Sourdough bread

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RECIPE: It’s been a big build-up but the sourdough has finally been baked. I have several recipes for sourdough, but decided to use the one from my Bourke Street Bakery cookbook and made no alterations. I’ve baked the bread twice now, and most of the photos are from the second bake. The buttered bread in the photo below is from the first bake.

PREPARATION: This bread takes a long time to prepare, apparently because the sourdough starter is slower to develop than commercial yeast. I start feeding up my starter on Friday, start the mixing and rising on Saturday then bake on Sunday morning ready for lunch on Sunday. Make sure you give adequate time to the first lots of kneading – from what I understand you can’t overdo this phase. I now supervise my stand mixer because the first time it shook so violently on the faster step of kneading that it vibrated itself off the bench. Thankfully this only broke the plastic splash shield, the mixer seems to still be fine! I put my loaves in the fridge on the tray with a big plastic bag around it that didn’t sit straight on the dough. It takes a while for the bread to warm up in the morning. This might sound funny, but I’m baking in winter, so to get the bread warmed up and create enough humidity, I had to put a pot of boiling water on the stove, turn the oven on then hang a sheet over them both, with the bread sitting on top of the stove, raised slightly so the bottom didn’t get too hot. This prove is the most important one, as it is the most critical determinant of how your bread will turn out. The first batch I baked on baking paper on a tray, the second I used my new Silpain mat, which allows heat to circulate through better while baking. I sprayed the oven with water – next time I’m going to try putting a few ice cubes in a tray.

IMPRESSION: The second batch was better than the first. It had a nice texture, good crumb and good crust and tasted like sourdough. It’s still slightly denser at the base, so I’ll be working on techniques to improve that. I’m really pleased with how long it retains freshness – much better than homemade breads I’ve made with commercial yeast. I’m pretty proud of my first attempts and look forward to making more 🙂

Recipe from Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness

I used this sourdough starter recipe. Your starter should have been developing for three weeks before attempting to bake bread. When you’re ready to bake, apply this final feeding schedule (vary to your preference):
First feed 2pm – With your base 100g of prepared starter, add 50ml water and 50g flour
Second feed 10pm – Add 100ml water and 100g flour (total now 400g)
Third feed 7am – Add 200ml water and 200g flour (total now 800g)
Start preparing bread 2pm

405g white starter
765g strong plain flour
400ml water
20g sea salt

To mix the dough by hand, put the prepared starter in a large bowl with the flour and water. Mix together with a large spoon until it comes together to form a dough. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead into a ball with your hands for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead it for a further 20 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

If you are using an electric mixer, put the starter in the bowl of the mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the flour and water. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then increase the speed to medium-fast for 3 minutes, or until a rough dough is formed. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-fast for 6 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough has formed.

To check the dough has the required structure, roll up a little piece of dough and stretch it out to create a ‘window’. If the dough tears at the slightest touch, it is under-mixed and you need to mix it more – it should stretch out to transparency. At this stage the temperature of the dough should be 25-27 degrees Celcius. If it is below this temperature, leave it to bulk prove in a slightly warmer area. Lightly grease a container with oil spray and sit the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at ambient room temperature (approximately 20 degrees Celcius) for one hour to bulk prove.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle about 2.5cm thick. Use your hands to fold one-third back on itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container and continue to bulk prove for a further one hour.

Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into two or three even-sized portions. Working with one portion of dough at a time, continue to shape the loaves. With a rectangle that’s wider than long, fold two corners in to create a point, like on a paper plane. Roll the point towards you, creating a batard. Line 2-3 small baskets with a tea towel in each, lightly dust each with flour and place a loaf inside, seam side up. If you are using a cane basket, you don’t need the tea towel and can simiply dust the basket with flour. Alternatively you can place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper (I used a Silpain mat), seam side down. Place in the refrigerator loosely covered with a plastic bag for 8-12 hours.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them rest in a warm place (about 25 degrees Celcius and 80% humidity) for anywhere between 1 and 4 hours depending on the climate. The prove is complete when the loaves have grown in size by two-thirds. If they deflate at the slightest touch they are over-proved and you need to bake them as soon as possible without scoring. If they hold the indent of your finger, they are under-proved and will need more time. If the loaves spring back steadily and quickly when you push lightly into them with a finger then they are ready to bake. Score the loaves and place them in the oven. Spray the oven with water. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves or trays around, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Check the base of each loaf with a tap of your finger – if it sounds hollow, it’s ready. The bread should take no longer than 40 minutes in total to bake.

3 Comments Add yours

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