Sourdough prepared in in an oval banneton.
This week's sourdough recipe is how to bake in an oval banneton using a pizza stone in a very hot oven.
"All this equipment," I hear you say.. "it's all very niche."
Believe me, it isn't. You can adapt and adopt using pieces of equipment you have within your own kitchen...but if you're going to take sourdough baking seriously, it's worth a little investment to make the task a little more pleasurable and a lot easier.
Let's have a look at the equipment I'm using.
It's actually a piece of wood that's shaped like a spade with a very short handle. When I first started baking sourdough, I used two fish slices from the kitchen drawer as a 'paddle' for negotiating dough into and a loaf out of the oven.. Then I graduated to using a burger flipper that came with the BBQ set.
Later on, I moved on to a metal pizza shovel that I bought and I still have this and use it regularly.
My current beech bread peel cost £8.99 off the internet. You can spend a fortune on them, if you so wish. Long handled or short, they do a very simple job.
A cheap circular pizza stone will set you back around £15. I bought this rectangular piece of cordierite for about the same price. I knew that not only would it make an excellent pizza stone for rectangular pizzas, but I could also bake bread on it.
Baking Paper / Parchment
Baking paper is not greaseproof paper. Baking paper or baking parchment, as it's sometimes known, will allow you to use it up to a temperature of 235 degrees C without it losing its integrity. Greaseproof paper will brown and crumble at much lower temperatures. Baking paper carries a silicone coating that makes it non-stick but also allows it to be suited to high temperatures.
An alternative for baking paper is to use a silicone sheet.
For this sourdough recipe, I need something on which to hold the dough as I slide it from the peel and onto the stone. Baking parchment is ideal for this.
A wooden Spirtle
I love the spirtle. Originally, it was used to stir porridge in Scotland and dates back to the 16th century. I use it to stir the sourdough ferment - it's very useful. If you don't have one, use the handle of a wooden spoon. But, go on - treat yourself. Best £5 you'll spend!
I bought three one-litre mason jars from a local bargain shop for about £1 each. I use two to mix my weekly sourdough starter and keep one for the unused starter in the fridge. They're easy to clean and the wide top is useful. I also have a stainless steel jam funnel that I use to help the flour into the jar without making a mess everywhere. Oh, and a bottle brush!
Perhaps the most 'specialist' piece of equipment. I'm not sure what else you could use. A banneton is a banneton. This is a cane banneton that is (external measurements in cms) 30.5 x 16 x 7 and (internal measurements in cms) 28.5 x 13.5 x 7.
I buy my bannetons from China through eBay retailers. Currently (November 2020), a large oval banneton will cost aout £9 - £10 including postage and packing. It might take a couple of weeks to arrive, but arrive it will.
The idea of the banneton is that it helps to wick away moisture from the dough whilst embossing it with the distinctive spiral marks of the cane. You have to make sure you flour the inside of the banneton quite heavily, as well as flouring the dough. However, any flour that isn't used can be poured back into the packet.
Plastic bannetons don't work and glass or cast iron containers are a different form of moulding for dough and serve different purposes.
I have two large oval bannetons, two small oval bannetons as well as large and small circular ones. You buy them once and they'll last a lifetime.
Some coarse flour - spelt, rye or rice flour will do.
A razor blade or a very sharp knife....that's all a lame is. A razor blade. Simple as...but essential to slash the dough to allow rise and make it more distinctively your own creation.
24hrs before you want to bake, you need to prepare your starter.
I've taken 120 gms of starter from the fridge and allowed it to come to room temperature. Then I added 100 gms of strong white flour and 100 mls of cool water. I gave it a stir with the spirtle and covered it with a piece of kitchen roll. Then I left it on the kitchen table for 24 hours.
If you need a guide to making or managing your own starter - look at 'Your Guide to the Recipes' on the left hand side of the Home Page of this blog.
I'm using my usual formula for sourdough. Again, if you need a guide to making sourdough, have a look at 'Your Guide to the Recipes' on the left hand side of the Home Page on this blog.
For the sourdough, I'm using
400 gms of strong white flour
230 mls of cool water
5 gms of sea salt
160 gms of sourdough starter.
I mix my ingredients on the Pizza dough setting in my bread machine. It takes 45 minutes.
If you're mixing by hand, use your usual method of bringing the ingredients together and kneading until you have a soft and silky dough.
Spend a little time building up tension in the dough and strengthening the gluten strands. You'll find a guide how to do this in all the sourdough recipes on this blog.
(Here's a shortcut https://breadclub20.blogspot.com/2020/10/wednesday-is-usually-sourdough-day.html)
Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot (22 - 24 degrees C) for THREE hours.
At the end of the three hours, take the dough and place on a lightly-oiled surface. Knock the air out of it and continue to build up tension for about a minute or two.
Stretch, fold, turn. Stretch, fold, turn. The more you do it, the better the tension and the firmer the loaf.
Then, flour the banneton well. I use a coarse flour - spelt or rye flours are ideal. and likewise, flour the dough. Form the dough into a sausage shape and place in the banneton. Cover with a tea towel and return it to the warm place for a further two and a half hours.