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DIY sourdough starter and bread

The Galley’s Tracey Sunderland shares her sourdough starter and bread recipe. Digestive problems are on the rise, and breads made with a longer fermentation, like sourdough, are more easily digested.

SOURDOUGH STARTER

Method

Take a large jar or bowl. Add one cup of plain flour, then one cup of filtered water

Mix well using a fork, then leave the bowl in a warm and airy place, covered with a cloth or paper (with fork holes in it). Leave overnight. This is your fresh sourdough starter.

It is best to leave the starter for two or three days to develop a sour flavour. The longer it is left then fed, over time it will develop a better flavour.

After two days, feed the starter with ½ cup of plain flour and ½  a cup of filtered water. This will feed the sourdough and make it active and bubbly.  Do note that this process is dependent on the atmosphere and weather. For example, in winter the sourdough can take a day or two to activate but in summer it will need a lot less time. I feed the starter every few days (if you would like to bake more often, feed it daily to keep it active). 

Once the starter is active it should be used within a 24-hour period to make bread. This will give the yeast its best chance to grow.  

SOURDOUGH BREAD

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

900g plain flour

100g Rye flour or wholemeal flour

600ml water (approximately)

275g/1 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 

20g salt/4 teaspoons

Method

Mix all ingredients except salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a kitchen mixer. Make a well in the centre then pour in the sourdough plus most of the water. Mix until it starts to form a dough. Add olive oil and mix well to incorporate, adding enough water to make a firm dough. 

Cover the bowl with a damp linen cloth or an oiled piece of plastic wrap and leave it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the salt and fold it into the dough until it feels fully incorporated.

Then, strengthen the dough by kneading it. This is a gentle process:

•   Without taking the dough out, grab one corner of the dough, and stretch that corner over the dough.

•   Do this lightly at first, and then, as the dough gets gassy after a couple of hours, start handling the dough in a gentler manner.

•   Leave covered with a damp tea towel or oiled plastic wrap for about 8 hours in a warm place (strengthen the dough from time to time).

After this time, it can be left overnight in a cool place or in the fridge, where it will ferment and slowly rise.

The next day, fold the dough to strengthen. Always bring it back to room temperature and leave for a few hours before shaping the loaves. 

Once you decide your dough is ready to be shaped, divide the dough into two and then transfer the dough into well-oiled, lightly floured baking vessels (round or rectangular loaf size). For a better rise, bake the loaf directly inside a metal or earthenware casserole (lidded) baking dish.

Let the shaped breads rise again, this can take up to 7 hours. If left in a warm environment, leave for 3–4 hours.

And now, finally, you get to bake the bread (at 230°C / 446°F)!

Bake one loaf at a time in a domestic oven, this will enable the oven to perform better and cook the loaf properly.

For best results, use a lidded dish, or cover the bread with foil for the first 35 minutes to capture the steam escaping from the bread dough. This prevents the crust from forming too early and gives the bread the chance for a big final rise. 

Remove the loaf from the oven briefly. Take a short-serrated knife and slash the top of each loaf into a cross, and toss a little flour across the surface. Keep the lid off and return to the hot oven for another 10 to 15 minutes to give the bread a deep and golden brown crust.

Tip: you may need to turn the oven up to 240–250°C to achieve a more golden crust for the final 10 minutes. 

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