Remember when we all went sourdough mad in Lockdown 1.0? Well one member of the Ruskin family took this collective mania one step further, embarking on a new career as a professional baker. We chatted to artisan baker Will Moss about his best recipe and tips for crafting a dope sourdough loaf!
Now, depending on which part of the country you are in, it's the second or third lockdown and we have all run out of energy for improving ourselves. (New year, same me ... am I right?) But HEAR US OUT honing this new skill will not only fill at least one of your weekend days, but it will also fill your belly with delicious (and arguably healthy) bread ... and we think that makes this recipe more than worth trying out!
Why bother with a sourdough loaf?
Sourdough bread is made with a naturally fermented starter which contains many beneficial bacteria, missing in dried yeast, which are essential for gut health.
Sourdough can also be a good option for those who find that regular bread causes bloating or discomfort. During the long proving time needed for a sourdough loaf, more gluten is broken down as the natural yeast feeds itself. As most humans are sensitive to gluten in some way, the work the natural yeast does by breaking down the gluten strands can help you digest this type of bread without discomfort.
Note: Sourdough still contains gluten and is not suitable for coeliacs or those with a gluten sensitivity.
Firstly, you will need to make a starter, but never fear we've got a great tutorial here.
450g strong white bread flour
50g wholemeal flour
375g warm water (the best way to calculate the needed water temperature is 50 - Room Temperature = Water Temperature. For example, 50 - 22 degrees = 28 degree water)
100g sourdough starter (6-8 hours after last feed)
Learn to make a starter here
Making sourdough dough is roughly a day long process with the bake taking place on the next morning after resting in the fridge overnight.
Day 1 morning: Feed starter
Day 1 afternoon: Mix dough, 4x quick folds at 40 min intervals, prove for 1-2 hours and place in fridge overnight.
Note: Dough will now keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, however sourness will increase over time.
Day 2: Bake!
How to make a Sourdough loaf:
- Discard the majority of your starter and feed it with 100g warm water and 100g white bread flour about 6-8 hours before you want to start making your bread. It’s good to use when a bit bubbly, smelling yoghurt-like and has increased in volume by about 50%. You can use it longer after feeding, but you bread will taste more sour.
- The next step is to autolyse your dough. To do this, just mix together your flour and water until incorporated together and leave it to sit for half an hour. This allows the dough to gain a bit of strength early on without it fermenting, and makes working with it easier down the line.
Next, mix in your salt and 100g starter (save the rest to keep your starter going). Do this by repeatedly folding the dough over itself in your mixing bowl until both ingredients are visibly incorporated and the dough is smoother.
You can knead the dough if you wish to build a bit of strength, but it's not necessary as the dough develops by itself and with a series of stretches and folds.
Now you have added your starter, the dough will begin to ferment.
- After 40 mins or so, grab your dough from either side, stretch it upwards and fold it over on itself a couple of times. This gets more air into the dough and helps build its strength.
Do this 3 more times, once every 40 mins. By the last fold the dough should be noticeably puffier and lighter to handle.
- Now time for pre-shaping. Turn your dough out onto your work surface and with a dough scraper, push the dough away from you and then curve it back round towards you, using your other hand to guide it. Repeat this until the dough has tightened in to a smooth, round ball.
- Leave this to rest for 30 mins or so. This is known as a bench rest.
After the bench rest, repeat this shaping motion, let the dough sit for 30 seconds or so so that the seams underneath the dough can seal.
- Then pick up the dough with your scraper and dip it into flour, before placing it into a floured proving basket/banneton, seam side facing up. If you don’t have one of these, you can line a mixing bowl with a well-floured tea towel.
- Leave to prove at room temperature for another 1-2 hours. It will prove faster if the room is warm, slower if its cooler.
- To test if the dough is proved, gently poke it and see how it reacts. If the indent springs right back, it needs longer. If it doesn’t spring back at all, it may be over proved. You want it to spring back, but not completely, so that it leaves a small indent. The dough will also have noticeably grown in size.
- Once proved, you can bake right away if you wish. For best results, though, pop the dough in the fridge over night covered with cling film or a damp tea bowl (to stop it drying out).
- Now for the bake! Preheat your oven to it’s max temperature or 250C. The initial blast of heat really helps give you the ‘oven spring’ you want in your bread.
There are 2 main ways to bake your bread:
Option 1. The best way to bake bread in a domestic oven is in a cast iron/pyrex pot with a lid. This mimics professional ovens in the way it traps the steam from the evaporating water in the bread. This means you get a great rich coloured and chewy crust.
Turn your dough out onto baking parchment. You will need to score it with a razor or bread knife. This helps the bread open up and expand as it bakes. A simple cross is a great option for a round bread. Score about 1cm depth.
Place in the pot, put the lid on and bake for 25 mins at 250C. Then reduce the temperature to 225 and take off the lid, releasing the steam. This part is always exciting as you get to see how well your bread has risen!
Bake for a further 10-15 mins at 225 until you reach the colour you like.
Option 2. If you don’t have a cast iron pot, fret not! To recreate the steam, place a tray of boiling water at the bottom of your oven. Turn out your dough onto baking parchment on a baking tray, and bake for 35-40 mins, reducing the temperature to 225C when you put the bread in the oven.
- If you are unsure if your bread is baked enough, tap the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, it’s cooked through. The less time you bake, the paler and softer the crust will be, whereas the longer you bake, the darker and crunchier the crust will be.
- Once baked, cool on a cooling rack for an hour or more, if you can wait that long!