Friday, 15 January 2021

my easy, no-fuss sourdough recipe (with a 'dry' starter)

hey all. so, today i'm bringing to you all the tips i've learnt about making and keeping a dry sourdough starter, as well as my foolproof recipe for a loaf. why? because this blog is a great personal journal for me, so i want to store this recipe somewhere safe i can always find it. and as we kick off 2021, in another lockdown, i know at least some of you will be starting or wanting to improve on your attempts at sourdough last year.

so let me start by saying that this method is the only one that's ever worked for me - i love a "dry" starter because it needs very minimal maintenance, and you keep it in the fridge. you simply have to remember the night before you want a loaf to make your levain, and then you'll have a loaf within 24 hrs.

about a decade ago i tried my first attempt at making sourdough, and it was an utter fail, nothing happened when i mixed the water and the flour. nothing. then i tried a couple of years later and this time, initially something happened, but then it seemed to die, and it smelt funny. 

turns out, years later, now homemade sourdough is much more popular, and the resources explain things more, that using tap water was a complete no-no. and that's why it basically killed my attempts each time i tried. now i use as fresh flour as i can, and ALWAYS bottled spring water. also, i store it in glass, that's pretty important too.

this time, i followed The Elliott Homestead recipe for making a starter, only instead of the einkorn that she uses i used what i had on hand, which was just all-purpose wheat flour. i love her video that shows all the different stages, it's brilliant, and simple. and it WORKS. (i do love the Elliott Homestead - such trustworthy recipes). i use the exact ratios she does for creating and maintaining it, except i don't use einkorn - and therefore i use a different recipe for the actual loaf.

so here's my starter, straight from the fridge, there's about enough left there for one more loaf and to refresh the starter...

so, step one, turn the dry starter into a wet one (or a "levain"). in the evening, simply take a 30g chunk of starter and pop it in a glass bowl. add in 130g bottled spring water, at room temperature, combine with a fork until smooth. then add 120g all-purpose organic flour. combine with a fork until smooth. cover and leave overnight. then in the morning it should look like this...

at this point you have a regular sourdough starter which you can make into bagels, pancakes, cookies, cake, or just a regular daily bread...

the following recipe has gone through lots of trial and error and is perfect for the loaf i love. it comes easily out the banneton and has great structure and flavour. you can see my hand-scrawled notes, lol. it's a very well-used recipe.

in the morning, add 315g bottled spring water, at room temperature, mix with a fork until smooth. then add 430g organic white bread flour and 100g organic wholegrain rye flour. (you can use just 530g of bread flour, it doesn't even need to be organic, but i love the flavour i get from this combo). mix until no flour is visible. like this...

then autolyze - leave it for 40 minutes at room temperature, covered. i use either a plastic shower cap or a beeswax wrap.

once the timer is up, mix 8g salt and 20g water in a jar and pour that over the top of the dough. squeeze/squelch it in with your (super clean) hands. i always like the feel of this bit, and my son likes to help too.

now, leave it covered for 2 hours. you don't see a dramatic rise with this dough, like you would with dry yeast, but it will rise a little.

after the time is up, it's time for your first stretch and fold. simply google 'stretch and fold' if you're not sure what to do. i use a simple plastic dough scraper i got from amazon for this, and it's perfect. basically you take one part of the edge of the dough, lift it up and pull it over the top of the dough, and then go all around the edge of the bowl til you're done. i do it about 5-8 times each time. this activates the gluten, and it will help with even formation of the "bubbles" in the resulting loaf. so if your dough is too sticky, or the holes are uneven, chances are you need more stretch and folds.

i do stretch and folds 3 times in total. once after the 2 hour rest, then rest for 40 minutes covered, then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes and then another stretch and fold, then rest for 40 minutes. 

in the below photo you can see how the dough is less watery looking and starting to come together into a workable dough.

then, tip the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. using your dough scraper or clean hands, shape the dough. 

how you do this will depend on what tools you have available, as well as which shape you'd like your dough. i let my dough rise in an oval banneton, and then bake it in a dutch oven, i find this works well for me. but i used to simply round the dough and let it rise in the same glass bowl, lined with a floured tea towel, then i used to bake it straight on a baking tray. it worked beautifully. the only tip i have for you if you're doing it not in dutch oven is to throw some ice cubes in the base of your oven to create some steam as it cooks.

i do find i get a slightly better rise in my conventional oven with a cast iron pot with a lid, but it's honestly marginal. i got a red ProCook one for my birthday and i really enjoy using it (all the links to my favourite bits are at the end of this blog post). it's also a great place to store the bread after it's cooled.

so, back to the shaping. for my oval banneton, i spread the dough out to a large rectangle, you can be pretty tough with the dough at this stage. it will have lots of spring. then start rolling and pressing it down and then tucking the edges in. it's probably easier to watch a YouTube tutorial on this!

from here, leave it to rise in the banneton or bowl for 2 and a half hours. this usually takes me until about late afternoon. from here you can either bake it straight away, or you can pop it in the fridge until you're ready to bake. sometimes mine stays in for an hour, sometimes 24 hrs. it can help it form a stronger crust.

once you're ready to bake, turn the oven onto the hottest setting you've got, and place your dutch oven in too, with the lid. 

after 30 minutes of heating, turn your banneton or bowl upside down onto some baking paper. gently. then score it as deeply as you dare, i don't have a lame but i use a serrate steak knife that seems to glide through the bread well without tugging it. you can score it however you like.

then take out your pot and place it straight into the hot oven, with the lid on, for 25 minutes. after the time, take the lid off, and lower the temp to 220c and leave to cook for another 15 minutes.

leave it to cool for as long as you can be patient for or until completely cooled, as that makes it easier to slice nice and evenly.

links to the bits and bobs i love:
glass pot for storing dry starter - they're from ikea, and they're the perfect size 
plastic dough scraper - UK / US
pyrex bowl - UK / US
oval banneton - UK / US
banneton linen liner - UK / US
ProCook cast iron pot with lid - UK / US

so, there you have it. i hope you're all well! i hope this helps you in your journey with sourdough.

and here is the printable recipe... click to be taken to the Google Doc.