White Semi-Sourdough

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This is the loaf that epitomises the balance between new and old worlds, using both commercial yeast and sourdough starter. The versatility of this dough is impressive — it can be shaped into regular loaves, baguettes or small rolls and makes the perfect fairy bread.

Ingredients

  • 540 g (1 lb 3 oz) white starter
  • 680 g (1 lb 8 oz) organic plain flour
  • 10 g (¼ oz) fresh yeast
  • 275 ml ( fl oz) water
  • 12 g ( oz/ tablespoons) sea salt

Method

To mix the semi-sourdough by hand, put the starter in a large mixing bowl with the flour, yeast and water. Stir with a large spoon until the mixture 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. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead it for a further 5 minutes. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Knead well for a further 5 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, yeast, water and salt. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high for 5 minutes, or until the dough comes away from the edges of the bowl and is smooth and elastic.

If the dough tears at the slightest touch, it is under-mixed and you need to mix it more — what you want is to be able to stretch out the dough to transparency and create a window. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Lightly grease a container with oil spray and sit the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at ambient room temperature (approximately 20°C/68°F) for 1 hour to bulk prove.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Use your hands to fold one-third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container and continue to bulk prove for a further 1 hour.

The dough is now ready to be divided, rested and shaped into your desired loaves. Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into three even-sized portions, about 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) each. Working with one portion of dough at a time, surround the dough with your cupped hands, always keeping your hands in contact with the dough. In an anti-clockwise motion, start rolling the dough to create a tight ball with a smooth surface. Set aside on a lightly floured surface for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.

Lightly grease three 15 x 9 cm (6 x 3½ inch) loaf (bar) tins, about 10 cm (4 inches) deep. Working with one ball of dough at a time, stretch each dough portion out to double its width. Fold a third into itself towards the middle, then fold in the other third to overlap in the middle. Then, as if you are building a paper aeroplane, fold it in to create the nose cone at the end furthest from the edge of the bench. Press this down to prevent any large air pockets forming.

Bring the dough into the shape that will be placed into the tin. With your fingers tensed, press down onto the nose cone and fold inwards keeping the action tight — this is called crimping. Use small movements with your fingers, folding over the dough and pressing down as you work to create tension and form. Crimp with your fingers until you reach halfway into the dough, then with the ball of your dominant hand press down against the seam closing it into the dough. Continue this motion with both hands, folding the dough over in tight movements, each time closing the seam. Check to see that the seam is straight and closed; if not, pinch the seam to close it. Place the dough in the tins and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them rest in a humid place, about 25°C (77°F) — this could take anywhere between 30 minutes and 1½ hours — until each loaf has grown in size by two-thirds. If the loaves push back steadily and quickly when you push lightly into them with a finger then they are ready.

Spray the oven with water and 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 loaves should take no longer than 40 minutes in total to bake.

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