A chewy crust and a lovely moist texture makes this sourdough bread impossible to resist. A perfect accompaniment to soups, a great base for posh open sandwiches or a plain canvas for your breakfast toppings.
Why has Sourdough Bread become so popular?
Sourdough has been the word of the 2020 baking world. With yeast in short supply in UK supermarkets over the summer, many of us turned to the unexplored methods of making our breads rise and discovered something that we will no longer be able to live without, even with yeast back in our cupboards.
Sourdough bread has a reputation of being a very difficult one to master. I am not going to lie, it took me five failed loaves to arrive at a perfect one, but it hasn’t failed since. One of the main reasons, is a mature, well maintained starter. Another reason is that shaping the bread right needs practice.
In the morning of the day before I want to bake my sourdough, I take my starter out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes to warm up. It is now time to feed it and revive it so that your bread rises well.
Whatever weight of your sourdough starter you have, add the same weight of flour and the same weight of water. E.g., to 200g of sourdough starter add 200g of flour and 200g water. Then mix everything together.
Of course, if you have lots of starter, you don’t need to feed it all. For this recipe, simply take about 60g of your starter, feed it 60g of flour and 60ml of water. You can use the rest of unfed starter for other recipes, but don’t forget to feed some of it regularly, so the cultures don’t die.
I like using a glass jar and add a rubber band at the level of my starter. That way, when I leave it to double over the next 4-6 hours, I can clearly see it rising and bubbling away.
Once the starter is very active and at least doubled in size, it is time to make your dough. I personally use my Kenwood mixer with dough hook attachment. However, it will work just as well if you want to knead the dough yourself. Moreover, you might feel like you’ve had a good workout after kneading.
It’s difficult to recommend the amount of time you should knead your dough for. It simply depends on too many things. I find the temperature of you kitchen, type of flour, method of kneading and your own strength affects the process. For me, it takes about 12 minutes in a Kenwood, and about 20 minutes if I kneed the dough myself. The most important thing to look for is the windowpane effect. Once you can stretch your dough so thinly that you can see through it without tearing it, you know it’s ready. Your dough should also be smooth, soft and elastic.
Now, shape a ball, pop it into a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for 4-6 hours at room temperature to proof. If you’ve been baking bread with commercial yeast up until now, you may be disappointed with how much it rises. It will make it a while to double in size so be patient.
When your dough has doubled in size, take a clean bowl and put a tea towel in it. It is best if it’s a close weave cotton tea towel. Flour it well to make sure your dough doesn’t stick to it.
Shaping your sourdough is an artistry in itself. I’ll admit, Seb normally does this himself, and he’s got really good at this. See the video below, of how Seb shapes our perfect sourdough bread loaf.
Pop your tight ball of dough, smooth side down into a bowl with the floured tea towel, fold the corners of it over the dough and pop in into a bag to make sure the dough doesn’t dry out. Make some space in the fridge for it to rest overnight. This reduces the temperature of the sourdough letting it prove long and slow which allows for the development of flavours within the dough and greatly increases its digestibility.
In the morning, heat your oven to 230C Fan. Place a shallow baking tray that you will bake your sourdough on or, better yet, a cast iron pan, into the bottom of the oven to preheat with the oven. Boil a kettle of water and pour the boiled water into another dish to create steam in the oven while baking.
Take your dough out of the fridge and carefully turn it out from the bowl with tea towel. We tend to put a bit of baking parchment on top of the dough and then turn the bowl upside down in a swift motion. The domed side with the indentations from the proving basket should now be facing up and the seamed side on the baking tray.
Using a sharp knife score in any way you like, but make sure you cut up to ½ cm deep. Scoring the bread helps control where and how it rises while baking and, lets be honest, it look oh-so-pretty.
Place the baking tray/ cast iron pan with the sourdough into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Transfer the loaf onto a cooling rack to prevent soggy bottom. And let it cool for at least an hour before you cut into it. Your sourdough bread is ready to eat!
White Sourdough Bread
- 400 g strong white bread flour
- 5 g salt
- 220 ml water
- 160 g sourdough starter mature (see notes above)
DAY 1: in the morning
- Put flour, salt, active starter (see notes above) and water in a large bowl (if kneading by by hand) or a standing mixer bowl. Mix everything together.
- Knead the dough for 10-20 minutes until windowpane effect is achieved (you can stretch the dough so thinly that you can see through it without tearing it).
- Shape your dough into a ball and add to a clean bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature to proof until it doubles in size. This will take 4-6 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- Once doubled, turn the dough onto a clean surface and knock the dough back. Form the dough into a tight round ball. See the video above for the technique.
- Take a large bowl and line it with a clean tea towel. Flour it well and place the formed ball of dough into it. Cover the top with tea towel corners and place into a bag to avoid the dough drying out. Place it in the fridge overnight (up to 16 hours).
- When ready to bake pre-heat the oven to 230C. As the over is warming up, put a cast iron pan that you are going to cook your sourdough in as well as a shallow dish filled with water in the oven (this will create steam).
- Cut a small square of baking parchment and invert the ball of dough onto the parchment. Take the cast iron pan out of the oven. Holding the corners of the parchment paper, transfer the dough onto a hot cast iron pan. Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Work quickly to score the loaf, making sure you don't accidently touch the hot pan.
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until good crust has formed and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
- Transfer onto a cooling rack and cool for at least half and hour before you cut into it.