Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The trials and tribulations of Sourdough!

I have wanted to be able to make a decent bread for the longest time. One with big bubbles through out, soft in the centre and a crunchy chewy crust. Each time I've managed to make an okay bread, but generally something though soft in the centre, and with not a bad crust, it always had a pretty close texture. What I wanted was something you buy in your local artisan bakery!
I decided after several failed attempts, and putting my quest for the perfect bread off for another couple of months each time, that sourdough was the way to go. I do have a copy of The River Cottage Bread Book but, I was always put off by what seemed like a lengthy process to produce a sourdough starter. My initial starter, was an absolute non starter, so to speak and was enough to put me off for another while.
Just before Christmas a work friend of my husband lent me his Baker Brothers book which got me started again. This time instead of relying solely on the bacteria in the air, my sourdough starter got a splash of wheat beer. Now I know traditionalists would be unimpressed but what the hell it worked, and after a week of feeding on a regular basis it was ready to go. My first sourdough was o.k, it was not out of this world but acceptable. The second however, which was produced after Christmas, after the starter had spent several weeks in the fridge and was brought back to life with daily feeding again for a few days, is the beauty pictured above.
I must say it was a proud moment, after so many failed attempts, I was delighted and a bit relieved to have finally conquered sourdough. Yay and yum!!! 

Basic Sourdough:
375g strong white flour
250g sourdough starter (see link below)
7g salt
220ml tepid water
1 tbsp olive oil

Put the salt, flour, sourdough starter and 150ml of the water in a mixing bowl. Mix, using a dough hook, on a load speed adding the remaining water as the dough begins to come together. once the dough has come together add the olive oil and continue mixing for approximately 10 minutes. the dough is ready when it is soft, silky and stretchy. Place in a lightly greased bowl coating the top of the dough lightly with the oil also. Cover with cling film and leave to prove, in a warm place, until it has at least doubled or tripled, up to 5 hours. Place a clean linen (if possible but cotton will also work) tea towel in a bowl and coat generously with flour. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knock back by repeatedly turning in on itself. Shape into a round and place in the floured cloth, cover again with film and prove once again this time for 10-13 hours. If your dough has over proved it will be wrinkly. If this happens it will have to be knocked back and proved again for approx. 5-6 hours or until doubled in size. Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Turn the bread out of the basket onto a lined baking tray and slash the top using a sharp knife or blade. Place a roasting tray on the bottom shelf of the oven, when the bread is being put in pour a cup of boiling water in the tray (this will cause some steam which will in turn give the bread a crisp light crust). Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and sounds hollow when the base it tapped. Leave to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sourdough starter:

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