Have you been dreaming of a home filled with the smell of fresh bread but while you might be a pro at baking cakes you wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to bread? Well don’t worry, here is everything a beginner bread maker needs to know to get started on making delicious homemade sourdough bread.
While many breads use yeast to make the dough rise, sourdough uses a fermented ‘starter’ of flour and water. This can actually make sourdough a more tummy-friendly option for many people.
There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube on how to create a starter culture, once created make sure you keep feeding it! It's as simple as weighing what you have left of your starter, mixing together equal parts flour and water, adding it to the starter and leaving it on the bench for 12 to 24 hours to ferment. Then store it in the fridge ready to go for every loaf of sourdough you make.
There seems to be different rules on how much to feed your starter. Our resident bread guru, Steve, suggests leaving 200g of starter in the container after you have used what you need for the bread you are making at the time. Then feed the starter 150g of water and 150g of plain flour. This can be mixed directly into your starter but Steve prefers to mix it first in a separate bowl then add it to the starter.
There are a few ways you can go about kneading your dough. You can get the dough hook to do all the work, or do as Steve does and use the stretch and fold method. Using the stretch and fold process tends to result in a higher moisture content and therefore softer breads with loads of lovely air pockets.
Bread dough actually needs two proofs. The first proof happens after you’ve kneaded your dough, to do this simply place it in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave it be until the dough has risen and roughly doubled in size. Then ‘knock’ the dough back by giving it a bit of a punch and stretching and folding a few times. This knocks out the large air bubbles and helps create an uneven texture of air bubbles in the final bread (which is good!)
Then it’s time for the second proof, and this is when you can help shape the dough in bannetons. Again the dough will roughly double in size during the second proof, then it’s ready to bake!
Note: The natural yeast in the dough is happiest between 25ºC and 28ºC, but it can still rise at lower temperatures - it will just take longer and have a more developed flavour. Too warm though, say high 30s, and your bread may have a slightly unpleasant flavour.
Bannetons, or dough proving baskets, support and help bread dough hold its shape as the dough proves and rises. They are particularly useful for softer doughs with higher moisture contents. The best bannetons are porous and allow the dough to breath, like our natural rattan baskets.
You can use the banneton either unlined, to allow the rattan to imprint the dough, like bread on the right in the picture, or line with one of our cotton liners for a smooth crust like the one on the left. Keep your bannetons in good condition by gently brushing out the flour after you use them with our hand-crafted basket brushes.
Make sure you dust either the banneton or cotton liner well with flour before using.
The cotton liners are also brilliant for covering the basket and dough while it rises!
Unmould the dough gently so you maintain its lovely shape and beautiful air bubbles.
Bake on pizza stone - using a pizza stone gives the dough an instant hit of heat so it can start to rise quicker.
Score the top of the dough before baking to determine where the bread will split as the loaf expands during baking and help the dough rise fully. Scoring dough originally begun centuries ago, when bakers used communal ovens, to help them tell which loaf was theirs. It became their personal bread signature.
Feel free to throw a few ice cubes, or water, in a baking tin and place in the oven with the dough to stop the crust developing too early, which will help the dough rise more, and gives the final crust a deep golden colour with a glossy finish.
We also recommend watching this brilliant youtube video to understand the stretching and proving steps (or just to listen to Patrick's gorgeous Irish accent).
Okay so now that you have all the tips and tricks you need to make the perfect sourdough all that’s left is to give you our secret recipe! This is the recipe that Steve uses to make his sourdough, and all of us here at Lollipops can attest to how amazing it is!
285g of water
500g of bakers flour
9g of salt
150g of sourdough starter
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Cover the bowl in glad wrap.
Wait 1 hour and whilst the dough is in the bowl, pull on corners to stretch the dough and fold it back on itself. This is creating the gluten within the bread and also introduces air into the dough. 1 minute is more than enough. Cover the dough with glad wrap.
Complete step two another two times in hour intervals.
Let the dough rest for 8 to 12 hours. The dough will rise significantly.
Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and place on your flour dusted bench. Grab each corner and gently fold it back on itself. This stretches the surface of the dough and creates a skin which looks smooth.
Flip the dough over the drag it across the bench on each four sides to shape and create the skin.
Let it rest for another 30 minutes (can be longer). This can be done do this in a proofing basket however it can also be in a tin.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes in an oven at 250ºC.
We'd love to see your sourdough creations so make sure you share them with us in our Facebook Cake Hub!