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How to Make Sourdough Bread

I have to admit the first loaf of sourdough I ever made was a great success and I was very smug and took all the credit for the absolute success. I had been given a starter and scurried home to make my bread. This is easy I thought and wowed my friends with photos of my triumph online.

I didn’t save any starter or make any more bread for about a year. I then decided it was time to make some more sourdough . But of course I had to make my own starter. This takes a good nine to ten days and it is a commitment as it needs feeding daily.

At around day ten I made a loaf and it was a flop, but I wasn’t deterred. I continued feeding the starter and trying to bake. But each time it flopped. Why was the first loaf I made such a great success!?? I was making the same recipe. So I gave up.

Some time passed and as my interest in fermentation grew I just knew I would have to try again, so I went through the whole process of making my starter patiently feeding it and then made my first loaf.

To my dismay it flopped again. A lot of head scratching and frustration and reading. So this is clearly to do with my starter. But I’m doing everything they say,….except one thing! It’s winter, and I was concerned the house would be too cold so I had been keeping my starter in the airing cupboard.

Hummmm it was certainly fermenting there. But I think it was over-fermenting. So I got rid of half the starter I had, fed it and left it out on the counter top ( even though it’s been extremely cold) and yes it still fermented. So maybe I was just rushing things.

This time my starter looked and smelt different. It was much thicker. I had read that if you were not sure if it was ready, do the floating test. So I got a bowl of water, took a spoonful of my starter and it floated! So what I have learnt, well making sourdough bread takes time and planning and you can’t rush it or force it along.

Now I had a starter that floated. I was ready to make my loaf and after so many flops I was a little anxious that it would happen again. But I’m not letting sourdough beat me, I made a stunning loaf the first time ( although I no longer take credit as it was clearly the starter that made the loaf a success) and I will master this!

So with my beautiful starter ready I took

500g of bread flour

10g sea salt

250g tepid water

25g olive oil

50g of starter.

Putting the warm water in a large bowl I then added my starter, oil and stirred it in.

Weigh flour and add the salt and then mix it into the water. Mix until there is no dry flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Leave for about an hour and then uncover and do the first stretch. Wet your hand and lift one side of the dough up and stretch it across the top of the dough and place it down.

Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat, doing this until you have been all the way around. Repeat this again going all the way round and then cover and leave for another hour, uncover repeat stretches, cover, wait an hour and then repeat again.

Now leave for about 7 hours. Tip the dough onto a floured surface, turn it up so it folds are at the top and then stretch and fold again almost like you are wrapping a parcel, then turn over on a non-floured surface and cup your hands tucking them under the back of the dough and draw it towards you. This tightens the dough. Turn it and repeat, turn, repeat, draw the dough towards you and you will feel it getting tighter each time.

This is the final shaping. If using a bread basket for the final rise, flour the basket, if you are using a bowl, line it with a tea towel and flour it to stop the dough sticking.

Put the dough in the basket smooth top side worn, seam fold side up, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The following morning remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for an hour or two.

Heat the oven to 200 and put the Dutch oven in to heat with lid on. ( you can use a casserole dish.

When the oven is up to temperature remove the Dutch oven. Tip the dough onto greaseproof paper and score with a sharp knife. Lift into the Dutch oven and place the lid on and place in the oven for 20 mins.

After 20 minutes remove the lid and cook for a further 40 mins. Remove the bread from the oven and tip out. Tap the bottom of the bread and if it sounds hollow it’s cooked.

This is the most difficult part, let it cool before you cut it! If you cut it to soon it squashes down .

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Meet Sue & Katie

Two women. Two generations. Both mothers and lovers of the county where they live. Blogging about Dorset here at Dorset Country Life. Find out more...

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