Sourdough Bread (updated)

Sourdough Bread (updated)

Please note - there are as many different ways to make sourdough bread as there are bakers! This is the way I do it, but it's not the only way!! There are loads more ideas and techniques online if you don't like this one!

This is slightly more technical than the 'Easy Sourdough' method I've posted preciously......but if you've got the time, then it's totally worth the effort! You'll need:

- some sourdough starter (To learn more about Sourdough Starter Maintenance click here!)

- bread flour, fine salt and water 

- a banneton/ proving basket (not essential)

- baking paper/parchment 

- a large lidded casserole dish to bake it in (not essential)

24 hour Sourdough Loaf Recipe

You can make this bread in one day and have fresh bread for the evening, or you can leave the dough overnight in the fridge to slowly prove. This is called ‘retarding’ and sourdough connoisseurs think it’s essential for the full sourdough flavour and to break down the proteins in the flour to ease digestion.

The night/day before you want to start your dough:

Create your ‘Levain’:

Measure 25g of your Starter into a big mixing bowl and add 50g bread flour and 50g cold water. Mix together well with a fork or your hands, and cover with a tea towel.

Leave for between 6-12 hours to become ‘active’.

(Note: if you are using and feeding your starter regularly – ie 3 times a week or more, and storing it out of the fridge – then you can skip this step as it will already be active enough – just use 125g active starter)

8-24 hours before you want to eat fresh Sourdough bread

Make your Dough:

Add to the mixing bowl which contains your 125g ‘Levain’:

  • 350ml warm water
  • 500 grams strong bread flour (you can use any type – wholemeal, granary, white, rye or a mixture).

In the bowl, mix everything together with your hands (I suggest just using one hand) to make a sticky dough.

Leave it for half an hour. This is called the ‘Autolyse’ stage – where the flour absorbs as much water as possible.

Then after half an hour add:

  • 10 grams fine salt
  • 50 grams mixed seeds (optional)

And with wet hands, squeeze the dough with your fingers, breaking up the gluten strands, and fully incorporating the salt (and seeds if using).

Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 3-6 hours.Over the course of this time you need to perform 3 sets of ‘fold & turns’ or ‘slap & folds’, leaving the dough to rest, covered with a teatowel in between. The resting is as important as the working of the dough. If you have to go out and leave your dough unattended for a few hours during this stage that’s fine! (There are lots of YouTube videos about sourdough folding/kneading or see my technique here)

4-19 hours before you want to eat your fresh sourdough:

Shape your Loaf:

Prepare your banneton if using by liberally dusting with flour (or wash out your mixing bowl and rub it with oil and dust it with flour - gluten free flour is ideal as it’s less sticky - so that the loaf can prove in the bowl).

Flip out the dough out onto a flour dusted table, using a dough scraper if you need to, and stretch it out from underneath – forming a large sheet of dough which you will then fold in to shape your loaf. There are lots of different techniques but the aim is to form a tight ball of folded dough with air trapped between the layers inside it.

Gently place the ball of dough (seam side up) into the banneton or oiled/floured mixing bowl.

Proving your Loaf:

Either leave the loaf uncovered at room temperature for 3-6 hours, uncovered to prove.

Or you can pop it in the fridge overnight (this is called retarding) – it can chill in the fridge, proving slowly for 10-18 hours until you’re ready to bake it straight from the fridge.

Baking your Loaf

My favourite method is the ‘dutch oven’ method where you preheat a lidded casserole dish in the oven at it’s highest setting (approx. 270 degrees c).

Gently flip the dough out of the banneton or mixing bowl onto a sheet of parchment paper (so the seam side is now the base of the loaf).

Make a deep slash with a sharp knife in the top of the loaf (to let steam escape in a controlled way as it cooks!)

Carefully lift the dough, on it’s paper, into the hot casserole pot, put the lid on, and bake for 20 minutes at the highest setting on the oven. Then take the lid off, turn the oven down to 220 degrees C and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the crust is darkened to your liking.

If you don’t have a casserole dish/cast iron pot, just flip out your dough onto a preheated flat baking tray lined with parchment, slash the top and cook at the highest setting for 20 minutes, and then at 220 degreec C for a further 10-15. Your loaf will spread out more, but will still be delicious!

Another option is to let the dough prove in a regular sized rectangular loaf tin (lined with baking parchment), and then leave it in that to cook (this is the easiest method but you don’t get the classic ‘sourdough’ shaped loaf.

If you dont have a casserole dish, but want to get the crust really crunchy and caramelised, tip a kettleful of boiling water into a tray in the bottom of the oven to create steam as it cooks.

Cooling & Storing your Loaf

Ideally you should let the loaf cool on a cooling rack for an hour before you cut it, as hot dough squishes together when you cut it and you’ll lose the aeration.

Once it is cool, store it in a plastic food bag to keep it sliceable for several days.