Sourdough - Chilling the dough makes it easier to handle and intensifies the taste

As you're probably aware, there are many sourdough recipes as there are patterns to decorate their crusts.

The key is to find a recipe that rewards you with bread that is impressive to look at and tastes wonderful. 

This soon becomes your staple sourdough loaf. 

Then, start experimenting....go in search of the next loaf that may not only be a contender but may well usurp the incumbent. 

Today's loaf takes gentle steps over quite a long period of time. The aim is to make handling easier and give the dough time to develop 'taste'. 

It requires very little work on your part - probably no more than 30 minutes. But, the whole process is  long, but well worth the wait. 

I'm suggesting times, only to provide a guide. Build it into your own schedule. However, I would recommend you read the whole recipe before you start. 

Don't worry, I'll take you through it step by step. 

In advance, you will need 50 gms of lively starter. I'm presuming you've made starter before. If not, there is a recipe here:

You'll also need either a roaster, a cast iron or Pyrex casserole dish or a Dutch Oven - preferably with a lid. If you don't have a lid, use a large oven-proof bowl that is big enough to cover the roaster or dish. 

Stage 1 - The autolyse - Day 1 - 11 a.m. 

This is a 70% hydration (i.e. water volume accounts for 70% of the weight of the flour)

Mix 50 gms of active starter with 350 gms of cold water. (Try to use either filtered or bottled still water)

Add 500 gms of strong white bread flour and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. 

Mix it together into something of a ragged mess - in Wales, we call it a 'stwnsh'. 

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it at room temperature for an hour. 

Stage 2 - The mix - 12 noon 

Lift and fold the dough using  a stretch and fold method. 

Take a handful of dough from the far side of the bowl and fold it over the rest of the dough. 

Turn the dough and repeat. 

Continue to do this for, maybe, 15 - 20 times.

You'll notice that I've bought a Sistema 9.2 litre box in which I bulk ferment my dough. It allows you to work the dough within the box, rather than having to keep decanting it onto a board and back again. I lightly oil the box inside before I start. 

This is referred to as the 'stretch and fold' technique. Here's a useful video:

Stage 3 - The bulk ferment - 1 p.m. 

Cover the bowl and leave it on the worktop. 

Repeat the stretching and folding process, quite gently, over the next 8 - 10 hours - every couple of hours will do nicely. 

Recover the bowl and leave it at about 18⁰C (cool kitchen) overnight. 

After an overnight rest

Stage 4 - the shaping and final proof - Day 2 - 10 a.m. 

Flour a large banneton. Use rye, spelt, rice or another coarse flour. Be generous. 

Wet your hands

As you lift the dough, perform a single round of lift and fold to bring the dough into a loose ball. Be gentle, you don't want to lose the gas bubbles. 

Place the dough smooth side down in the banneton - sprinkle coarse flour down the sides to ensure it has a good coating. The more flour you use, the less chance there is of the dough sticking to the basket. 

Generously dust the top of the dough and cover with parchment paper. 

Place it in the fridge for no less than 10 hours and anything up to 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the stronger the taste and the more stable the dough becomes. 

Stage 5 - The bake - Day 3 - 8 a.m. 

Take to dough out of the fridge.

Place a sheet of parchment paper over the banneton and then invert the roasting pot over both the banneton and the parchment paper. 

Flip it all over so that the dough is now in the roasting pot. 

Score the top of the dough.

Allow the dough to rest to come up to room temperature - probably for about an hour. 

Preheat your oven to 230⁰C. 

You do not need to preheat your roaster, casserole dish or dutch oven for this recipe. 

Spray the dough and replace the lid,. 

Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for a further 30 minutes. 

Remove the loaf and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. 

Because the dough has been sitting in the fridge overnight and then been allowed to come to room temperature, the taste intensifies. The sourness is almost 'lemony'. 

There is a school of thought that advocates cold baking. This involves putting the roasting pan into a cold oven and then baking at 220⁰C with the lid on for a total of 55 minutes. No preheating, no removing the lid. I'll leave that one with you. There's another experiment to try, 

Happy baking....


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