Makes a 1kg (2lb) loaf
Preparation: 6 minutes (spread over three days)
Cooking: 50 minutes
200g starter (leaven)
325g water at room temperature
500g strong white flour (bread flour)
10g sea salt
3 tbsp flour, for banneton (proving basket)
Semolina flour, polenta or baking parchment
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1. The night before you want to bake, prepare your starter and pour some water into a jug to give it time to come to room temperature.
2. Add 200g starter, 310g of the water and 500g of flour to a bowl. Using your hand like a large fork, mix the ingredients for about 30 seconds until no flour remains. Cover and leave to rest for 60 minutes.
3. Add 10g (1 ½ tsp) of salt and the remaining 15g (1 tbsp) of water to the dough and then mix by hand for 30 seconds. Cover and leave to rest for an hour.
4. Transfer the dough to a fridge and leave to rest for 12-24 hours.
5. Take the dough from the fridge and give it a couple of folds. To do this, grab the underside of the dough furthest away from you with both hands and gently stretch it up and fold it over the rest of the dough. Rotate the bowl through 180 degrees and repeat. Cover the dough again and leave for 30 minutes.
6. Repeat step 5, cover again and leave for 30 minutes.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Using your hand and a dough scraper, form the dough into a hemispherical shape.
8. Move the dough from side to side a few times to build up tension on the surface. Leave uncovered for ten minutes.
9. Meanwhile dust a 1kg proving basket with the smooth side down. Cover and leave to rest for 12-24 hours in a fridge.
11. Remove the banneton from the fridge and gently tease the dough away from the side of the banneton to ensure it won't stick when you want to tip the dough out for baking later on. Leave to rise for about three hours, until the dough springs back slowly when poked with a finger.
12. Heat a La Cloche, a Dutch oven or a baking stone to 220C (425F, gas 7, fan 220C).
13 a) If using a La Cloche or Dutch oven, lightly sprinkle the base with semoline flour (or polenta), turn the dough out on to the base and, using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough as you like, replace the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake uncovered for a further 20 minutes until nicely browned.
13 b) If using a baking stone, spray the top of the oven with water and turn the dough onto a tray lined with baking parchment and bake for about 40 minutes until nicely browned.
14. Cool on a wire rack.
– The key to success is to use a nice bubbly starter (leaven). For a recipe, click here.
– You may have read that if you drop a spoonful of sourdough starter into water it should float. While sourdough starter that floats is definitely ready to use, don't panic if your starter does not float. As long as it is nice and bubbly it will be fine.
– For a guide to recommended sourdough baking equipment click here. In particular, I recommend using a baking dome (La Cloche) as it is like having a miniature brickoven in your kitchen.
– Experiment with different flours until you find one you like. They alter the flavour, colour, crumb and crust.
– Try tweaking the flour to water ratio to change the texture. More water gives you a more open structure to the bread, but the dough is more likely to get stuck in the banneton (proving basket).
– Before handling dough in a mixing bowl, run your hands under some cold water to prevent your hands sticking to the dough too much.
Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.