Basic Sourdough Loaf

A basic sourdough loaf of bread that contains flour, water, sourdough starter and salt. That’s it. Not even the olive oil which much of my bread contains.

This loaf presents a fundamental technique, and uses a 2:1 ratio of wholewheat to white flour.

Even the most basic Sourdough Bread takes Time

For the slow development of rise and flavour, I allow 2 full days from the first prep step up to the time I can cut into the loaf. For most of this time the bread looks after itself.

There are just four time points to hit:
º Refresh the starter.
º Knead, and first proving.
º Shape, and second proving.
º Bake.

I’ve laid out below the framework that works for me.

Managing this time frame gets to be easy – all you have to do is think backwards:
– I need a loaf on Sunday for church, so I must bake it on Saturday afternoon, so I must start prepping it on Friday morning.
– I’ve got people coming for a meal on Wednesday evening, so I must prep the starter on Tuesday morning.

In the Morning of Day 1:

Refresh the existing starter. Read about my starter here.
Leave this mix to feed and grow bubbly overnight.

This recipe uses 250g of refreshed starter. I usually budget on having 100g left over and above that.

Evening of Day 1:

Weigh out 250g of the refreshed starter into a large bowl.
Add 125ml water to the starter and mix to form a looser liquid.

Add:
º 125g white flour,
º 250g wholemeal flour
º 7g salt.

– All the flour I use is organic. For space and convenience, I don’t write this down every time.

Slowly add about 50-100ml more water, enough to hold the dough together. Mix the dough by hand, squidging* it together until the ingredients are roughly combined.
The optimum stickiness measure is generally the level where I can wipe the sides of the bowl clean with the dough. More on Dough – How Wet

* Squidging is the technique for those whose hands are not the same size as the hands of a six-foot, built-like-a-bakery baker.

Kneading

Drip a minimal amount of oil onto the kneading surface. Tip the dough out and knead it for about 10 minutes. More on Kneading by Hand

When the dough is stretching out smoothly and feels soft, with a silky surface, it’s ready for the first rise.
Form the dough into a floppy disc – don’t flatten it, just form it gently.
Place it in a large glass bowl that has been generously oiled.
Flip the disc over, so that the base – which is now nicely oiled – is at the top.
Cover the bowl.

To cover the bowl, the usual recommendations are either a damp tea towel or plastic wrap.
I use large glass plates – the ones from a microwave work well.

Overnight – Day 1 into Day 2: Proving – First Rise

Leave the dough to rise until it has about tripled in volume.
For me, most of the year, this is an overnight rise.

Early Morning of Day 2

After coffee and seeing to the family, and while the kitchen is still cool:
Gently turn the dough out of the bowl, and press it outwards, easing out the the excess air.
Knuckle it out to a rough rectangle.
Fold one third in and over, then fold the other side likewise, to meet in the middle.
Knuckle it out again to a rectangle, and repeat the fold.
At this point, shape the loaf as required.

Shaping a basic sourdough loaf

On the site you’ll find this dough used in:
– Rustic Boule
– Bundt Loaf
– Dutch oven bread
Particulars re shaping are on each relevant page.

About Midday- Early Afternoon Day 2

The second rise takes less time than the first. Depending on the season it can take from around 4 to 6 hours.
Using general wisdom, figure out what is about half an hour before the rise is done, and warm the oven to 220ºC.

I judge the rise by eye, and by the ‘finger-poke’ test:
– If the dent made by a gentle blunt finger-poke rises back up again to fill the depression, it’s saying ‘Go away, I’m not finished yet.’
– If, however, the dent remains, the dough is saying, ‘Come on then, let’s get together and get this show in the oven.’
Other ways to check if dough has risen.

Baking

Place the loaf in the pre-heated oven and bake for +/-35 mins.
Check the bread visually, and with a quick tap on the crust.
– I don’t always do the ‘tap the loaf on the base and if it sounds hollow it is cooked’ test – but I know my breads.
If need be, bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

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