I suppose if I'm going to blog about baking bread, the least I can do is to publish my recipe.
This is my own recipe, really influenced by two other great internet sourdough bakers. Teresa from Northwest Sourdough has a recipe for San Francisco Sour and Susan from Wild Yeast's Norwich Sourdough. Although it's a simple, plain white loaf, what I've really taken from those two loaves is the techniques that they suggest rather than the absolute ingredients, which I worked out for myself using a hydration calculator that I found on Northwest Sourdough.
Given that I live in Crosby, home of Anthony Gormley's Another Place sculpture, I'm calling this recipe Another Place's Sourdough.
Another Place's Sourdough
255 grams white levain (100% hydration)
200 grams water
470 grams flour
9 grams salt
12 hours ripening levain
2.5 - 12 hours bulk fermentation
2 hours - 16 hours proving the loaf
30 - 40 minutes in the oven -- 240C for the first 10 mins, 200C for the last 20-30.
16 -18 hours before you're planning on baking, take 55 grams from your existing levain/sourdough starter. I keep mine in the refrigerator, and feed it every three or four days to ensure I've always got a ripe levain.
To your 55 grams of levain, add 100 grams of room temp. water, and 100 grams of flour. Mix together, and stand overnight. You're looking for a levain that will double in size in about 4 to 6 hours, depending on temperature. The cooler the temp, the longer the doubling will take. The longer you leave the levain before using it, the more flavour you'll get in your loaf.
After about 12 hours, take your levain and add it to a mixing bowl. Add 200 grams of room temperature water to your levain, and mix roughly together.
Weigh out 470 grams of bread flour, sift it, and add it to the levain and water mixture. I begin by adding around 420 grams of the flour as different flours have different absorbancy rates, and then add more and more until the dough seems right. What you're looking for is a dough that is tacky on the outside, but is neither saturated nor overly dry. Ultimately, recognition of what the dough should feel like is something you get with experience, so if you don't know what to look for, just use the exact measurements.
Once the flour, water and levain are mixed together and all the ingredients are incorporated, cover the mixing bowl and allow it to stand for 20 minutes while the dough autolyses. This process makes the dough much easier to knead, and again, makes a better dough.
Next, add your salt. Once the salt is added, it's time to knead. As salt retards the action of your yeast, the dough might be a little tough to work for the first minute or two. If it's too tough, just let it stand for a few more minutes, and then go back to kneading. Your dough should be soft, pliable and easy to knead.
Knead away for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth and pliable and can pass the windowpane test. At this point, oil a mixing bowl or a large tupperware container, using just a few drops on the tips of your fingers. If you're using a mixing bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm. If a tupperware container, close the container. Allow your dough to stand for 50 minutes.
After 50 mins, gently pat the dough to de-gas it, then stretch your dough into a long rectangle. Fold your rectangle into thirds, then give the dough a quarter turn, and stretch and fold again.
After the stretching and folding is finished, the dough will be tight and hard to work again, so put it back in your container, recover and allow it to stand for another 50 minutes. Then repeat the folding procedure.
What you do next depends on whether you've got time to go ahead and bake in the next three hours, or whether you want to enhance your baking. If you have got time, let it ferment for a final 50 minutes in the container. If you don't have time to bake, you can put it into the fridge for up to sixteen hours. This extended bulk fermentation period will enhance the flavour, but if you have refrigerated the dough, you'll need to give it an hour or two when it comes out of the fridge to get back to room temperature.
Now you're ready to shape the dough. Again, Theresa from Northwest Sourdough has the best videos on YouTube that'll teach you how to shape a boule or a batard. Go and watch one of those.
When your loaf has been shaped, you now want to proof the loaf until it has almost doubled in size. This should take around two hours, but again, it depends on the ambient temperature. As with the bulk fermentation, you can proof two thirds at room temp, and then retard the fermentation either to match your other obligations, or to try and improve the flavour. Cover the loaf with a clean, well-floured cotton tea-towel, pop it into a plastic bag and then put it into the oven.
If you have a baking stone, make sure it's in the oven and pre-heat the oven on its maximum temperature for around 45 mins to an hour.
Five mins before you're ready to bake, put a shallow baking tin on the bottom of the oven containing half a cup of boiling water. The plan here is to try and fill your oven with steam for the first ten mins of the bake. If you have a plant mister, fill it with clean water, and use that to spray down the sides of the oven.
When the temperature is right, pop your loaf, seam side down, onto a peel or oven sheet that has been dusted with corn meal or semolina, or pop it onto a teflon oven mat. (I use the latter.) Slash the top of the loaf with a razor blade, a serrated knife or a lame if you have one, and then pop your loaf on the baking stone.
Keep the oven door closed for the first 5 mins, and then open the oven door and re-mist the oven walls with your mister -- trying to avoid heat escaping. At this point, I also turn the loaf by 180 degrees.
Another 5 minutes at maximum temperature and then I remove the oven tin with the boiling water. Time for steaming is over, it's time to bake.
Turn down the oven to 200C (fan oven) or 210C (ordinary convection oven), give the loaf ten more minutes, and then open the oven door and give the loaf a quarter turn. By now, the loaf has had twenty minutes. In my oven, it usually takes another ten minutes, but I like a lighter, crisper crust. If you prefer a crunchier crust, it may take another twenty minutes.
Test whether the loaf is done either by tapping on the bottom, and listen for a hollow sound. When it sounds hollow, it's done.
Alternatively, you can insert a food thermometer. The inside of your loaf should measure around 99 degrees centegrade (210 fahrenheit). Take the loaf out of the oven, pop it onto a wire rack and leave it to cool for about two hours.
Then cut, butter and eat.