I must admit that making bread was not on my to-do list when we first went into lockdown. I did make conventional bread for a decade but, when living in Sydney we discovered an excellent sourdough bakery of the San Francisco school. Their bread was so much better than anything I could make that it wasn’t worth competing. Besides, I was sick of the kneading – or to be more precise, cleaning up afterwards – and our kitchen can be cold.
Here in the UK we bought our sourdough from Gails when commuting to Oxford. Then when commuting stopped, we found that we didn’t like any of the sourdough we could get near home. Although I had my doubts about whether I could make anything better, I was persuaded to try … and to persist … and now we’re happy again. To my surprise, not only have I achieved the desired taste and texture, but there is very little mess, very little effort, and it isn’t fussy about room temperature.
My early loaves were OK, but they turned into proper artisan sourdough after I read a blog post from a professional sourdough baker. For me, the key to getting the right texture was the hydration of the dough mix and using the lift-and-fold technique. I’m still trying out different flours, but I’m happy for things to evolve now that I have the basics right.
How many of us are still going to be making sourdough after ‘normal’ life returns? I know I will, because I’ve worked out how to do it without making much effort. They say that sourdough just needs to be allowed to get on with it. That certainly works for me.
So, in case this helps you too, my rhythm is this:
A simple sourdough method (assuming you already have a healthy starter)
- Day 1 at dinner time – Feed starter with half the weight you are going to use and leave it at room temperature.
- Day 2 breakfast time – Feed starter again in the same way. Now you’ve increased the starter by the amount you’re going to use. Doing it this way means I don’t have to discard any.
- Day 2 afternoon – Mix up the flour and water. Leave for about 30 mins, then fold in the starter. About 45 mins later, add salt then do a cycle of lift-and-folds in the bowl. For the rest of the afternoon, at about 45 minute intervals* do a cycle of lift-and-folds, keeping at room temperature in between (about 5 hours total). After the last cycle, put it into a lidded casserole lined with paper and into the fridge to prove overnight. Don’t expect it to double in size at any point. Mine just relaxes between cycles and only expands that when it is baked.
- Day 3 when you get up. Take out casserole from the fridge, turn on the oven to 230C, put casserole into the oven only when up to temperature. Bake covered for 25 minutes then uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Mine’s out of the oven before I leave for work and cooling all day makes it easier to cut.
- Day 2 afternoon timings can be very flexible, but you do have to be generally available. Obviously this is fine if you work from home, or if Day 2 falls on a weekend.
Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.
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