Once you have a starter that is active and dependable, making sourdough is simple. The only hitch is a day-long process that involves a few stages. You will need an oven, flour, water, salt, patience and commitment. To avoid getting up too early, you would look to start mixing the dough in the afternoon and retarding through the night. In theory, you could then roll out of bed and place the loaf in a warm humid place for 1–4 hours and still bake it in time to have fresh bread for lunch. Which is perfect really. Fresh bread should be mandatory for lunch and dinner. For breakfast you are only going to toast it, and this sourdough keeps well for days and is great for toasting.
Once you have mixed the sourdough dough you can use a portion of it to make any of the various derivative doughs.
To mix the dough by hand, put the starter in a large bowl with the flour and water. Mix together with a large spoon until it comes together to form a dough. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead into a ball with your hands, for about 10 minutes — the dough does not need to be smooth at this point. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead it for a further 20 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
If you are using an electric mixer, put the starter in the bowl of the mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add the flour and water. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then increase the speed to medium-fast for 3 minutes, or until a rough dough is formed. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-fast for 6 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough has formed.
To check the dough has the required structure, roll up
To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle, about
Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into three even-sized portions, weighing
Line three small baskets with a tea towel (dish towel) in each, lightly dust each with flour and place a loaf inside, seam side up. If you are using a cane basket, you don’t need the tea towel and can simply dust the basket with flour. Alternatively, you can place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Place in the refrigerator loosely covered with a plastic bag for 8–12 hours.
Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them rest in a warm place (about
Spray the oven with water. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves or trays around, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Check the base of each loaf with a tap of your finger — if it sounds hollow, it is ready. The bread should take no longer than 40 minutes in total to bake.
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