Sourdough Bread – A Beginner’s Guide

 My Sourdough Journey

My first attempts at re-invigorating a dried starter failed abysmally and it was clear that it was well and truly dead.

A couple of days into the process, I had added some fermenting blackberries and although there were a couple of promising bubbles, they soon popped and there was no further activity. I decided to try again, this time using fermenting grape juice.

We had picked the grapes to make wine towards the end of September and the must was about 10 days old when I used it. I followed Elly’s everyday low-waste method for making the starter and substituted the grape juice for the unsweetened pineapple juice that she used. This was the process I followed: 

Day 1 morning: In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup juice and 1/2 cup strong white flour. Cover with a plate. If the temperature drops below 20ºC, wrap the bowl in a towel.

Day 1 evening: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 2 morning: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 2 evening: Stir mixture thoroughly with a spatula. Cover.

Day 3 morning: Start the feeding process: In a new bowl, mix
together 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons water and 3 tablespoons
of the starter. Stir well and then cover with a plate.

Day 3 evening: Repeat feeding process.

Continue feeding starter twice a day until Day 14

By this time, the starter should be quite bubbly and doubling in size by feeding time. It should be ready to use by Day 12 – Day 14.

On Day 14, I attempted my first loaf of bread using Teresa Greenway‘s Sourdough Test loaf method.

As I was still feeding my starter, it wasn’t necessary to take it out of the fridge and reanimate it from hibernation.

DAY 1:
Take the starter out of the fridge at around 19:00 two days before you will be baking bread. Transfer the starter to a bowl and feed with equal amounts of white flour and water. Transfer 50g to a small jar and put this back in the fridge. Leave the rest of the starter on the counter until the next day.

DAY 2:
Start making the bread at around 12:00

The ingredients for the bread are as follows:

  • 100g sourdough starter
  • 330g warm water (80ºF)
  • 20g boiling water mixed with 10g salt
  • 500g bread flour

For the flour, I like to mix 350g white flour and 150g brown flour.

Put the water into a large bowl and add the starter, stirring with a whisk to break up the starter and mix thoroughly.

Cover with a plate, wrap in a towel and leave for 30 minutes.

Add the water and salt and mix thoroughly with your hands.

Leave for 60 minutes

You are now going to do 4 stretch and folds every hour, covering the bowl with the plate and towel after each one.

The stretch and fold process: by stretching and folding the dough, you are working and stretching the gluten strands in the dough. You stretch and fold each of the sides, then turn the dough over and repeat on the other side.

You are then going to do 4 coil folds every half hour, again covering the bowl with the plate and towel after each one.

Leave for 30 minutes.

Pre-shape the dough into a ball on the counter, pulling it from the bottom towards you to increase the tension on the surface.

Let the dough relax for 15-20 minutes.

Use the same technique to shape the ball of dough.

Put the ball into the breadmaker tin. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight.

Follow the following instructions for using a banneton:

Lay a tea towel over the top of a colander or banneton and dust the surface with cornflour.

Turn the ball upside down and drop it into the colander. Dust the top with cornflour and then cover with a plastic bag. Place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, get the dough out of the fridge and leave for 1.5 – 2 hours to come back up to room temperature.

Turn over and dust off any excess flour.

 

Score the top with a sharp blade. The idea of scoring is let any gases escape and ideally the cut should be about 1/2 deep.

If you want a soft-crust loaf, spray the top with water.

Bake.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so and then turn out onto a baking rack.