Sourdough is a rustic style of bread made using a sourdough starter which is a flour and water batter left to ferment by natural yeasts that occur in the air, however you can use a little yeast to start the process off. The longer the starter is kept going the more the flavour will develop, some bakeries use starters that have been going for years giving their bread a unique depth of flavour. If creating a starter from scratch it can take 2-5 days until it is ready to use. You then use a portion of it to make the bread dough and feed the remaining starter with flour and water to keep it active. Then when you make your next loaf you take out a portion and feed the remainder again. It’s a much slower process for making bread but results in a lovely chewy texture and depth of flavour.
- For the starter:
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 250g strong white bread flour
- For the dough:
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 375g strong white bread flour
- 1½tsp salt
To make the starter, pour 300ml water into a large jar. Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 5 mins. Stir well then add the flour and mix to a paste. Cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 2 days, stirring it twice a day.
When ready to make the bread, sprinkle the yeast for the dough onto 175ml water. Leave for 5 mins to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour 250ml of the starter into the well with the yeast water.
Gradually mix the liquid with the flour using your hand to make a dough, adding a little extra water if too dry. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead by pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough back up towards you, give a quarter turn and repeat. Continue for 10 mins until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours until doubled in size. Knead it lightly again then shape either into a round or thick sausage shape. Place on baking sheet, cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise again for another hour.
5 Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Dust the dough with a little flour and cut a few slashes across it, if ilked, and bake for about 40 mins until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
6 Add 125ml water and 125g flour to the remaining starter in the jar and allow it to ferment again. If not using within a day or two you can keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
You can replace half the white flour in the dough with rye flour for a nuttier tasting loaf.