Midweek sourdough, double-retardation
I've been looking for a way to do sourdoughs in the middle of a working week without taking too much time out of a busy schedule. My first attempts involved stretching, folding and shaping the dough in the morning then cold-proving it in the fridge while I was at work for an evening bake, but this was problematic when I started a new job (community neuro-rehab) which demanded an earlier start. Here's the solution, needing only a bit of attention on three successive evenings. I'm using a 100% hydration wholemeal rye starter which I keep in the fridge.
Evening one: I put 100g of sourdough starter in a tub with 200g strong white flour and 200g cold, filtered water, mix it up, put the lid on and put it in the fridge. That takes about 3 minutes.
The next morning, I take the tub out of the fridge and leave it out at room temperature, then off to work. The sponge is looking limp and lumpy, so not a lot has gone on overnight.
Evening Two, approx. 20:00: taking the lid off the tub, the sponge looks loose and bubbly. Ready for action.
I add another 300g of strong white flour, 10g salt and 100g cold, filtered water, a good glug of olive oil and mix it thoroughly by hand. I also throw in a tablespoon of linseeds and a tablespoon of toasted, crushed hemp seeds. Now it just looks like a crude dough. That took about 3 minutes.
I put the lid back on and wander off for 15 minutes doing something else.
20:15. 15 minutes later, the dough has developed a little and is easier to work with. I turn it out onto an oiled work surface.
I take hold of each of the four corners in turn, pull them out gently to stretch the dough and fold the corner back into the middle, as though to make a parcel, repeating this a few times until it feels tight and stretchy.
Now I put a bowl over it to keep in the moisture and leave it for another fifteen minutes and it looks a bit more relaxed.
20:30. Then I repeat the stretch and fold process and it's looking a bit tighter and more elastic.
I cover it with a bowl and wait another 15 minutes to give it the third stretch, fold and shaping.
20:45. The third stretch and fold done, the dough is developing nicely. Back under the bowl for another 15 minutes.
21:00. The final stretch, fold and shaping. Now it has a nice structure, springy, elastic and tight, so I flour the banneton and gently put the dough in, topside down.
I put the banneton into a big ziplock bag to keep in the moisture and put it in the fridge to rise overnight and while I'm at work the following day.
Evening Three, approx. 18:30. When I get home from work, it's nicely risen. I put the oven on maximum (230C) to heat up for 20 minutes.
The dough is ready to be floured and turned out into the base of the combo cooker and slashed.
Now the lid goes on and it's ready to go in the oven.
The lid keeps in the moisture and heat for the first 20 minutes, preventing crust formation and allowing for maximum oven-spring. After 20 minutes the lid comes off and the loaf is nicely risen.
It goes back into the oven, no change in temperature setting, for a further 20-25 minutes to set the crust and finish baking. When it emerges, there's a lovely caramelisation of the crust.
The crust crackles noisily as it cools. The results are consistently good, and it's difficult to resist it while it's cooling, with lots of butter at the ready. It's good for sandwiches and makes gorgeous toast. The routine works well for a busy working week so I can keep it going even when I have an early and rushed start in the mornings.