Less-Worrisome Sourdough Method

This recipe is adapted from the wonderful I Love Cooking version.

I am usually a sloppy guesstimate cook, but for sourdough I strongly recommend getting kitchen scales and actually following the quantities as much as you can stand to do so. You can do without proofing baskets and other fancy stuff, but kitchen scales are non-negotiable. Sorry.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

5g salt

325g water

150g sourdough starter

Method

  1. Acquire a sourdough starter from a kids’ friend’s grandma, work colleague, a relative, or a second cousin’s next-door neighbour. You will be keeping this in the fridge. About half an hour before starting the breadmaking, take it out of the fridge to get closer to room temperature.

Sometime before midday:

  1. Measure out all the ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously. Don’t worry about making it smooth yet, just make sure dry ingredients aren’t. Leave it a bit.
  2. While waiting, so that you don’t forget, top up your sourdough starter with 75g water and 75g flour. Stir through to make it as smooth as possible with a clean spoon or chopstick (e.g. scald under hot water), but don’t worry too much about lumps. They sort themselves out when the yeast goes “om nom”. Put the lid back on your jar, put an elastic band around the jar at the dough high tide line and temporarily leave it out of the fridge.
  3. (This step is kind of simultaneous with step 5. Read ‘em both now.) After topping up the starter, come back to the dough and give it another vigorous stir.[1] Anything lumpy will sort itself out now and you will start to see the gluten do the right thing. Over the next hour or so, repeat this step 2 or 3 times more, about 20-30 mins apart or as you think of it. Whatever. No need to knead. Just work off some anger with the spatula each time.
  4. About half an hour after step three (depending on room temperature), when the starter grows a about a centimetre past the elastic band line (or more or less? you just want to be sure that your tamagotchi is happy and active), put it back in the fridge and forget about it until you want another loaf. It should survive for up to a week without feeding, maybe more.
  5. Cover the bowl with a wet tea towel and do whatever makes your day happy.

Sometime in the early evening:

  1. The dough should be risen and bubbly. Give it another manic stir with the spatula and punch out the bubbles. You can kind of use the spatula to create the surface tension that they do with soughdough kneading videos but it won’t taste rubbish if you don’t manage. Don’t sweat it.
  2. Turn onto a very floury tea towel[2] in a dish that has a lid (or use a proofing bowl if you are fancy and have one. I use a Pyrex casserole dish that has a lid). If you don’t flour well, it will stick, and that will suck. This is not the time to worry about wasting flour.
  3. Make sure all surfaces of the dough are well floured before wrapping up in the towel/dish. Put it to bed in the fridge.

Next morning:

  1. Lift the tea-towel wrapped dough out of the dish, flour the base of the dish then tip the dough out of the towel back into the dish. Score the top of the loaf however your mood takes you, just get deep enough in the dough, which will be deeper than you think. Leave for 30 mins or so to get to room temperature.
  2. With the lid on, cook at 230 degrees for 25 minutes (this steams the loaf) then take the lid off and cook another 25 minutes or whatever makes sense to get the colour you want.
  3. Sourdough Sensei says to wait until it cools before cutting it, but I cannot always restrain myself. It is much easier to cut it when it isn’t blistering, though.

I wish you a happy trial and error. If you do make a rubbish loaf or two, just claim it in the name of scientific experimentation. The main point is, love your microbes, and don’t worry too much: read my rant here. I am sure there is a great deal of sourdough sacrilege in this method, but for the most part I like to avoid the mystique vs munchies dilemma. This dough is good enough and no-one complained yet!

[1] It’s gonna be wetter than a yeasted dough. Don’t panic. Forget dough, think yoghurt. Just don’t add flour.

[2] Make sure the tea towel is dry. Don’t try and reuse the towel from the morning. I did once and I was sorry. It just makes the flour dusting pointless and you get a soggy, sticky mess, like shit on Velcro. RIP Robin Williams.

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