When baking sourdough bread, it's important to know the hydration (ratio of water to flour) of your final dough. It should be around 70 - 75%. That's a pretty wet dough, but this will guarantee a good rise and plenty of bubbles in the bread.
Hydration = Water [volume in ml]/ Flour [weight in grams] * 100
Mix 75g wholemeal wheat flour with 90ml of water. Let sit for 24 hours, add another 50g of flour and 60ml of water. Do this for a week. If it gets too much, just remove the excess. You want to end up with 300g of starter or so. This starter will have a 120% hydration (60/50*100).
You can keep your starter in the fridge when you aren't using it.
12 hours prior to baking, feed your starter again, with lukewarm water + flour. Don't remove more than 3/4 of the starter for baking. When done, put back into the fridge, or feed again straight away if you want to bake the next day.
|Loaf weight||Starter||white flour||water||salt|
Using your 120% hydration starter, the above quantities give you a 71% hydration dough.
Mix your starter with the strong white flour and the salt and knead for 5 minutes until you have a stretchy, fairly wet dough. You can do that on a low setting in a mixer.
Pat down the dough, fold over, shape and put into your proving basket. Make sure that your proving basket is well floured, and that you also flour the outside of your loaf. Otherwise, it will stick to the proving basket and you won't be able to get it out without making a dog's breakfast out of it.
Let prove for another 3 to 12 hours in the proving basket. Proving time depends on the temperature, so this can vary wildly. As long as you don't overprove, you're fine. You want to see a volume increase of at least 100% before baking.
After the second proving, you should have a dough which is quite springy, e.g. when you slightly press it with a finger, the dough springs back almost all the distance it was pressed down. If the dough collapses where you press it down, you have over-proved it. You can still bake it, but it will be slightly gummy and sticky.
Preheat your oven to 230 degrees, and put a baking tray at the bottom of the oven. Best use a baking stone that you preheat with the oven. When the oven is hot, take out the baking stone, and turn out the dough from the proving basket onto the baking stone. Make some deep cuts with a very sharp knife into the top of the bread (lateral, longitudinal, at an angle, however you like it…) so that it can rise easily, pour 150ml of water into your hot baking tray, and put the baking stone with the dough on it back into the oven.
If you don't have a baking stone, no problem, just use a normal baking tray and a bit of baking paper on top of it to keep the bread from sticking.
Bake for 30 minutes (don't take it out too early - sourdough bread has a fairly dark colour when baked), and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to cool down on a rack before cutting into it. You might want to turn it 180 degrees half way through if your oven doesn't heat evenly, and also re-fill some water into the baking tray at the bottom if that's evaporated.
For better results, try making your sourdough in three stages. The starter is the same as described above, so there is no change there. But instead of making the final dough directly with the starter, we will have an intermediate starter (poolish).
Start off with 50ml of sourdough starter, 200g of wholegrain rye or spelt flour, and 220ml of water. Mix, and let sit for 8 to 12 hours, depending on room temperature. This first dough, the poolish, will ferment thoroughly, and taste fairly sour when that's done.
Now mix in 215g of strong white flour, 7 grams of salt, and 65ml of water. Knead, form, and let prove for 90 minutes. Then bake at 230 degrees for 30 minutes.
A healthier, very tasty alternative… use wholegrain spelt and rye flour, and a strong white wheat flour.
You can recycle your old stale bread! Dry it out completely (best cut it into little cubes for that), and then mix 1:3 with boiling water. Then add all the salt you would otherwise add to your dough. This mixture is called the “Brühstück”. Mix thoroughly, and let sit for 2 - 10 hours (if longer, put it into the fridge), and add to your dough. Don't forget not to put the salt into the dough, as it's already in your “Brühstück”.
Mix 200g organic wholegrain rye flour with 220ml 40 degree warm water, and add a tablespoon of your sourdough starter. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours, until you have a bubbly starter.
Now add 150g strong white flour, 100g wholegrain rye flour, 10g salt and 120ml of water at 40 degrees. Mix until you have a fairly wet dough. Put into your baking tin, and let prove for 4 to 6 hours. Bake at 230 degrees for 5 minutes, lower the temperature to 190, and bake for a further 40 minutes.