The a key part of the flavour and texture of sourdough results from the fermentation of dough which uses naturally occurring microorganisms called wild yeast (different to the baker's yeast you might find in shops) and lactobacilli (which produces the acid that gives the slightly sour flavour) - these are allowed to develop in the starter which is made about a week in advance of the loaf being baked.
The starter is essentially the leaven (or raising agent) for the sourdough loaf.
Once you have made a starter and used it for your loaf, don't chuck away the remaining contents - simply put it in the fridge and feed it every week or so to build it back up again, then, when you want to, bring the starter back up to room temperature and use it to make another loaf!
For the Starter
- 165g Strong white bread flour (plus extra for feeding)
- 165ml Water (plus extra for feeding)
For the Loaf
- 250g Sourdough starter
- 360g Strong white bread flour
- 8g Fine salt
- 150 - 180ml Lukewarm water
- A splash of Olive oil (for kneading)
You will also need: A Round Banneton
- Begin preparing your sourdough starter a week in advance of baking the loaf. Simply place the flour and water in a container and mix together to form a smooth paste. Cover with cling wrap and leave at room temperature.
- The next day stir in 1tbsp strong white bread flour and 1 tbsp water, recover and leave. Repeat this every day for at least 5 consecutive days. After a couple of days the starter may start to smell and bubble a bit (this is a good thing).
- When ready to begin the loaf, bring together the starter, flour and salt in a mixing bowl and gradually add in the water until you have a soft, smooth dough (you may not need all of the water).
- Knead the dough on a lightly oiled surface for 10 - 12 minutes before placing in a lightly oiled bowl, covering and leaving to rise for around 4 - 5 hours.
- Knock out all the air from the dough before placing it in a banneton and covering again. Leave the dough to rise overnight (or for at least 8 hours of so).
- Preheat your oven to 200C (fan)/ 220C and place a dish of water at the bottom of the oven.
- Turn the dough out onto a baking sheet, score using a bread knife and bake in the oven for 30 minutes before lowering the temperature to 180C (fan)/ 200C and baking for a further 15 minutes.
- When out of the oven, allow to cool slightly before serving fresh. The loaf is best eaten on the day it is made but it is also great as toast the next day.