Sourdough Pt 2 – Bread

madnad

Apologies for the lateness in this post – I had intended to post this at the weekend, but life got in the way.


To make sourdough bread, you will first need a sourdough starter. You can buy them online easy enough, but don’t waste your money buying one from overseas, that purports to be 100s of years old – within a few months of feeding with your favourite brand of flour, the local strains of lactic bacteria will take over. Alternatively, follow the instructions here to start your own.

There is a lot of whimsy and romance around sourdough bread that just isn’t true. However, there are several proven benefits to sourdough bread, unlike bread made from cultured yeast. Sourdough bread is slightly better for you because the lengthier proofing times actually breaks down a lot of the proteins (gluten) making it more digestible for humans. Good if you have a sensitivity to wheat gluten, but not if you are celiac.

Like other fermentation processes, the bacteria present in the sourdough starter eats the starch and sugars present in the grain. This results in a lowering of the starch, or carbohydrate content of the bread, which is helpful for keeping blood sugar levels regulated. It also makes it easier for your body to extract more of the vitamin and mineral content of the grain.

The increase in lactic acid, what gives it that slight tang, also works as a natural preservative and prevents mould growth. Once baked, keep your bread cut side down in a paper bag which will maintain the crust and prevent contamination from dust or insects.

Finally, the bacteria present in the sourdough help to activate phytase, an enzyme that breaks down an anti-nutrient present in all grains, beans, and seeds called phytic acid. This may seem minor, but phytic acid is known to strip your body of minerals and can be hard on your digestion.

Your starter will live quite happily in the fridge for a week or two if you only want to bake at weekends. I would advise feeding at least once a week, even if you are not baking with it, to keep the yeast and bacteria population strong. It’s not unknown for sourdough enthusiasts to take their starter with them on holiday. If you want a longer break, you can actually dry out the starter, then, if kept in an airtight container, reactivate it weeks, months or even years later.

Alternatively, you can store it at room temp but you will have to bake with it and feed it every day.

Sourdough Bread

Ingredients

Feeding the starter

  • 100g Rye Flour
  • 100g Bottled Water

Dough

  • 100g Fed Starter*
  • 250g Bottled Water (room temperature)
  • 400g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 8g Salt

Directions

1. Saturday 8AM: Take your starter out of the fridge. Give it a good stir, then add 100g water and 100g rye flour. Don't discard any. Leave the jar on the counter top for approximately 6 hours
2. 2PM: Hopefully your starter should have doubled in size. Place 100g into a mixing bowl. Discard excess starter, leaving just enough in the jar, then feed and put back in the fridge for next week
3. Add 250g of water to the starter in the bowl, and stir to distribute it evenly. Then add your 400g bread flour. Mix with a wooden spoon, or your hands, until no dry ingredients are visible. Cover the bowl with a clean towel (or a disposable showercap) and leave undisturbed for 1 hour
4. 3PM: After 1 hour, sprinkle over the salt, then, with a wet hand, do the first stretch and fold. To do this, grasp the northern edge of the dough in the bowl, and lift until it can’t stretch any further, then lay it down over itself in a southerly direction. It’s a good idea to keep your hands wet to minimise the dough sticking to you. Turn the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat from all four ‘sides’
5. 3.45PM: So a second set of stretch and fold
6. 4.30PM: Do the third and final set of stretch and fold, then leave undisturbed for 15 minutes
7. 4.45PM - Shaping: Flour your worktop liberally and tip the dough onto the worktop. Flour or oil your hands to prevent them sticking. Doing a similar motion to the stretch and fold, keep pulling the underside of the dough up and over so you create tension on the underside. Turn over, so the floured side is up - this will be your 'top' or 'skin' side. Your dough should be in a ball, and using your hand, cup the dough and roll it gently to tighten and smooth the surface
8. Leave your dough for about 15 minutes undisturbed (called a 'bench rest') while you prepare your banneton. Liberally dust a 1kg banneton with rice flour (wheat flour won't prevent it sticking)
9. 5PM - Final shaping: Lay the dough skin side down, pull the top with two hands and stretch up, then pull the bottom so you have a rough rectangle. Roll from the top down into a thick sausage. Pinch and seal the bottom
10. Place the dough skin side down into your banneton, dust the top liberally with flour, then cover and place in the fridge overnight
11. Sunday AM: Place a pizza stone in a cold oven, and a roasting tray on the oven bottom, then turn on to preheat to 240°C / 475°F / Gas Mark 9
12. When the oven is at temperature, open the oven door and tip the dough out of the banneton onto the hot pizza stone. Quickly slash the top of the dough to allow it to expand in the oven. Pour some water in the hot roasting tin to create steam, and quickly shut the door. Bake for 20 minutes
13. Turn the temperature of your oven down to 220°C / 425°F / Gas Mark 7, and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until a digital food thermometer gives an internal reading of 88°C / 190°F
14. Allow to cool for 1 hour before cutting

Note

*Fed Starter means a starter that has been fed and allowed to double in size.

Stretch & Fold video

 

PS – An alternative method of baking the bread is in a clay pot. Follow the instructions as above, apart from do you final overnight proof in the fridge, then place in a cold oven before turning on to the same temperatures as above. This method means you don’t need the roasting pan of water, as the pot lid maintains all the steam

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