Sourdough bread is special. I love its taste, its texture, it makes tasty sandwiches and great toasts; we always buy a loaf at the bakery. But until then, I had resisted the urge to bake my own. I felt that a starter was too big a commitment; but what better time than now. I work from home, I have no social engagements or travel plans... And the commitment I give it will be turned into comfort for me (and Jules), because bread is comfort! So, I started a starter last month. My first attempt wasn’t completely satisfactory; the starter had not fermented enough and the bread was very flat, albeit very tasty. This Sourdough Loaf, my second attempt, is far better: a rustic-looking (I do not yet master the art of slashing) but absolutely delicious loaf. I’m very proud of it, and a third is on the way! For it makes one’s Sunday morning tartines, slathered with butter, a little bit more special when one has baked the bread! My Sourdough Loaf also makes a great companion to a selection of very good cheeses and an excellent bottle of wine -I suggest a robust and earthy Australian Shiraz- Happy Sunday!
Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
1/2 tablespoon vegtable oil like sunflower or grapeseed
450 grams/1 pound strong white flour
1 teaspoon salt
300 grams/10.5 ounces Sourdough Starter
1 teaspoon pure clear honey
about 250 millitres/1 cup lukewarm water
Grease a large glass bowl with grapeseed oil; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine strong white flour and salt, and give a good stir. Add Sourdough Starter and honey, and stir, gradually adding lukewarm water, until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms. You may not need to add all the water, but your dough should not be dry, it should stick a bit to your fingers.
Tip dough out onto a claen surface, and knead, a good 10 to 15 minutes. Kneading will make it smooth and elastic and no longer stick. Shape into a ball, and pop into prepared bowl. Cover with an oiled sheet of cling film, and allow to rise, in a warm enough, draught-free place, 3 hours.
Line a bowl or basket with a clean tea towel, and flour it generously (if it isn’t floured enough, the dough will stick to it!)
At this point, the dough should have doubled in size. Tip it out ont the kitchen counter and knead well to knock the air out, 5 minutes. Flour lightly, shape into a bowl and place into lined basket or bowl, seam-side up. Cover loosely with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film, and prove a second time.
Depending on the temperature, the humidity, the strength of your Sourdough Starter, the second prove can take between 4 to 8 hours. You want the dough to have doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 220°C/430°F, placing a dish filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven, to create steam and a beautiful crust.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Once second prove is complete, gently lift off cling film. Then, carefully tip risen dough out of its basket and onto prepared baking tray, lifting off tea towel gently. Slash with a sharp knife. Place baking tray in the middle of the hot oven, and bake at 220°C/430°F, for 30 minutes. Then, reduce heat to 200°C/395°F, and bake, for a further 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and lift off the baking tray.
Let Sourdough Loaf cool completely (if you can), before eating slathered with butter, with tasty cheeses and good wine...
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