I’ve made many many loaves on our sourdough journey. Many. Many. Many. Some are absolutely awesome, some waaaay too chewy (especially for little mouths!) and some without enough oomph. This is a formula I just keep coming back to because I love the result so much. It’s not overly sour, has a gorgeous soft middle and chewy crust. This has to be my favourite bread to bake. Depending on the season, this can impact alot on your process. At the moment, it’s the middle of summer so I start in the morning and bake in the evening. This is what works for me. In the winter, you may find the second rise (which is the longer rise) may take a lot longer, so it may work for you to leave it overnight and bake in the morning. Another option can be to do the first “short rise”, shape into loaf, refrigerate overnight and continue with the second rise and bake the next day. This recipe does contain a small portion of white flour, this helps with the structure quite alot. I’ve made it with varying ratios of white to wholemeal flour, so feel free to experiment to your liking.
500g organic bakers flour (I typically use 100g white, 400g wholemeal)
150g sourdough starter (nice and thick enough to not pour and need to be scooped out)
250-280g filtered water (it can take some playing with depending on your starter hydration)
Combine all ingredients, mix well and knead (I use my stand mixer with dough hook) for about 5-10 minutes. Pop dough into a greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside for a couple of hours in a warm spot. You will notice a bit of growth in this time, this is the short rise.
After the first rise, gently shape your dough into desired loaf by kind of tucking it under itself so you get a nice smooth top on your loaf. Make sure you dust your hands and work surface well with flour so it doesn’t stick. You can shape and pop in a loaf pan too, although there’s something so nice about a crusty free-form loaf. Pop on a baking paper lined tray and set aside in a draught free spot to rise for about 5-8 hours. If you are doing a free-form loaf, popping a medium sized greased and floured bowl over the top will prevent it spreading too far. When it’s time to bake, just gently remove, slash and pop straight into the hot oven. There’s no “set” formula to a sourdough loaf, so before you bake, make sure it has had a decent amount of growth to it. It may take a few goes to know how long to leave it to see a “good rise” without it being overisen. On a really hot day, 5 hours is probably enough, but on cooler days you will need a fair while longer. I have two ovens, so often I will pop the loaf into one, pop a pan of boiling water on the lower shelf and leave it there out of the way (of sticky and inquisitive toddler hands) in a nice, warm, moist environment.
Preheat oven to 240 degrees. Slash the loaf with a serrated knife (allows for growth, rather than it cracking) and pop into the hot oven. As you are putting the bread in, pop a pan on the lower shelf with a cup of hot water in as well. The steam will help create a lovely crust and prevent the loaf drying out too quickly, which can prevent any further rising in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. In the last 10 minutes of baking I pop the loaf directly onto the oven rack to allow a nice underneath crust to develop.
Wait till the loaf has cooled. I repeat, wait till the loaf has cooled. And THEN slice. The cooking process will continue even after being removed from the oven, so it’s best to just wait, sit on your hands and slice a bit later.