White Sourdough Loaf

7 October 2022
7

Alison Huw is one of Wales’ leading food stylists.

Her entire thirty-five-year career has centred around food. Alison has worked in the private and public sectors, in industry, education and public health. She is also an experienced broadcaster, and enjoys sharing her passion for food and cooking, contributing regularly on both TV and Radio. As well as food styling for Stellar, through her consultancy business Alison has worked with some of the UK’s leading chefs and restaurants. Outside work she cooks for her family and loves food travel.



White Sourdough Loaf

Sourdough bread with its distinctive sour taste and thick crisp crust has become the modern day favourite loaf. It’s also one of the simplest and oldest forms of leavened bread in the world. It needs long fermentation to develop its distinctive flavour and is made from natural yeast or levain.* Although the bread begins with a few basic ingredients, the process can be lengthy but once you master the technique (this may take a few attempts!) you will be able to experiment and adjust the basic recipe with different flours and flavours as you grow in confidence. Everyone has their own way of baking sourdough. Experiment with different techniques and recipes until you find one that suits you.

The recipe below is for a simple white sourdough loaf that requires a mature starter to make a small loaf (see tip for making a starter).

Equipment: a 500g wicker banneton (or colander lined with a clean tea towel), a large cast iron casserole or lidded casserole, oven gloves and a lame (or sharp knife for scouring) and a serrated bread knife


Makes: 1 loaf

Preparation Time: 24 hours

Cooking Time: 50 minutes


Ingredients:

For the levain

  • 50g mature sourdough starter (see recipe below)

  • 70g strong white bread flour

  • 30g wholemeal flour

  • 100g warm water

For the bread

  • 380g strong white flour
  • 180g ‘levain’ starter
  • 240g warm water
  • 12g salt

Method:

  1. Place the starter in a tall jar or glass jug and ‘feed’ it by adding the flour and water. Stir well and cover loosely with cling film. Place a rubber band around the jar to mark the level and leave to ferment in a warm place for about 4-6 hours.
  2. When the levain is bubbly and doubled in size it’s ready to use. It should have a pleasant beer-like aroma. A simple way to test if it’s ready is to drop a teaspoon into a glass of warm water. It will float when ready to use.
  3. To make the bread, place the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the water. Mix to combine, cover and leave for about an hour to autolyse.**
  4. Add 180g of levain to the bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, mix at a low speed for a few minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for another few minutes. Alternatively, mix the dough in a large bowl using a rubber spatula until the dough becomes elastic.
  5. Add the salt and mix for a few more minutes to combine.
  6. Turn the dough out of the bowl into a lightly oiled large plastic container with a lid and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
  7. Fold the dough from corner to corner, cover and leave to rest for 45 minutes.
  8. Repeat this process 3-4 times.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands shape the dough into a round and lightly flour the top.
  10. Prepare your banneton by dusting heavily with flour. Re shape the loaf and place in the banneton. Pinch the edges of the dough into the centre and dust with flour
  11. Loosely cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours then place in a fridge uncovered overnight.
  12. The following morning cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the casserole and heat the oven to its highest setting (250°C). Place the empty casserole in the oven to preheat for about an hour.
  13. Flip the dough out of the banneton onto a piece of parchment, quickly score the loaf and place carefully in the casserole.
  14. Spray the loaf quickly with water, replace the lid using oven gloves and place the casserole in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  15. Remove the casserole from the oven, take off the lid and return to the oven to bake for a further 30 minutes until the loaf is a deep golden colour.
  16. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely and slice using a serrated bread knife. Resist the temptation to slice the loaf for at least 3 hours!

Tips:

  • Spraying the uncooked loaf before you replace the lid on the casserole promotes steam production. Alternatively dot a few ice cubes around the loaf before baking.
  • Use the sourdough starter to make focaccia and bake in a large hard anodised baking tray.
  • For an ordinary loaf place the shaped boule on a baking tray.

To make a starter:

Preparation Time: 5 Days

Ingredients:

  • 250g strong white organic bread flour
  • Warm water

Method:

  1. Day 1 – To make the starter place 50g flour into a large glass jar. Add 50g of warm water, mix well, cover loosely and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2. Day 2 – Feed the mixture with another 50g of flour mixed with 50g of tepid water. Leave loosely covered for a further 23 hours.
  3. Day 3 - Repeat the above process with a further 50g of flour and 50g of warm water.
  4. Day 4 - Repeat the process. By now you should be able to see a few bubbles forming at the surface of the mixture.
  5. Day 5 – The mixture should be bubbling and have a pleasant yeasty acidic aroma. You now have an active starter. If not continue the above process for another day until the mixture is active and bubbly.
  6. You can now use this active starter to make bread. If you don’t intend making bread immediately you will need to look after your starter by keeping it dormant in the fridge. Remember that the starter is alive and will therefore require feeding and hydrating to keep it strong.
  7. Approximately 24 hours before you want to use the starter take it out of the fridge. Tip away approximately half of the starter and feed it with 100g of flour and 100g of warm water. Leave it at room temperature to awaken and become active again.
  8. If the starter has been dormant for a long time it may need refreshing a few times to become active again. Refreshing means pouring half the starter away and replacing with equal quantities of flour and water.

*Levain or levain starter is a raising or leavening agent made from a mixture of flour and   water which is then used to bake bread. The flour and water uses wild yeasts from the air to allow fermentation to take place.

**Autolysis or autolyse basically means mixing flour and water to combine to a shaggy dough and left to rest. This hydrates the flour and encourages enzymes to begin gluten development.