sourdough starter)
While it may seem a little fussy with many steps involved, sourdough baking is quite forgiving. If part way through the process you have to run out for some errands, you can just pop the mixing bowl into the refrigerator and continue at a later time.
In a large mixing bowl, mix bread flour and water till no dry bits left. Leave to autolyse, covered for 1 hour.
Add starter by spreading over flour mixture then fold with a spoon or with your hands till evenly combined and leave to rest 30 minutes. Covered.
After 30 minutes, sprinkle salt all over, pressing into dough with fingers or spoon, to spread salt evenly, then fold dough with spoon to combine. Leave covered for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, pull and stretch the edges of the dough, then fold into the centre. Continue all around the edges, then round the dough and leave to rest another 30 minutes.
Lamination: Spray water on a large clean surface. Tip dough onto wet surface then stretch the dough thinly into a large rectangle, without breaking. Fold into thirds vertically, then into thirds horizontally. Put it back into the bowl and cover and rest 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold: stretch dough by lifting it up with both hands from the center and let the edges fold under. Then turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat stretch and fold. Repeat the process about 2 to 3 times, resting 30 minutes in between folds.
After the last stretch and fold, leave dough to rest for 1 hour till risen and double.
Tip onto lightly floured surface and pre-shape by tightening dough using a dough scraper. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly stretch the relaxed dough into rectangle shape and fold into thirds and roll up, pinching the edges close. Put dough with edges facing upwards in a prepared proofing basket. Tighten the dough further by pinching the edges close. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest in refrigerator for 7 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius. When ready to bake, tip dough onto baking paper. Sprinkle with rice flour and score desired patterns then lift dough using baking paper into cast iron pot/ Dutch Oven (otherwise just put on a baking tray). Spray dough with water and bake in Dutch Oven, covered for the first 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce heat to 180 degrees Celcius, remove lid and continue to bake for another 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack before slicing.
Our favourite variations using the above recipe:Olive Sourdough: Add 1/2 cup chopped black or green olives Walnut and Cranberry Sourdough: Add 1/2 cup of walnut halves and 1/2 cup of dried cranberriesRosemary and Cheese: Add 3 sprigs of chopped rosemary leaves and 100g cubed cheddar cheese
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