Making beautiful sourdough bread really isn’t hard. Once you have a reliable starter and you know a bit of the science behind it you will be hooked for life and probably find it easier and more satisfying than any other style of bread making. There are hundreds of web pages and blog posts about how to make a sourdough starter. If you are curious, Sourdough Companion is a great Australia based site and forum, and this page in particular is a good reference for making a starter for the first time.
Once you have a starter, this is an easy recipe to begin with:
1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour (or any combination of wheat flours will work just use 2 1/2 cups in total)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of sourdough starter the approximate consistency of very thick pancake batter
3/4 cups water (plus a bit extra if your flour is very absorbent)
Nb. if your tap water is not great use filtered water or try standing tap water in a glass or jug overnight, a lot of the chlorine will evaporate out of it – just note that some water can kill or hamper some starters, as can utensils/bowls with excess detergent residue.
- Make sure your starter is active, bubbly and refreshed, been fed recently and looking healthy.
- Mix flours and salt in a large bowl using a whisk to make sure the salt is well distributed.
- Add starter and water together in another bowl and mix together.
- Add wet and dry ingredients, then mix with a palette knife, spatula or spoon (you’ll find your favourite) until combined and you cannot see any dry patches. There is no need to knead this dough at all. If it seems too stiff or dry add a bit more water. When you squeeze the dough between your fingers it shouldn’t resist too much, nor should it be too wet or sticky.
- Once your dough has come together roughly and you are happy with the hydration, cover the bowl with a plate and leave the dough overnight or for the day while you go to work, to ferment. It will eventually double in size and should get quite bubbly.
- When you are ready (anywhere between 7 and 12 hours later), flour your bench lightly and scoop the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Then fold the dough into thirds like a letter, then the same again from the other side, stretching/pulling the edges of the dough out before folding them into the centre. Don’t handle it too much, you just want to fold it into a basic ball or rectangular shape, and it doesn’t matter if the seams are showing (no knead bread making is much more relaxed than other methods).
- Once you are happy with your loaf shape, gently lift it (dough scrapers help) seam side down onto a piece of non-stick baking paper, and then lift it by the paper and place into a casserole pot of some description and put the lid on.
- Then THIS IS THE BEST PART. You just put the dough inside the cold pot straight into a cold oven, turn the oven to 250 degrees C and leave it for an hour. When you come back and remove it from the oven you will have fantastic, well risen sourdough bread.
- Carefully take the baked loaf out of the pot and place on a rack to cool (away from your cat if you have one like mine), and let it cool for at least 2 hours or overnight before slicing.
- Sourdough keeps a lot longer than commercially yeasted breads, and will keep for weeks in the fridge. After a few days in the pantry it will harden up a bit, I usually put it in the fridge from then on (if it lasts that long) and then use if for toast for breakfast or to go with soups/stews etc. It makes the best toast on the planet!