Staple White Sourdough Formula
Hullo all! My name is James and though I've posted a couple of times on here before, I've never properly introduced myself. I am a contestant on the new series of the Great British Bake-Off, on BBC2 in the UK at 8pm on Tuesdays.
This Tuesday, it is bread week (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00xg9s5  for how rubbish we are at plaiting, I'm the first guy). And if you tune in, you'll find out if it is possible to fully knead, prove, boil and bake sourdough bagels in 4 hours. But I thought to mark the occasion, I'd look for some opinions on my own staple of a White Sourdough - this is the recipe I use on a regular basis, using the simple formula:
1:1 Starter; total weight of starter should be HALF total weight of flour; overall hydration 75%
Simple! I really do love this recipe, and encourage you to try it (copied from my brand new blog at http://www.bakingjames.co.uk/  , contact me on twitter at @bakingjames) and more than anything, encourage you to criticise it:
A few words on your starter:
Your sourdough starter should ideally be kept at room temperature (18-24 degrees) with as little fluctuation in temperature as possible. The ratio of strong white flour to water should be kept at 1:1 and, to steal the term from beer brewing, the pitching rate should be kept constant (this is simply how much you feed it compared to how much starter there is - try and feed it with about twice the weight of starter that remains after use. If you don't use your starter on a particular day, pour some away to keep this ratio constant). Additionally, this recipe assumes the activity of your starter is high, and that it is used as it is fed with the full amount of flour required for your daily bake every 24 hours, as it is used.
But even if you don't abide by those strict starter rules (I must admit, I often don't), my rules to the perfect simple white home sourdough are simple and easy and should be followed:
- STARTER should be ONE:ONE ratio of flour and water
- Use HALF the weight of STARTER to your weight of FLOUR
- Add enough water to keep the OVERALL HYDRATION at 75%
Easy huh? A worked example:
To make a loaf using 400g white flour, we add 200g starter. This means we have a total of 500g flour and 100g water so far. To bring the hydration to 75%, we can work out that we need a total of 375g water total. Therefore, 275g water should be added to bring it to 75% hydration. Of course, make normal adjustments, and add a little more water if your starter is more active or less water if less active.
Recipe (makes one large loaf):
400g Strong White Flour (just go ahead and order a sack from Shipton Mill...)
200g White Sourdough Starter
275g Cold Water
1. Mix together water and starter and flour until combined. Cover and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.
2. Add salt and knead fully (none of this Dan Lepard stuff) until passes the windowpane test. I would recommend the slap and fold method)
3. Cover and rest depending on what suits you: approx 6 hours at room temperature should be enough. Alternatively, just chuck it in the fridge overnight.
4. Shape (you can preshape if you like: if rested overnight it might be a bit floppy - just shape it loosely, except try and use no flour. 30 mins later just shape again) and transfer to basket or brotform
5. Prove for another 4-6 hours at room temp until done. You can retard this prove too if you like, but I wouldn't do both as the sourness can be a little too much (though works well if starter is on 12 hour cycle), and if you retard this prove you're crumb isn't going to be quite as tight.
*** Baking instructions are my recommended, but just on stone or in a pot I'm sure will be fine ***
6. Preheat baking stone at 240 degrees, then add in a cast iron pot (Le Creuset or similar or a dutch oven) with lid on about 20 mins before you're going to bake.
7. Turn down oven to 210, score and bake loaf in the pot for 15 minutes with the lid on, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes. Remove the pot and turn out the bread (bread can be frozen or kept back at this point) and bake on the stone for a final time until done (another 20 minutes or so).