June

How to: Make sourdough

The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH

Today, we bake bread. A good, honest sourdough loaf using a wild yeasted sourdough starter. If you didn’t catch the tutorial on making and maintaining your own sourdough starter you’ll find it here. Piero Pignatti Morano from Two Chaps, who has been talking us through the process, is back again with his well-tested recipe for a simple sourdough loaf.

What’s to love about getting in the rhythm of baking your own bread? For Piero it’s the hands-on element and the entire process itself. “It’s kind of really basic but also complex at the same time in the sense that it’s just flour and water and sourdough starter, this wild ferment that you use, so you’re producing something very versatile and staple out of something very little.”

“The hardest thing with baking bread is to develop a good baking schedule, in terms of having your starter ready at the optimum time. The bread itself is just a matter of spending the time learning how, particularly with things like shaping. And then beginning to understand how things like temperature, humidity and time will affect the bread.

“The main satisfaction with baking bread is actually when you put in this soft formed shape of dough and it comes out of the oven 30 or 40 minutes afterwards as this – what you’re hoping for every day – glorious epic loaf of bread.”

You’ll need:
1kg of organic flour (try 900g white and 100g whole wheat or spelt)
600ml of filtered water
250g of sourdough starter (leaven)
10g salt

Makes two loaves.

Mixing

Start by mixing the flour, water and starter together. Leave the salt aside for now. It doesn’t have to be overly mixed in a mixer, it can be done by hand. Just so it comes together. Then let it rest.

This period is what is referred to as the ‘autolyse’ where you’re going to let the gluten begin to form without the inclusion of any salt yet. The gluten is starting to form and when the salt is added it will strengthen those bonds by stopping their development.

After the bread has rested for 30-40 minutes add the salt and mix in well. You may need to wet your hands a little so you can mix it through the dough evenly.

Folding

Now you’re going to do what’s called a series of ‘book folds’ to strengthen and stretch the strands of gluten.

Start with your round of dough, place it onto the table and make it into a reasonable square. Grab the top two corners (the furthest part away from you), and pull them up and towards you to about halfway on the square.

Do the same with the bottom two corners to meet them in the middle. Then you’re going to pull the sides and do the same thing, that’s your book fold.

Put it back in its bowl, cover it with a cloth or tea towel.

The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH

Fermentation

Now it’s left to rest for the bulk fermentation period. At this point it’s about observing the dough and how much activity is there thanks to your sourdough starter.

Over this period, if everything’s at a fairly ambient temperature of 20-24 degrees, you will fold your bread every hour for 2-4 hours, depending on the level of activity. Usually you start to see bubbles, and start to see the dough rising in a very traditional sense, then you know its active

If there’s not a whole lot of activity, or if the weather is cooler, you will allow it to ferment and continue to fold it for a longer period, if very active you’ll do it for a shorter period. And you don’t want it to go too far because the yeast will start breaking down.

The first time you fold the bread you’ll notice your hands are almost tearing the dough. The second time less so the third time not at all. Toward the last folds the dough should be able to be stretched and should be more pliable and tensile.

After these series of folds when your bread is pliable and active, instead of putting it back in the bowl let it rest on the bench. Allow it to spread out a little, which it will. Leave it for 10-20 minutes for it to relax and let the tension of the fold release.

Shaping

Now you’re going to split that in two. Haphazardly roll each half into a ball. You can either leave them in a ball or shape each into a loaf to either bake on a tray or in a loaf pan.

To shape into a loaf grab the edges of the dough from the top and bottom parts of the circle, one section at a time to draw into the middle, leaving the sides so that your ball is becoming longer. Then fold the dough in half toward you, bringing the top half over the bottom half.

This should roughly form a loaf shape with a seam down the top from one side to the other. Pinch the seam together with your fingers to seal it together.

(Note: there are a million ways to shape a loaf. The best thing to do if you feel you can’t get the knack of it, is to watch as many people doing it as possible, either in person or on youtube.)

Proving

Place the loaf into a container to rest again. We use bannetons in the café (the wicker baskets shown) for this resting stage. But you can do the same thing in a floured loaf tin or floured tea towel folded to help keep the shape.

Leave it with the seam facing up. When you cook it, you will want the seam facing down to leave a nice skin on top and avoid any potential splitting or cracking. Leaving it with the seam up for the resting stage makes it easy to tip onto a tray afterward so that the seam ends up facing down.

If you’d like to bake your loaf today, leave it to rest and ferment again for 40-60 minutes. If you’d like to bake it tomorrow you can leave it to rest in the fridge until ready to use. This recipe for two loaves gives you the option of both, one for today and tomorrow! After this time, for either option, it should have grown a little and look as though some tension has been released.

If you’re unsure and feel you need to test it, poke it lightly with your finger (it’s not ideal as will push some of the air out). It shouldn’t spring back instantly but should slowly come back and recover that indentation. At this point it’s ready.

The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH

Baking – in a pot

Sourdough cooks best with a little steam. Professional ovens have this capability built in, but ovens at home generally don’t. The best way to bake bread at home in a conventional oven is in a cast iron or ceramic pot with a lid on it.

If you’d like to try this option, heat up the pot in the oven a little beforehand. Turn your oven up as high as it can go.

Gently turn your loaf into the pot, seam side down, on baking paper or a floured surface. With a sharp knife, cut a slash into the top of the loaf, about 5-6mm deep. You can get creative design-wise. Put the lid back on, put it in the oven.

Cook for 20-25 minutes with the lid on. Then when you open the oven and pull the lid off a lot of steam will come out so be careful. Take the lid off and see if it looks it has risen enough.

If it looks like it still has a little growing to do, put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes. You’ll have released most of the steam but there should still be some moisture released from the bread.

When it looks good, take the lid off and let it start to brown up and form a crust. Put it back in the oven and observe through the glass for another 10-15 minutes as it browns up, depending on how dark you want your bread.

Baking – other options

Alternatively, if you’re cooking on a pizza stone or tray, allow to rest as you did for the last step. When baking, follow the same times and instructions, and you can try opening the oven once or twice while cooking to mist some water into the oven with a spray bottle. If you’re cooking with a stone you might want to put it in cold, rather than preheat it, so it’s not piping hot to begin with and burn the bottom. It’s trial and error.

If cooking in a loaf pan you can allow the shaped loaf to rest in the loaf pan for the final fermentation stage. To do so, ensure it’s resting seam side down. Follow the same times and instructions as above.

The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH The Slowpoke: HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH

Instructions: Piero Pignatti Morano

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